October 21, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Art Without Borders’

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6. The essay ends with a call to action — a call to art — in the midst of a pandemic that has depleted America’s artists and art institutions, and other challenges our country faces:

We need art that shakes us and we need lots of it — not just in major cities, but also in rural America, in suburbs, on the brick walls of police precinct houses. We need art as commentary — not the safe, sterile kind — art to counteract deception, art that reminds us that even when things seem beyond fixing, they are not beyond describing.

Do you agree? Should art engage with the challenges of the moment — the pandemic, the border and struggles for racial justice? Should it uplift and shake us? What can art and murals say about the moment we are living through that prose alone cannot? What role does art play in your everyday life? What role should it have?

7. Media Literacy. This piece is an Opinion essay, not a news article. In the Opinion section, writers share their opinions in their own voices. How can you tell this is an Opinion piece rather than a news article simply reporting facts?

Option 1: Analyze a mural.

Look back over the murals featured in the article: Which stands out or affects you most?

Using vivid and detailed sensory language, analyze and interpret one of the murals — drawing the viewer into its artistry and details, its deeper meanings and messages.

To help you formulate your analysis, you might use these three questions modified from our What’s Going On in This Picture? feature:

  • What more can you find?

Then dig a little deeper:

  • What do you notice about the people, places, images and symbols in the mural?

  • Why did this artwork stand out to you? What do you find eye-catching, provocative, surprising or moving about it?

  • What connections can you make between the artwork and your life or experience? Does this mural remind you of anything else you’ve seen or read?

  • What do you think is the purpose of this artwork? What do you think the artist wanted to communicate?

  • What questions would you ask the muralist if you could?

You can write your analysis and interpretation as a short essay, or consider a creative presentation application like Google Slides, Thinglink or Prezi to help you focus your audience’s attention on visual details of the mural you find most significant, the way the article allows Ms. Spechler to zoom in on details a casual observer might miss.

Option 2: Learn more about muralists.

“That century-old Mexican tradition of telling stories on public walls, which arguably goes back much further, to Aztec cave paintings, continues to thrive in El Paso,” Ms. Spechler writes.

What aspects of mural art and artists would you like to learn more about? Choose one mural artist, a mural movement or period to explore, and then share what you learned with your class.

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