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Explore Native American Artists

Students will identify a Native American artist and write a biography about the artist's life. They will collect photographs and write descriptions to create an exhibit of the artist's work.

PROCESS:

  1. As a class, discuss what art is. What kinds of objects are typically considered to be art? Then ask students to share what they know about Native American art. Guide the class to recognize that Native Americans, like people of all cultures, create art. They always have. And the objects they craft are artistic, creative reflections of their culture.
  2. Invite students to explore the National Museum of the American Indian's (NAMI) vast collection of Native American art. Encourage students to note the many different types of art that Native American artists produce. 
  3. Inform students that much of the Native American art they see in museums is hundreds of years old. But there are many Native American artists working today. Their work uses traditional materials to create art that reflects their native culture in the modern world.
  4. Have students select a Native American artist and conduct research to learn about his or her work. For ideas on artists, students could explore the NAMI publication, "Native Artists in the Americas." Instruct students to write a brief biography of the artist. Challenge them to also create a museum-worthy exhibit featuring photos and descriptions of the artist's work. 

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to share their biographies and exhibits with the class. After all of the presentations, encourage students to share what they learned about Native American art.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Have students complete the project in small groups. Provide assistance as they identify Native American artists and conduct research to learn about their work.
Grades 5-6:
Have students to complete the project with a partner. Encourage them to include at least three examples of the artist's work.
Grades 7-8: 
Have students complete the project with a partner. As students learn about the artist, instruct them to evaluate the information they collect to identify the most important personal and professional events in the artist's life. Encourage them to include only those details in their biographies. Exhibits should include photos and descriptions of at least five objects the artist has made.
Grades 9-10:
Encourage each student to select a Native American artist. Give the class time to conduct research. Instruct students to evaluate the information they collect to identify the most important personal and professional events in the artist's life. Challenge them to explain how being Native American influences the artist's work. Exhibits should include photos and descriptions of at least five objects the artist has made. The objects should be presented in a way that reflects the artist's approach to art.