Pulitzer Center Update

Interpreting Global Issues Through Picasso's Guernica

"Dead Heart" by Aviel S.

Artist: Aviel S.
Title: “Dead Heart”
"I studied the Chronic Challenges gateway using reporting from the Pulitzer Center. I used cubism and dark colors. I created the artwork because I believe that studying chronic challenges will possibly allow people to find cures and help those in need."

"Green Acid" by Keelyn M.

Artist: Keelyn M.
Title: “Green Acid”

"My artwork connects to Picasso's Guernica because it has the broken mirror effect and uses a monochromatic color scheme. Also, there are different points of view shown in the shards of glass. I made this because I have always been interested in the topic of acid rain and I don't think people know how deadly acid rain can be to our homes and how we live. I wanted to show that in my art."

"Alive Dead" by Michelle O.

Artist: Michelle O.
Title: “Alive Dead”
"I used the Climate Change gateway from the Pulitzer website. My painting connects to Guernica because it shows how a problem is occurring just like Picasso did in Guernica. I made this artwork to show the difference between a normal day and a day effected by global warming."

"Raining Acid" by Taylor G.

Artist: Taylor G.
Title: “Raining Acid”
"My artwork is connected to Pablo Picasso's artwork because it shows a viewpoint on a problem, which in my art piece is acid rain. Also, both have geometric shapes in the art piece to make a collage and both brought out tints/shades of one color. I made this artwork because, for me, acid rain is a global problem caused by air pollution. So, I thought it would be neat to express the reality of acid rain and bring that into an art piece based off of 'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso."

"Pollution" by Michelle E.

Artist: Michelle E.
Title: “Pollution”
"The Pulitzer website helped me choose my topic because it has many problems that affect the environment. My artwork connects to Pablo Picasso's painting because it shows a problem and my painting shows a problem. I chose a problem that affects the environment, which is pollution. It is a big problem. I chose pollution because it affects animals and where they live. For example, it affects the polar bears because the ice is melting. This is why I chose pollution."

"Ocean Problems" by Marlene M.

Artist: Marlene M.
Title: “Ocean Problems”
"I did ocean health. I learned that the health of the ocean is really bad. I also learned that the sea level is rising. The water is getting dirty. I showed this in my artwork by drawing garbage in the ocean, a dead fish, oil spills from the boat and the water a bit high."

"Equality of Gender & Religion" by Daniela G.

Artist: Daniela G.
Title: “Equality of Gender & Religion”
"I chose the Gateway 'Religion and Power'. I used the website to see and think about what I wanted to incorporate into my painting. My artwork connects to Picasso's ‘Guernica’ by using a monochromatic color scheme and using the effect that kind of looks like a broken mirror. I made the artwork because I believe that everyone should be treated equally, no matter what his/her gender or religion is. People shouldn't be discriminated against because of what they believe in or what they don't believe in. We're all people and religion or gender shouldn't get in the way of treating others respectfully and equally."

"Sea Dump" by Kimberly P.

Artist: Kimberly P.
Title: “Sea Dump”
"I used the Pulitzer website for my art by finding information about water pollution. I took that information and wrote it down to see if it gave me any ideas for my artwork. I finally had an idea and decided to make an artwork of waste and garbage going into the sea, causing it to kill many sea animals. My artwork connects to Picasso's ‘Guernica’ by the unique colors I used to paint it, also the design of a broken mirror. I made this artwork because I thought it was pretty important for people to know that water pollution and any other kind of pollution is a serious problem for nature."

 “World Peace Guernica- Religi-Guernica” by Julio F.

Artist: Julio F.
Title: "World Peace Guernica- Religi-Guernica”
"An inspiring piece of artwork that Pablo Picasso created back during the hard times in Spain, a way to get the word out to humanity. I decided to create this ‘Guernica’ based on all the religions that are in the world that people see as a threat to one another. It's hard for people to take religions seriously and it should be not funny for traditions to be made fun of. I want people to get along because we are all human beings and have the right to celebrate our traditions."

“The Other Side of the Ocean” by Jasiel O.

Artist: Jasiel O.
Title: “The Other Side of the Ocean”
"I took some of the things that I saw in the Pulitzer website and then I combined them with my own ideas. Then, I created the painting. My artwork connects to Picasso's ‘Guernica’ because I used Cubism and I used tints and shades. I made this artwork because I saw the topic that was oil in water and it is a real problem around the world."

“The Causes of Climate Change” by Dulce A.

Artist: Dulce A.
Title: “The Causes of Climate Change”
"I used the Pulitzer website to find out some information about climate change, such as what the negative effects, how people deal with them or how climate change affects people and animals. My artwork connects to Picasso's ‘Guernica’ because I used cubism. I learned that Picasso painted ‘Guernica’ to tell the world about the Spanish Civil War that occurred in 1937. I made this artwork because I think people should learn more about climate change and how badly it's affecting humans and animals. Climate change is all around the world and will possibly cause some major problems for us someday."

In school, it is interesting to see how a lesson can evolve over time. A quality teacher will administer a lesson, then make improvements in each subsequent lesson. This could be a simple change in procedure, or it could be a fundamental shift in the underlying purpose of the lesson. It is an essential job of an educator to continually improve one’s curriculum to increase the opportunity for student success.

I have been an art teacher for many years, and in my experience an art lesson can change in many ways. For me, one of the greatest improvements upon a lesson occurred this year. What originated as a simple painting exercise developed into a partnership with the Pulitzer Center to explore global issues and present those issues artistically to a wide audience.

I have been teaching art to elementary students for twenty years at District 21 in Wheeling, Illinois. This year, I started teaching middle school for the first time. Consequently, I had to create a new curriculum from scratch. I wanted to base each lesson on a famous artist or significant artwork. I knew right away that I wanted to base an 8th grade painting lesson on Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica. (1937, oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.)

I chose Guernica because, selfishly, it is one of my favorite artworks ever. Considered Picasso’s masterpiece of Cubism, this 349,3 x 776,6 cm oil on canvas painting features primarily flat, bizarre shapes, anguished faces, and gray color. It is not what most would consider a “beautiful” artwork. But that’s not why I love it. I love it because of the story behind it.

It is believed that Picasso painted Guernica to bring to the public an image of the horrors of war. Specifically, Guernica is a response to the German bombing of the village of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso’s Guernica has since traveled the world bringing to light not only this one incident, but an overall message of the impact of armed conflict. I wanted to articulate to my students that an artwork’s “purpose” does not necessarily to be a beautiful object. An artwork can be a conduit to inform viewers of an issue facing our lives.

My original objective for this lesson was to have students interpret a problem through the Cubist style of Guernica. The first time I taught this lesson to my 8th graders, I felt it was lacking. The student work was OK but something was missing. I felt it needed a little “Oompf,” particularly in regards to the students’ subject matter. The problems the students chose to show were generic and bland when compared to the message of Guernica. I wanted students to interpret a specific problem in the real world.

I contacted District 21’s Information Literacy Specialist, Tracy Crowley for advice. She is a fantastic resource on creating active and engaging learning experiences. We talked about how to give my lessons more of a real world focus. We talked about "Authentic Learning." Authentic Learning is an educational technique that involves proposing a real world problem to students and then having students demonstrate understanding of this issue through an “Authentic” real world product. The Authentic Learning theory helps students develop skills to be successful in the real world while accessing intrinsic motivation to learn skills and content.

In developing an art lesson that utilizes Authentic Learning, it is important to consider the purpose of an artist in the “real world.” The role of an artist is varied, but one of the main purposes of an artist in the real world is to get one’s art “out there” to be seen by as many people as possible. This is where the Pulitzer Center came in.

In our conversation, Tracy mentioned the concept of “Artivism” that she learned from the Pulitzer Center’s Education Department, in which artists use their platform to bring to light an issue facing our society. I mentioned how this related to my Picasso lesson and how I felt my students were having difficulty researching a real world problem. I had also not yet found a way to get our students’ work out to as many people to see as possible. That’s when the light bulb came on. District 21 has a strong collaboration with the Education Team at the Pulitzer Center.

Tracy then introduced me to the Pulitzer Center. First of all, their website is an amazing resource for teachers. Through their “Gateways” sections, they highlight global issues in a clear, independent manner. Each Gateway explores one issue in multiple ways, from multiple authors. The utilization of the website has proven a valuable instructional tool for my students.

When you are an art teacher, you repeat lessons from semester to semester, year to year. When I first proposed the Guernica lessons to my students, one of the problems my students’ work faced was a lack of focus on a specific issue. The initial work was vague and generic. In subsequent lessons I focused my students' research on the Pulitzer Center’s gateways. Not only are the gateways school-appropriate, but they also contain a variety of topics that will inspire every student.

Students spent a few days researching topics using the Pulitzer Center's website. Before they started their Picasso-inspired painting, students had to do a little writing—I know, I’m an ogre of an art teacher. Students had to explain the issue, who is affected, and if there are any solutions to the problem. Art takes careful planning and thought. No artist slaps paint around haphazardly.

Once the topic was chosen, students had to create a painting that highlighted the topic and made some connection to Picasso’s Guernica. This interpretation was demonstrated in different ways. Most students gave their work a fractured, broken mirror quality Cubist works are known for.

One of the great qualities of Guernica is how its many symbols and figures unfold themselves like a mystery. Many of my students include Picasso’s symbols to highlight their own issues. The lightbulb, the “evil eye”, the fallen soldier, the weeping mother, the bull—these symbols can be interpreted many ways and can be wielded by an artist to convey different meaning from the same symbol.

When I gave the new and improved lesson to a new set of 8th grade students, the results were remarkable. By using the Pulitzer Center’s website, the student work was more specific and focused. The students were engaged in these topics and showed a tremendous amount of creativity in their paintings.

The final component of an artwork is to be seen by the public. For most students, this means at the best that their work will be displayed on the walls of a school. But I wanted this lesson to be “more.” Again, the Pulitzer Center came to my rescue. With the help of Tracy, we contacted Fareed Mostoufi, Senior Education Manager at the Pulitzer Center. Together, we developed a way to show my students work on their website.

Obviously, my students were thrilled at the possibility of having their work seen publicly. This enticement was a great motivator and showed through their work. Students researched, they wrote, they interviewed each other. The art project became so much more than a simple painting project. Students became engaged in global issues in a way I had not seen before. My connection with the Pulitzer Center helped this lesson evolve into something great. It is my hope to utilize the Pulitzer Center in future art projects.

Use the lesson plan “Interpreting Global Issues Through Picasso’s Guernica”

Connect to the Pulitzer Center Education Department.