Art and Social Studies

Studies in visual art provide an opportunity for students to learn about world history, cultures, and geography while engaging creativity. Use this video collection to give students a sense of the role art has played in Chinese, African, Mexican, Iranian and Native American cultures, and how contemporary artists interpret such global art traditions. Use the first two videos as a foundation for introducing students to a digestible timeline of art throughout history. Next, dive into this collection of short videos that reveal the intentions of today’s artists, and how they are inspired by historical works of art.

  • Art That Tells a Story

    This interactive activity, adapted from material provided by the ECHO partners, presents images of nine artifacts from the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Many of these objects were included in "Uncommon Legacies," an exhibit of 18th and 19th century Native American art, which the museum presented in 2003. Each image relates to narratives in multiple ways.

    Grades: 4-6
  • Santa Cruz Quilter Helps Piece Together the Lost Art of Hawaiian Kapa

    Kapa is the traditional Hawaiian cloth made from tree bark. Wendeanne Ke`aka Stitt makes kapa today using natural dyes and ancient techniques.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Photographer on a Mission: Ed Drew

    Ed Drew's tintype portraits of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan evoked the timelessness of war. Once he returned to the United States, Drew turned his lens toward an organic garden project that's empowering at-risk youth.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Amalia Mesa-Bains: Visual Arts

    In this Spark video produced by KQED, explore the meanings and history of Día de los Muertos with internationally renowned Chicana artist Amalia Mesa-Bains as she teaches a class on the holiday's traditions. In teaching these traditions, Mesa-Bains helps her students get in touch with their own histories. Although more than half of Monterey County is of Mexican origin, the tradition of making ofrendas for Day of the Dead has been in great part abandoned as families came to the United States. For some, the tradition is even at odds with the practices of the Catholic Church. But by learning the traditions of Día de los Muertos, many of Mesa-Bains's students are able to reconnect with cultural practices and their own past. 


    Grades: K-13+
  • Bridging Cultures with the Stroke of a Pen: Zubair Simab

    With his calligraphy, Zubair Simab seeks both to preserve the ancient art of beautifying Arabic texts and to build understanding among cultures. Zubair fled when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at 17, eventually emigrating to the Bay Area. 

    Grades: 3-13+
  • Julia Parker: Visual Arts (Basket Weaving)

    In this Spark video produced by KQED, travel to Yosemite with Julia Parker who is helping revive the art form of Native American basket weaving. For Julia Parker, weaving baskets connects her to the lives and traditions of her ancestors, telling the story of a people that for more than 4,000 years populated villages throughout the Yosemite Valley.

    Grades: K-13+
  • Hung Liu: Visual Art

    Trained as a propaganda painter during the Cultural Revolution in China, Hung Liu now creates large-scale portraits of unsung heroes. Discover her creative process in this video from Spark.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Enrique Chagoya: Visual Arts (Print Making)

    In this Spark video produced by KQED, explore the methods and history of print and political satire as vehicles for creative expression and social change though the art of Enrique Chagoya. In his prints, drawings and other works on paper, Mexican-American artist Chagoya appropriates and reorganizes images taken from the American mass media, Mexican folk art and religious sources, using them to create biting and often very humorous political and social satire. 

    Grades: K-13+
  • Thai Bui: Visual Arts

    In this Spark video produced by KQED, visit with Vietnamese born Thai Bui as he creates works that reflect the pressures of working as an artist in a foreign culture. Bui makes haunting works of art that speak to a sense of displacement and longing that has characterized the artist's own turbulent life. Bui's extraordinary objects combine references to his experiences in both the United States and Vietnam, simultaneously communicating a witty humor and penetrating sense of loss.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Consuelo Jiménez Underwood: Visual Arts (Fiber Arts)

    In the Spark video produced by KQED, follow Consuelo Jiménez Underwood as she installs new works at the San Jose Museum of Art for the "Un/Familiar Territory" exhibition, addressing the relationships between place and culture and personal identity. Discussing her roles as both artist and teacher at San Jose State University, Underwood raises two important issues that have surfaced in textiles recently -- the contemporary interest in textiles as an expressive art form and the legacy of textiles as a craft traditionally practiced by women.

    Grades: K-13+