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Street to Studio: The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Presented by JPMorganChase.

For Teachers:

During his short life, Jean-Michel Basquiat was considered an exceptional creative talent and became a cultural hero to younger artists. This extraordinary artist created paintings and drawings filled with imagery that describes his ideas about life and the world around him. This web site allows you to examine his works of art in depth and to learn about the images he used.

Web Site Overview
In the section "Explore the Paintings", students experience Basquiat's works through six themes: Heritage, Visual Poetry, Artistic Process, Heroes, Justice & Equality and Cultural Identity. Each theme highlights a selected work giving historical and cultural insights and possible interpretations of some of the rich layers. Students can explore the work in its entirety or zoom in on details that catch their eye. A link, "More Paintings in This Theme," leads them to several other Basquiat works which they can interpret on their own, in small groups, or as a class.

"Who Was Basquiat?" is a multimedia timeline that introduces students to highlights of Basquiat's life. It touches on his Brooklyn and family roots and follows his fast rise to the top of the New York art scene in the 1980s to his tragic passing in 1988.

"Create an Artwork" invites students to make their own art online. Students are asked to think about Basquiat's subject matter and his concerns and how they relate to their own lives. They can then use the drawing program to express their own ideas as inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat's artworks. Students can browse pictures submitted by other students in the past. (we are no longer accepting submissions for the online gallery)

"What Do You Think?" is a discussion forum moderated by museum staff and supervised teens. Visitors can browse through the online discussions on various topics about Basquiat, art and self-expression. The forums are also accessible from the "Explore the Painting" themes. (We are no longer accepting new comments to the forums.)

Classroom Activity Suggestions
Included below are activity suggestions for using Street to Studio in the classroom. They can also be used at the Brooklyn Museum. We encourage you to take the opportunity to see Jean-Michel Basquiat's work in person by scheduling a guided or self-guided visit. Contact the Museum at (718) 501-6221 or youth.tours@brooklynmuseum.org for more information and to schedule a trip.

  1. Word/Poetry Project
    1. Listen to the sound bites on the Street to Studio site while looking at a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting. How do they connect?
    2. Notice the words written all over Jean-Michel's paintings.
    3. Select your favorite Basquiat painting and write a poem, rap or song based on the words in his painting.
    4. OR you may select a theme from the "Explore the Paintings" section of this website and write a poem, rap, or song that represents that theme. What music will you select to accompany your words? How does your choice relate to the choices Jean-Michel made?
    5. Present your poem, rap or song with to the class.

  2. Invent Your Own Cultural Symbols Mural Project
    1. Record the themes, subjects and symbols you see in Jean-Michel's work. Look closely at the paintings. Is every message obvious?
    2. Working in groups of 3 to 5 students, identify the theme you wish to explore. What new symbols can you devise? How do those symbols represent you, your ideas, and the theme?
    3. Look at the paintings of Jean-Michel again and notice his use of color. As a group, choose your color palette. Together, rough out a sketch for a group painting and plan a mural based on your group theme and symbols.

  3. What makes a person a hero?
    1. Look at the "Heroes" theme (in "Explore the Paintings") and have a discussion about Basquiat's choice of heroes.
    2. Read Basquiat's quoted comment about his heroes and discuss.
    3. Choose a hero in your life and describe his/her story. Draw or paint this person. Write a sentence about this person, as if you were quoting them, and include it on the painting. What does the quote say about your hero?
    4. Have a mini-exhibition in the classroom and let the students discuss everyone's heroes.