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The Girl With The Red Balloon - Planner

A 3-6 week art lesson, for multiple ages, grades, materials and outcomes.

First - My rant

I was happily scannin instagram the other day, when I saw a post by a fellow art teacher with a different pedagogy to me (with hundreds of likes and thousands of followers, and multiple comments on how wonderful it was....) on the girl with the red balloon.

Her class had all made copies of Banksy's "Girl with the Red Balloon" and decorated a frame, positioned the picture hanging out, and cut the bottom with scissors.

If you've read my blog or followed me on Instagram, you'll know this is not my 'favourite' style of Art teaching... and to be honest... I was unreasonably upset about it for a few days... So... rather than complain, rant, and attack... I chose not to comment on the artwork,\; nobody needs another troll... and the world definitely needs diversity... so instead I want to offer a different way to respond to this art.

A different approach


Today, I started the unit. I have my kids for 75 minutes at a time, and know that this could take maybe, 3 sessions... or in a school with 40 minute art lessons - 6... I'll start by describing the unit idea, and then break the plan into 6 parts.

1) Understand the artwork - We viewed an image of "Girl with the Red Balloon" and I asked the children... "Why do you think the artist painted this?" - My kids are mixed age, so they found a partner around the same age, and discussed possible meanings and inferences. All the kids were engaged, and the answers varied from... "its about being sad," "Its about losing hope, love, something you love" to "It's about letting go or loss" The kids age range was 6 - 12 and they all had the same points; discussing the significance of the heart, the posture of the girl, etc. Next we watched a news clip on the auction, and the work being shredded HERE.

The kids all asked... "WHY?!!!!"

I turned that to them... "Why do you think? You've told me that the art is about loss, letting go, and losing something you love... so why would the painting shred itself when someone pays 1.4million US dollars for it?"

The kids were amazed... and told me that it was brilliant, creating artwork that shares its message beyond what was painted.

2) Plan - I asked my children to create a piece of art that shares its true meaning by being broken or discarded... using any materials that they could find. We looked through the room, and looked at everything from glass, cups, bottles, paint, foam, PVC, clay, ink, dye, etc... (I only let them use the materials that I am happy to manage... that they have already used...) They planned and discussed and drew and wrote. This was difficult. They had to take risks, and I constantly asked them... why? What are you planning? how will it work?...

Some felt that they failed.... Which is good... I want to frame the failings...

Some copied...

Some went so abstract that they didn't understand what they were doing in the end...

Some got it

Art does not have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be pretty. When looking at something as subversive and challenging as Banksy, it absolutely shouldn't be a duplicate!

3) Make - This will take the rest of the sessions.

My students have all gone in different directions...

- A fireworks display, created on clear plastic that has been shattered, with the colour bleeding out onto a small girl at the bottom of the piece.

- A broken coffee cup, with the coffee spilling onto a sandy beach (made with mixed media, glue and dye)

- A glass dome with a treasure chest and key inside, that has been shattered - The dome is real, and she is coating it with layers of clear glue, so that the glass breaks but stays in form.

- A dancer under an umbrella that is sheltered from splattered dye - ripped and rebuilt.

Not all of the pieces were beautiful, not all of them were even finished... but what was magical were the discussions and understandings... the idea that art can live beyond its creation, that it can communicate more than just a static 2 dimensional message. I will attempt this unit again next year... and spend more time on planning... perhaps create performance pieces that wash away and only last until the next shower. As long as my students can think and explore and challenge.