In the hands of world renowned artist, Romare Bearden, shades, shapes and silhouettes are transformed into rich tapestries that celebrate the Black American experience. Because his inventive collages are pieced together from a variety of sources, they allow for many interpretations and are the perfect source of inspiration for young writers who are beginning their journey into creating narrative pieces. Using these resources, students can analyze and respond to some of Bearden’s work, not only gaining an understanding of the historical and geographical context of his art but using their imaginations to create their own narratives. They’ll also have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, documenting their own lives through collage-making.
Remixing the World With Romare
Narrative Writing Inspired by Romare Bearden’s Collages
Destination Modern Art | MOMA
Give students a hands-on introduction to the work of Romare Bearden. In this engaging feature, they’ll meet a friendly martian who has come all the way to Earth to check out some modern art at the MOMA. Although there are many works that students can explore in this virtual museum, for this playlist we suggest they use the arrow buttons to navigate directly to Bearden’s work- it’s just past the fire extinguisher! Once there, they can click on the collage to analyze it, answer questions about objects they see, learn facts about the artist and create their own digital collage. Requires FlashPlayer.
My Hands Sing the Blues | Jeanne Walker Harvey/ Eleanor Byrne
So much of Bearden’s art draws from snapshots of his life growing up in North Carolina and New York. This narrated version of Jeanne Walker Harvey’s book invites students into his world of train whistles and jazz riffs, so that they understand how memories can inspire art. The text itself is influenced by the jazz music that Bearden held so close to his heart. This is the perfect way to introduce the artist to younger students.
One Piece at a Time Slideshow | Kiddom
Learn about Romare Bearden’s life journey from birth to art history legend. This slideshow includes biographical information and provides some background about what life was like for African Americans in the U.S. when Bearden was growing up. They’ll get to see several examples of his collages, drawing comparisons between the works and the music that inspired some of his most dynamic pieces. The last slide links to a video of Duke Ellington but if you’re unable to access YouTube in your school, simply click on this link to be directed to a SafeShare version of the same clip. ( https://safeshare.tv/x/ss5c65b93a034ac )
Collage Stories | Kiddom
It’s time to get those pencils moving! Using three of Bearden’s collages, students will use their imaginations to describe what they see. They’ll explore setting, characters, and mood, before choosing their favorite collage to use as inspiration for a short written narrative. This resource can be used for Kindergartners with some modifications. Instead of writing their stories out, they can dictate them or share them verbally with the class.
Bearden Art Making Workshop | ArtAware
Using some of the same materials and images, students will be guided through the process of creating their own unique artwork. Turn on some jazz, gather some supplies and allow your students to recreate moments from their own lives. They can decide what they’d like to depict or you can give them some guidelines to get them started. Although the workshop doesn’t provide instructions for the written descriptions of their artwork, we suggest that you ask them to write a short narrative describing the moment, place or people they’ve captured in their piece. Younger students can respond verbally or even record their responses if you’re going the extra mile and creating a gallery to share their artwork.
Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.
Common Core Standards
K.RL.10 Actively Engage In Group Reading Activities With Purpose And Understanding.
K.W.3 Use A Combination Of Drawing, Dictating, And Writing To Narrate A Single Event Or Several Loosely Linked Events, Tell About The Events In The Order In Which They Occurred, And Provide A Reaction To What Happened.
K.SL.5 Add Drawings Or Other Visual Displays To Descriptions As Desired To Provide Additional Detail.
1.RI.6 Distinguish Between Information Provided By Pictures Or Other Illustrations And Information Provided By The Words In A Text.
1.SL.5 Add Drawings Or Other Visual Displays To Descriptions When Appropriate To Clarify Ideas, Thoughts, And Feelings.
1.W.3 Write Narratives In Which They Recount Two Or More Appropriately Sequenced Events, Include Some Details Regarding What Happened, Use Temporal Words To Signal Event Order, And Provide Some Sense Of Closure.
2.W.3 Write Narratives In Which They Recount A Well-Elaborated Event Or Short Sequence Of Events, Include Details To Describe Actions, Thoughts, And Feelings, Use Temporal Words To Signal Event Order, And Provide A Sense Of Closure.
Although these resources from the National Gallery of Art were developed for classroom use, they may not be appropriate for your grade level. We have included them as teacher resources because we love their approach to breaking down Bearden’s artwork and think provides really helpful tips for addressing his work with your class. Both resources do a beautiful job of making connections between various motifs and unpacking the social realities of the time.