Overcoming Oppression



This lesson allows students to explore ways that artists have expressed feelings of oppression, and provides students with a voice to express themes of empowerment as a response.


Students will examine art that deals with oppression.

Students will determine how such art has influenced the public.

Students will brainstorm on how they as artists can help promote a group of people.


Aaron Douglas
Keith Haring



Papier mâché


Have the students begin by examine the art of the above artists.

What is going on in these pictures? Why do you think the artist created this work? What effect does it have on you as a viewer? Who do you think in this society is put down or not listened too? What do you want to say to the public about this group? How can you empower them through your art?

After discussing the artwork, have the conversation with the students involve more personal relevance for the students. Who do they think are not respected or listened too? Is it them, the youth of American? Is it the poor or homeless? Is it still the same people that these artists spoke about in their work? Have the students brainstorm on ways representing the oppression or empowerment a group of people. What symbols can they create to express their ideas?

After the students have discussed different objects or people that they want to represent in their work, have students explain how they might create a sculpture to demonstrate their ideas. This will help them visualize how their artwork might look. Demonstrate how to begin the papier-mâché sculpture by starting form a paper bases of crumbled up paper that is taped together, and then adding strips of papier-mâché to create their form.


Have the students start off with thumbnail sketches to get some ideas down on paper. Then have them start working on their piece. Encourage student to keep their ideas simple in order to represent them with papier mâché.

Have students write about their sculpture. Why did they represent what they did? What did they want the public to know about this piece?

The works will be critiqued. During the discussion the artist will explain why they have created their piece. Their work will be assessed on their ability to carry meaning in their piece.


The author of this lesson, Deidre Kenna, a Masters in Art Education student of the School of Visual Arts in NYC, is the 2003-2004 scholarship recipient of the Keith Haring Scholarship award. This project is a collaboration with The School of Visual Arts & a local NYC public high school.

To find out more about The Keith Haring Foundation Scholarship offered through the School of Visual Arts, please contact: Director, School of Visual Arts/Visual Arts Foundation, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC 10003 or SVA's web site.