Sidewalk Justice



High School students from New York City take to the streets to express their opinions, both personal and political.


Students will analyze the affects of art that has addressed the issue of AIDS.

Students will explore why artist use art as a way of dealing with social issues.

Students will create an artwork that focuses on exposing problems.


Felix Gonzales Torres "The Perfect Lovers"
Keith Haring "Ignorance = Fear"



Paper or newsprint


Have students examine the two works listed above. Begin by encouraging students to make observation about the artworks. Have them explain their observations. After observations have been made inform the students that both these artists had AIDS when they created these works. How does that influence or change their observations? Encourage a class discussion.


How do you think having AIDS affected their work? Why do you think it was so important for these two artists to make statements about AIDS? What are some issues that are important to you that you would like to call attention to? Write on the board the students' social concerns.

We are going to examine these as well as other social concerns you have. You might be concerned with deforestation, gay marriage, the homeless, occupation of Iraq, etc., and you are going to examine these issues through your art. First, we are going to brainstorm and create at least five thumbnail sketches. Then we are going to go outside a draw with chalk on the sidewalk of the school. Keith Haring became famous making chalk drawing throughout NYC subways. What could be the benefits of drawing with chalk on the sidewalk?


When the students are making the thumbnails, have them concentrate on making an interesting composition that is simplistic and conveys a message of their concerns. Encourage them to address multiple issues. When the student has made his/her thumbnails, question him/her on which ones have the strongest composition and convey the clearest message. The selected images will be drawn outside.

Have students examine each other sidewalk drawing. Have a discussion on the issues that were addressed in the students' art. What did they learn from each other?

For homework the students are to write a reflection based on the exercise. They can write about their work and why it is a concern for them, the work of their classmates and the issues they addressed, or comment about the artwork of Haring and Torres.

Encourage the students to get involved. They should know that their voice, their art, and their presence have the power to affect change. If the students want to continue to work with their social concerns, have them make posted that can be hung in the hallways of the school.

For a follow up lesson see Student Activist lesson.


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.