Subway Art



A great starting point for a large scale project, this lesson uses simple materials, and optimizes their boldness and beauty. Inspired by Haring's early graffiti work in the subways of NYC, these students took off with their own innovative and creative ideas.


To explore Keith Haring's early graffiti work in the NYC subways.

To create Haring inspired images with a limited palette and dynamic, communicative imagery.


Haring's Subway Art

Subway Drawings & Semiotics, a lesson


Black Paint & paper or black paper

White chalk, crayons, pencils (china markers work well), or paint


Show the class examples of the Subway series of works that Keith Haring created. Discuss why he did them and what he was trying to communicate. Examine the limited tools and irregular surfaces that Haring utilized, as well as the environment in which he worked. Question the appearance and imagery, determining the intent behind bold, simple imagery and limited colors.

After familiarizing the students with Keith Haring's subway drawings, have the students begin to sketch out some ideas they have of simple, bold imagery. Encourage them to create pictures of things that hold meaning to them and their lives. Maybe a school, a house, a dog, a friend, a bed, a toy… After sketching, allow the children to explore the medium on the surface they will be using for their final piece. Help them stretch their skills by challenging them with different lines, thick, thin, wriggly, straight… This will expand their both their visual and technical vocabulary. Remind them to think of the whole paper, as Keith thought of his whole "billboard" while drawing. Finally, when the students' ideas merge with their skills, give them their final paper and let them go!


What sort of conditions did Keith work in?

Who looked at this art?

What would you think if you saw a piece of art among billboards in a dirty, maybe dangerous subway station?

Was Haring taking risks? What kind of risks was he taking?

What do you think he wanted to say that was worth these risks he was taking?

What would you like to communicate if given the same set of circumstances?


Create a class mural with one large painted wall.

Make a subway car or station out of your classroom.

Have the children talk and/or write about their work and what they wanted to communicate.

Hold interviews for other students to pose to each artist as though they were famous.

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