For Students

Introduction

Students working

The artist Nam June Paik made his own choices about what to include in each state. He picked movies, pictures, music, and speeches to create a picture of our country.

Now it is your turn!

What makes where you live unlike any other place? If you had to represent your state and all that you have learned about it in a visual way, what images might you choose?

As a group, pick the important things you learned about your state's history that you would like to show others from outside your state—important people, places, events, symbols or anything you think defines your state. You could combine things that happened a long time ago with something that happened last week! Then you will represent those important ideas visually in the form of a collage. With your artwork, viewers should understand what your group has found to be important about your state. After the collage is completed, you will write a description of it and all of the visual elements you have included.

Once you have selected topics that you think best represent your state, your teacher will give you more instructions and help you to complete the project. When all the groups in your class are finished, you will choose one group's collage and description to submit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum online! There you can also see what other classes around the country have done.

Creating Your Collage

Nam June Paik made a collage of moving images for each state in Electronic Superhighway. Likewise, in this project, you will create a collage of still images that represent your state. When planning and creating your artwork, you need to consider many factors. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. First, ask, "What do I want to say about my state?" What places, people, and events might help convey your ideas? Keep the important facts you learned about your state's history in mind as well. Make a list of these ideas and use them to plan your collage.
  2. Once you have your list of ideas, think of several ways to show them visually. Consider using symbols (an image that represents an idea or a place) in your artwork. For example, a mountain range can be shown using a photograph, a hand-drawn symbol (^^^^), or three-dimensional objects, like an egg carton.
  3. Collect more visuals than you need. If you have lots of different ways of showing your ideas, the group can decide what looks best. Think also about the size of each image and the impact it will make. Perhaps important ideas should be shown using larger elements in your collage.
  4. Color and texture are important in any artwork. They can also carry meaning. If you're from Vermont, you might want to feature the color green because Vermont is the "Green Mountain State." Color can make your collage interesting, too. Great collages also have texture. Instead of using online pictures for every idea, think about using different materials. Newspaper and fabric add texture. Three-dimensional items like real pine cones, small pebbles, or sand can give your collage depth and interest.
  5. Composition refers to the arrangement of objects and images. In this case, you want your composition to send a message or tell a story about your state. That arrangement should look good as well. After you have listed your ideas and collected images, lay out the visual elements and carefully consider how you are going to arrange them. The meaning of your visuals could change depending on what you place near them. Imagine how the viewer might read your artwork and try to predict how their eyes will move over the collage.
  6. Spend time thinking about what the viewer will learn about your state by looking at your collage. You have a chance to teach other people about the state you live in. Make your state proud!

Beware of the following pitfalls:

Taking images from the Internet or magazines is ok, but they should not make up your whole artwork. Flat images do not make the best collages. Also, understand that someone created those images, so ask your teacher how to give the original artist credit.

If you use an image from a Web site, do not enlarge it. If you try to make it bigger on paper than it looks on the computer screen, it will pixilate, or show blocks. A pixilated image will make your collage look unfocused and sloppy.