Gateway to the Arts

By Don Wass, August 18, 2008

Grade Level

  • High School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Open Ended


  The only access to our art department is down a large brick stairwell that is void of any aesthetic or visual stimulation.  Students are challenged to redesign this space to introduce the art department as students descend the stairs. Students will brainstorm in small groups and do internet research to see how other artists have designed exciting visual environments and then build models that redesign the space in a new and exciting way. Any similar “dead” space in your school can be addressed by this lesson plan. This project will give students the opportunity to develop team work skills in the arts while adding to their school environment in a very positive way.

National Standards


Visual Arts Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts Standard 2. Knows how to use structures (e.g. sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art Standard 3. Knows a range of subject matter, symbols and potential ideas in the visual arts Standard 5. Understands the characteristics and merits of one’s own artwork and the artwork of others

 Common Core Standards


Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


  • team building, group problem solving, and critiquing skills will be reinforced
  • internet research skills applied to the arts
  • the application of a variety of tools and technologies used in unique and creative ways to complete the project
  • model building using both 3D modeling software as well as more traditional materials



A wide range of tools and media should be available to the groups.  This will include standard art studio media as well as high end software:
  • Autodesk Maya
  • Newtek Lightwave
  • Google Sketchup
  • Pixologic Zbush
  • Adobe Creative Suite


  • design process:  a systematic problem solving strategy, with criteria and constraints, used to develop many possible solutions to solve a problem or satisfy human needs and wants and to winnow (narrow) down the possible solutions to one final choice
  • one-, two-, and three-point perspective: one-point perspective exists when the picture plane is parallel to two axes of a rectilinear scene — a scene which is composed entirely of linear elements that intersect only at right angles; two-point perspective exists when the picture plane is parallel to a rectilinear scene in one axis (usually the z-axis) but not to the other two axes; three-point perspective exists when the perspective is a view of a rectilinear scene where the picture plane is not parallel to any of the scene's three axes. Each of the three vanishing points corresponds with one of the three axes of the scene. The image is constructed using multiple vanishing points.
  • maquette: a small scale preliminary model
  • prototype: an original type, form, or instance of something
  • color theory: a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual impact of specific color combinations


Identify the Issues of Redesigning Public Spaces 1.  Students will be introduced to the problem of redesigning an architectural  space and shown examples of how architects and designers are using graphics as well as other elements to enhance a space.  The Beijing Olympics venues are a great example of how a combination of visual elements can build an atmosphere of anticipation when entering a new space. Gathering and Interpreting Information 1.  Fellow students and faculty members will be interviewed to learn how others feel about being in the art department and how their experiences there differ from other parts of our building. This information will be discussed in the groups to help develop a list of elements to address in their designs. Framing the Problem While Considering All Possibilities 1.  Individually, students will do preliminary sketches to explore the possibilities for this space considering both 2D and 3D elements to create an introduction to the arts.  Student teams will then evaluate the best parts of each design to be combined to finish their proposal. Prototype 1.  Each group will construct a simple model to be critiqued by other class members  and shown to our larger educational community for constructive feedback before starting on a finished stairwell design. 2.  Color will be emphasized as an organizing element to set a mood for this space. will be suggested as an optional tool for this part of the project. Implementation     1.  Each group will be responsible for producing a finished model of their redesigned stairwell space.  Students will decide which combination of tools to use when recreating a model of their design ideas.


All finished designs will be critiqued by peer and faculty review.

Enrichment Extension Activities

There are many other areas in our building where this project might be applied.  Students may find other spaces that could be redesigned as portals to curricular areas.

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