Public Art and Pattern

By Jaci Smolund, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

4 Weeks


Working with a local teaching artist, students are commissioned to create a collaborative, site-specific, public artwork to illustrate their identity. The "How Might We" question is "How might we as, an entire class, come together to create a single art piece to be displayed in the offices of Norwest Equity Partners".  

National Standards


  • Students can understand the concept of Public Art and site specific art and work as a group to solve the design problem.
  • Students can explain pattern and repetition in their own artwork and in the artwork of others.
  • Students can understand a variety of ways to use pattern in their own artwork.
  • Students can explain and experience the real-life idea of "commissioned art."

Resources Local artist Greta McLain worked with classroom teacher to plan the commissioned work and the lessons to prepare students for the project. Once students have created their original patterns and combined them with their own portrait into a collage, the teaching artist will incorporate the student work into one, 3'x3', finished digital piece that will be printed.  


  • Drawing Paper
  • Old National Geographic Magazines
  • Collage materials; scissors, glue
  • Sharpie markers
  • Cameras
  • Photocopier


  • Pattern/Repetition
  • movement
  • Commissioned Art
  • Public Art
  • Site specific art
  • Identity
  • Collage
  • Computer generated
  • Collaborative Artwork
  • Organic and geometric shapes


2 weeks Students look at examples of patterns and create 2 projects representing understanding of pattern:
  • One 9x12" drawing paper filled with patterns
  • Group activity to create a mural showing collaboration between patterns.  (This activity is done 3x to allow for discussion and reflection)
  1. Students are introduced to artist-in-residence and discuss public art and patterns.
  2. Students will create a presentation and visit the client's office to view the site-specific location for their commissioned work.
  3. Students practice using pattern as figure.
  4. Students will work to create their own "identity" pattern using these exercises
  5. Students cut up and "reconstruct" their patterns and create something new.
  6. Using portraits of themselves, students will create a collage incorporating their patterns with their image.
  7. Teaching artist Greta McLain will create final 3x3' composition using each students collage.


Projects are turned-in along with student self-reflections and will be graded using a rubric. (See attached - rubric #1)

Enrichment Extension Activities

- Students could visit NEP with their families to see the finished artwork on display. - A larger, school-wide collection of portraits with patterns could be created and displayed in the school.  

Teacher Reflection

All students successfully created a collage portrait using their own patterns. Repeated instructions and demonstrations were needed for most students. Instructions were scaffolded for special education students. Students needed to draw over their patterns with Sharpie markers to give them high contrast to be seen in the final printed piece.  

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