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April 14, 2017

Class debate: Artists lock horns over Fearless Girl and Charging Bull sculptures

Two sculptures located in New York City’s Financial District have artists and art appreciators locking horns in a sticky debate about art, commercial intent and public spaces.

*If you use this lesson plan, please tweet your students’ reaction and tag us @NewsHourExtra


Social studies, art, art history, English

Estimated Time

Warm-up activity or 30-minute class period (skip to 3rd section to use as warm-up activity)

Grade Level



Directions: Before you share the current dilemma with your students, have them interpret the pieces of art separately using the pictures and questions below. Then have your students read about the debate using the summary below (they may also check out the full PBS NewsHour article) and ask them if they think “Fearless Girl” should remain across from “Charging Bull.”

  1. Ask students to take a look at the two images of Kristin Visbal’s “Fearless Girl” statue below. You may wish to use some of these guiding questions:
    • What is the very first thought that comes to your mind when you see these two pictures of “Fearless Girl”?
    • What material is the statue of “Fearless Girl” made from?
    • Where is the statue located?
    • What is your reaction to the expression on the young girl’s face? What about her stance?
    • What do you think the girl is thinking?
    • What do you think she is looking at?

“Fearless Girl” was created by Kristin Visbal. Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr

The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

2. Now have students take a look at Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull” statue. You may wish to use some of these guiding questions:

  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when looking at these two images of “Charging Bull”?
  • What material is the statue made from?
  • Where is the statue located?
  • What expression does the bull have on his face? What about his stance?
  • What words are usually used to describe a bull?
  • Do you know what a bull market is? (bull market = good for investors; when stock market is doing well or shares are up)
  • What do you think the bull is looking at? What do you think the girl is looking at? If students say the statue of the girl and bull, respectively, explain this wasn’t always the case! (Move on 3rd step–looking at both statues together!)

“Charging Bull” statue is by sculptor Arturo Di Modica. REUTERS/Peter Morgan

“Charging Bull” statue. Photo by Sam Valadi via Flickr

Now have students look at the pictures of both statues in the same shot.

  • How might the meaning of the statues change now that you see them together?
  • Do students have different interpretations of the sculptures now that they see how the statues are positioned?
  • How could it make a difference in the interpretation of the artwork if the statues were put there by different artists at different times?

It’s time to explain why the statues have drawn attention in the news.  Read the summary below or the full PBS NewsHour article. 

Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“Fearless Girl” and “Charging Bull” statue in New York City. Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr

  • The creator of the “Charging Bull” sculpture in New York City has formally asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove the “Fearless Girl” statue that was installed in the path of the bull on International Women’s Day in March.
  • Sculptor Arturo Di Modica and his lawyers argue that the presence of “Fearless Girl” distorts “Charging Bull’s” integrity and intentions of American strength in response to the stock market crash of 1987. They also believe that it violates copyright law and serves as an advertisement for State Street Global Advisors, the index fund that commissioned it. A copy of the letter may be found HERE.
  • Mayor de Blasio is in opposition to removing the statue, tweeting “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl.” He has not commented on the accusations of law infringement.
  • In a statement, State Street said that it is “grateful” for the support of the mayor and stands by its statue’s representation of “the power and potential of having more women in leadership.”

Get your students’ take! Make sure your students have a clear understanding of the arguments in the case. Restate artist Arturo Di Modica’s argument for removing “Fearless Girl.” Now restate the argument for keeping “Fearless Girl” in place. Which argument is stronger? What does “Fearless Girl’s” artist Kristin Visbal think (if you are not sure, how could you find out?)? Ask your students what they think!

*If you use this lesson plan, please tweet your students’ reaction and tag us @NewsHourExtra

Extension activity:

News literacy tip: Captions count! Let your students know they can learn a lot about a news event from the caption located under the photo. Ask your students if they were able to pick up anything new about the story by reading the following captions:

The caption on the Reuters’ website of Peter Morgan’s close-up photo of “Charging Bull” reads:

“The 7,000 pound statue called ‘Charging Bull,’ a reference to the ‘bulls’ or optimists on nearby Wall Street, as it appears on lower Broadway in New York April 7. [Stocks were lower at midday April 7 as investors shifted their focus to the prospect of disappointing first-quarter earnings, after propelling the Dow Jones industrial average to its first close above 9,000 on April 6.] The statue is by sculptor Arturo Di Modica. – REUTERS/Peter Morgan.”

The caption on the Reuters’ website of Shannon Stapleton’s close-up photo of “Fearless Girl” reads:

“The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up the iconic Wall Street “Charging Bull” sculpture in New York City, on March 29, 2017. ‘Fearless Girl’ statue was installed in front of the bronze “Charging Bull” for International Women’s Day earlier this month to draw attention to the gender pay gap and lack of gender diversity on corporate boards in the financial sector. The statue will remain at her post until February 2018.”

By Victoria Pasquantonio, education editor at PBS NewsHour and former social studies and English teacher. Sarah Seale contributed the news summary. 

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.7 Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

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