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 - Diego Rivera: Art as the Universal Language
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The question of ownership of art has been debated for centuries. Many support the view that since art is essential for human life it can't just belong to the few. Diego Rivera, a renowned artist, said that art is the universal language and it belongs to all mankind. The American Master's series lessons for teachers on Diego Rivera will involve students in discussions on the topics including the nature of art, what purposes it serves, and how Rivera's art reflected what was happening in the world during the time period of his paintings. Activities in this lesson include writing a short story based on one of Diego Rivera's murals, as well as creating a class mural.

Grade Level

7 - 12

Subject Areas

Visual Arts; Language Arts; History


In this lesson students will

  • reflect on what (visual) art is and what it means to them.
  • critique works of art.
  • relate the themes of Rivera's murals to the given time period.
  • write a short story based on one of Rivera's murals.
  • create a class mural.



Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts

  • Understands what makes different art media, techniques, and processes effective (or ineffective) in communicating various ideas
  • Understands how the communication of ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes one uses

Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

  • Knows a variety of historical and cultural contexts regarding characteristics and purposes of works of art
  • Understands relationships among works of art in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture
  • Understands how factors of time and place (e.g., climate, resources, ideas, technology) influence visual, spatial, or temporal characteristics that give meaning or function to a work of art

Understands the characteristics and merits of one's own artwork and the artwork of others

  • Understands how one's own artworks, as well as artworks from various eras and cultures, may elicit a variety of responses
  • Identifies intentions of those creating artworks
  • Knows how specific works are created and relate to historical and cultural contexts

Language Arts

Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process

  • Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and observational narrative compositions (e.g., narrates a sequence of events; evaluates the significance of the incident; provides a specific setting for scenes and incidents; provides supporting descriptive detail [specific names for people, objects, and places; visual details of scenes, objects, and places; descriptions of sounds, smells, specific actions, movements, and gestures; the interior monologue or feelings of the characters]; paces the actions to accommodate time or mood changes; creates a unifying theme or tone; uses literary devices to enhance style and tone)

Demonstrates competence in the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing

  • Uses a variety of techniques to convey a personal style and voice (e.g., stream of consciousness, multiple viewpoints)

Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions

  • Uses complex and compound-complex sentences in written compositions


Understands the causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society

  • Understands the social and economic impact of the Great Depression (e.g., the impact of the depression on industry and workers; the response of local and state officials in combating the resulting economic and social crises; the effects of the depression on American families and on ethnic and racial minorities; the effect on gender roles; the victimization of African Americans and white sharecroppers)
  • Understands the impact of the Great Depression on American culture (e.g., art, literature, and music, and the government's role in promoting artistic expression; how the works of various American artists reflected American conditions in the 1930s and influenced the New Deal)

Understands how Progressives and others addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption

  • Understands the spread of Progressive ideas and the successes of the Progressive movement (e.g., how intellectuals, religious leaders, and writers alerted the public to the problems of urban industrial society; Progressive social reforms in education, conservation, and the "Americanization" of immigrants; contributions of governors such as Hiram Johnson, Robert La Follette, and Charles Evans Hughes)

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