Working with Sculpture Curriculum Lesson Plan Sculpting a Message: From the Counter-Reformation to the Present Day

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Part III

  1. Explain to students that many works of art that are created to persuade the viewer about a message are commissioned (requested and funded) by an individual or a group for a specific purpose. Luisa Roldán made St. Ginés de la Jara when she was working for Charles II, king of Spain. Scholars speculate that the sculpture was commissioned by Charles II as a gift for one of his royal convents or monasteries. The person or group who commissions a work of art is called a patron. Tell students that art has been commissioned by patrons for a variety of purposes throughout history. What are some reasons why works of art are commissioned? (Commissioned works of art could commemorate a person, decorate a public space, sell a product, or endorse a politician.)

  1. Explain that collaboration between the artist and patron is often necessary when artists create works of art on commission. This collaboration ensures that the finished work of art expresses the patron’s message or vision.

  1. Tell students that they will work in groups or four, as patrons and artists who commission and create works of art. Two individuals from each group will be patrons, and two will be artists. Instruct the patrons to choose a nonprofit organization that they would like to represent (e.g. animal rights advocacy group, environmental group, library, or cultural institution.) For younger grades, it may be helpful to assign them an organization. The two patrons will come up with an idea for a sculpture that their nonprofit or institution would like to commission and write a request for a proposal addressing the following questions:

    • What message do you want to convey with the work of art?

    • What are some ways to communicate that message?

    • What are some ideas for the final work of art? (Encourage patrons to think creatively because the materials available will be limited. Unlike many wealthy patrons, most nonprofit organizations must stick to a tight budget.)

    • What audience do you want to reach with your message by commissioning this work of art?

    • Keeping your audience in mind, name some locations where the sculpture should be displayed.

  1. Have each pair of patrons give the artists in their group a copy of their request for a proposal. Artists should read over the requests, and make a list of questions for the patrons, and then meet with the patrons to clarify those questions. Each pair of artists will then work together to write a proposal for a sculpture based on the patrons’ request. The proposal should address the following questions:

    • Based on the patrons’ ideas, what do you propose for the final sculpture?

    • What medium/s and format will you use?

    • What do you expect the final work of art to look like? How do you plan to achieve that? Describe your ideas for the final work of art in as much detail as possible and include at least two sketches of your proposed sculpture from two different perspectives.

  1. Have the patrons review the proposals and make adjustments as they see fit. You may also wish to review the proposals to ensure that you or your students will be able to obtain the necessary art supplies.

  1. Allow students to use any materials they can provide on their own, such as cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, beads, found objects, and construction paper. You may wish to provide additional supplies requested by students, such as assorted recycled materials, clay, paint and paintbrushes, wire, or colored foam. As the artists work, each pair of patrons will draft a press release for the unveiling of their commissioned sculpture, using the handout How to Write a Press Release for guidance. It may be helpful to show students examples of press releases, such as those available in the Getty Trust’s Press Room (

  1. Arrange a 15-minute meeting between artists and patrons after the artists have worked on their pieces for a couple of days, but before they have finished. Artists and patrons should discuss the progress of the works of art using the following questions:

    • How has the work of art changed from the original concept? What surprises or difficulties have arisen during the process of creating the work of art?

    • Does the piece still communicate the desired message? If not, what adjustments need to be made?

    • What has been surprising or challenging about creating a three-dimensional work of art?

  1. When the final works of art and press releases are complete, students can present their work in a class presentation or exhibition.

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