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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

Purpose of the Project

In THE LABEL PROJECT students, create their own digital "self-portraits as "labels" and write labels (critical interpretive responses) for work on display at a museum or gallery. Technology was used to create the self-portraits, write critical reviews of art work at a museum and to communicate with the museum's curators.

Teacher Steps To Prepare

  1. Teacher contacts gallery or museum's education department to discuss upcoming exhibits or collections that might be of interest to age of class, subject etc. Meryl Meisler worked with the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Dia Art Foundation to prepare for THE LABEL PROJECT.
  2. Teacher makes a pre-visit (if possible in person or by phone) to discuss the goals of the class and to preview works on display.
  3. The teacher gets samples of labels on commercial products as well as from gallery or museum catalogues.

Student Activities

  1. Teacher introduces the LABEL PROJECT to the students ("In our next unit we will learn about labels and how they are used in everyday products and in art work. We will be collaborating with the blah museum or gallery and learning how the curators decide about what information they put on artwork labels and in catalogues.)
  2. Homework: Students bring in at least 2 samples of labels from some of their favorite products. They are asked to analyze and list all the elements of the labels they see
  3. Students and teacher create a web on the board of common elements in all labels. For example: title of product, manufacturer, ingredients, date of manufacture or copyright, graphic element, place of manufacture, description.
  4. Students view examples of labels on artwork from museums or galleries. They discuss elements that are common to labels on commercial products such as: Title of product = title of artwork, manufacturer = artist, ingredients = materials used, date of manufacture or copyright = when artwork was completed and possibly the birth date of the artist, graphic element = the artwork itself, place of manufacture = artist's culture or nationality, description = narrative by curator about work on display.
  5. Students are given the challenge to create self-portraits of themselves as labels. They must decide what information they want to include on the self-portrait and what type of imaginary commercial product they will use to represent themselves.
  6. Students take on the role of commercial artist and the teacher becomes the art director. In a series of homework assignments that are presented to the class student create thumbnail drawings, rough sketches, and comprehensive drawings of the self-portrait label. Students critique each other's work.
  7. The final version of the label is created with PhotoShop and ClarisWorks (or what ever graphic software program you have available)
  8. The students go on a trip to see at least two museums or galleries. Generate a list of questions the students might use to help them interpret the work such as: What do you think the artist was trying to convey in the work? How does the work fit into the theme of the exhibit? Why do you think the curator chose this piece? If possible, arrange to meet a docent, curator or representative of the education department to discuss with the class how decisions are made about what information to presented to the public in the form of labels and catalogues.
  9. The students choose at least two works of art about which to write their own labels about. They take notes at the exhibit describing their interpretations of the work.
  10. Back at school, students read their interpretations aloud. They rewrite and word-process their final versions of their labels.
  11. Students email or snail mail their labels to gallery or museum person they met with.
  12. Students create an online gallery and or bulletin board about their LABEL PROJECT. They exhibit their self-portraits as labels and samples of their critical writing.

Assessment Methods

In my class, the teacher and the curator of the New Museum of Contemporary Art assessed the students' works. The students writing was assessed according to the number of works they interpreted and the depth in which they answered questions. Outstanding labels were actually framed and hung beside the artwork in the "Time of Our Lives" exhibit. The students met with the Museum's curator and technical staff to discuss what elements would be important to include in a computer terminal template that invites the general public to write labels for art work on display. All the students' interpretations were included in a computer terminal template in the museum as exemplary models of writing. The public was invited to write their own labels for the work on display in the same terminal. Exemplary self-portraits were included in the museum's virtual gallery.

Standards Addressed by This Unit

Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts- Students
  1. will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts and participate in various roles in the arts.
  2. Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art- Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to aspects of human endeavor and thought.

Teacher Technology Skills Required

  • administration/creation
  • e-mail
  • picture scanning

Student Technology Skills Required

  • e-mail
  • picture scanning
  • digital drawing
  • word processing
  • databases
  • on-line collabration

Software Materials Used

  • Microsoft Word
  • Excel
  • Adobe PhotoShop
  • ClarisWorks

Related Links

The New Museum home page
The Visible Knowledge Program
Lobby of VKP classrooms (look for LABEL CLASS)
Labels Class Showcase with Curators

Label Class Studios
Sarah Cooper (love potion)http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=110
Pauline Cheung (chocolate wrapper) http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=106
Yan E Chen (Fruity Juice) http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=119
Roy Chang (Bug Be Gone) http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=121
Monique Dana (happy/glad self portrait) http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=123
Suave Chyld (pseudonym) http://vkp.org/index.cfm?goto=studio.cfm&kid=130


Keep this in mind- Funding for museums and not-for-profit galleries are often contingent on their work with the general public. They need to educate the general public in order to thrive and create an audience of viewers and collectors. They need you. Don't be afraid to contact them.

Copyright © 2000 Meryl Meisler

About The Teacher

Meryl Meisler, Disney American Teacher Award winner and multimedia artist, teaches computer art to kids and adults.

Email Contact: Meryl@teachersnetwork.org
The Institute for Collaborative Education (I.C.E.)

Estimated Class Periods To Complete: 10 or more



Beginning Grade Level: 8
Ending Grade Level: 12
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