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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

The Label Project



How It Works


Students become art critics in The Label Project. 

1. They meet museum curators and gallery directors to learn about the process of writing interpretive essays  and descriptive labels for artwork in exhibits to the public.

2. To pre-plan for The Label Project the teacher contacts a gallery or museum's education department to discuss upcoming exhibits or collections that might be of interest to her class, subject etc. Meryl Meisler worked with the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Dia Art Foundation to prepare for The Label Project.

3. 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.

4. The teacher gets samples of labels on commercial products as well as from gallery or museum catalogues.

The students who participated in this model project, met with the Curatorial staff of The New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Education Director of the Dia Art Foundation in NYC. As a culmination to the unit, the students wrote the labels that were installed next to the original art work at the New Museum’s "Time of Our Lives" exhibit.

Prior to meeting with curators, activities include:

1. "Dissecting" labels on consumer products. Students collect samples of labels (cans, jars, boxes, clothing etc.) The class uses web mapping on the board to identify  common elements on the labels: title and/or description of product, manufacturer, date and place of production, ingredients, weight and/or size,  graphic element, and sometimes the price.

2. 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.

3. Students create self-portraits of themselves as labels. They decide what information they want to include on the self-portrait and what type of imaginary commercial product they will use to represent themselves. 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.

4. 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 on what information to present to the public in the form of labels and catalogues.

5. The students choose at least two works to write their own labels about. They take notes at the exhibit describing their interpretations of the work.

6. Back at school, students read their interpretations out loud. They rewrite and word-process their final versions of their labels.

7. Students e-mail or snail mail their labels to gallery or museum person they met with.

8. Students create an online gallery and or bulletin board about their The Label Project. They exhibit their self-portraits as labels and samples of their critical writing.




Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts-

Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts and participate in various roles in the arts.


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.


What You Need 


Software Materials Used:


Software: digital imaging and word processing software (e.g. PhotoShop, AppleWorks, Microsoft Word), Internet connection and email, scanner and digital camera.


The Students


heterogeneously mixed, multi-racial, multi-ethnic grades 10 & 11 students in NYC




Students become active participants in the arts as creators, critics, and curators. They become aware of importance of developing critical thinking and writing skills for careers in the arts and related fields. They learn how to "read" and communicate their interpretions of  art work.




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.


Meryl Meisler


Meryl Meisler, a NYC Public School Art Educator since 1979, teaches digital art at The Institute for Collaborative Education (a small 6-12 school). Among her career highlights are inclusion of her students' collaborative work in the Whitney Museum Biennial, the Queens Hall of Science collection, and several exhibits at the New Museum of Contemporary

Art. Meryl's own multimedia artwork has been widely exhibited internationally; her solo show at Grand Central Terminal was featured in WIRED magazine. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the Council of Basic Education-Time Warner Inc. Art Fellowship, Disney

American Teacher Award, Japan Society Travel/Study in Japan, NY Foundation

for the Arts Fellowship, a Brooklyn Borough President Proclamation, Artists Space Individual Artists Grant, Chase Active Learning Grant, IMPACT II Developer Grant. Earthwatch Education Award, Samuels Award for Excellence in

Teaching, and C.E.T.A. Artists Grant (the "WPA of the '70s"). Meryl is a member on the  Teachers Network Board of Directors.




What do you think of my project?  I'd really like to hear your opinion - 
Click here
for a very brief survey.


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