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The art of Allen True commissioned for the phone building not only portrays “events” (such as the telephone linemen stringing a line) but also shows allegorically the history of scientific enquiry (as it relates to the telephone). There are, in fact, many ways an artist can portray historical events.

Starting with the Allen True murals, this lesson discusses how artists use different
Vital Stats:
Associated Subjects: History, Art, Communication, Social Studies
Grade Levels: 5-8
Time Required: one to two class periods
Skills Used: critical thinking, discussion, internet research, interpretation, working collaboratively
CO Curriculum Standards Addressed: History 1, 5, 6; Visual Arts 1, 2, 4, 5; Reading & Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
techniques to portray history, and how these techniques are further used to give us the artist’s feelings about that history.

Guiding Questions:
Suggested Activities:
After reading about the Allen True murals, divide the class into groups and assign each group a mural to discuss. They are looking specifically at what historical information they can guess from the murals. (Between the text in the exhibit and the murals themselves, they should be able to guess generally what the murals are supposed to portray.)

Either as a class or in groups (or even individually), look up various pieces of art on the Internet (or in art books); suggestions are given above, in the Resources section. What can you learn about history from these pieces? Can you get a feel for what the artist thought about the event depicted? Discuss how artists, even when commissioned to do a specific piece in a certain way, often put their own feelings about the subject matter into the painting.

Now go back to the Allen True murals. Is there any indication of the artist’s feeling in the paintings?

Have the students, as individuals or groups, find a painting on their own and describe both the subject (and any historical information) of the piece and, further, the artist’s feelings as shown in the painting. If you wish, you can have them look up information about the artist and compare that with the painting and what the students think the artist’s feelings to be.

Extension: Photographs are often seen as objective pieces of information about the subjects portrayed; is this true? Or can a photograph be as descriptive of the photographer’s feelings as painting can be?

Discuss monumental public art in the same way as painted art; e.g., Mount Rushmore, the Washington Monument (or local public works, such as [in Denver, Colorado] the statues outside Invesco Field or the Big Blue Bear outside the convention center).

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