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Interpreting Art through Economics MCSS State Conference, Lansing, MI 2011. Demand * Market * Oligopoly. Entrepreneurship. Kathryn Gustafson Teacher, Farmington High School Farmington Public Schools Monopoly*Supply. Socialism * Elasticity * Price.

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Interpreting art through economics mcss state conference lansing mi 2011

Interpreting Art through EconomicsMCSS State Conference, Lansing, MI 2011

Demand * Market * Oligopoly


Kathryn Gustafson

Teacher, Farmington High School

Farmington Public Schools


Socialism * Elasticity * Price

Interpreting art through economics mcss state conference lansing mi 2011

  • Not a certified art educator?

    • Partner with one!

  • Appreciation of the fine arts

  • Willingness to learn with students

  • LOVE of economics

    • (or any social studies subject area)

Imagine one of your favorite pieces of art
Imagine one of your favorite pieces of art

  • When did you first experience it?

  • Why do you still remember it?

  • Did it ever inspire you to look at life differently or make a connection that you had not thought of before?

  • Did it ever influence your future actions?

Leonardo da vinci the last supper 1490 s
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1490’s

Research says
Research Says

  • High school students who study the arts:

    • earn better grades and scores;

    • are less likely to drop out of school;

    • watch fewer hours of television;

    • are less likely to report boredom in school;

    • have a more positive self-concept;

    • and are more involved in community service.

  • Research also shows that many students who have difficulty learning through traditional methods can benefit from teaching strategies that include other means of learning and subject areas, such as the arts.

    (MMC High School Grad Requirements)

Why economics
Why Economics?

  • Economics is a visual subject

  • Another interpretation or perspective

  • Reach a different audience/student

  • Opportunity to engage with community

  • Economics goes beyond textbook

Mmc visual arts music dance and theater
MMCVisual Arts, Music, Dance, and Theater

  • Analyze – Standard 3

    • Analyze, describe, and evaluate works of art.

  • Analyze in Context – Standard 4

    • Understand, Analyze and describe the arts in their historical, social, and cultural contexts.

  • Analyze and Make Connections – Standard 5

    • Recognize, analyze, and describe connections among the arts; between the arts and other disciplines; between the arts and everyday life.

Michigan ss content expectations economics
Michigan SS Content ExpectationsEconomics

  • Your Choice 

Interpreting art through economics mcss state conference lansing mi 2011
Learning Through ArtThe Guggenheim Museum CollectionMarilyn JS Goodman, Ed.D., with Natalie K. Lieberman

Guggenheim website
Guggenheim Website


  • 1) Determine purpose and scope

    • Artifact to illustrate one concept?

    • Enrich a particular unit of study?

    • Review of economic concepts?

    • Incorporate live or virtual trip?


  • 2) Select art

    • Thoughtful, meaningful choice

    • Variety

    • Ensure student access to artifact

      • Detroit Institute of Arts

      • Digital Access

      • Postcards

      • Community museums

      • Student created/selected artwork

Jacob lawrence tools 1978
Jacob Lawrence, Tools, 1978


  • 3) Research

    • background of artist,

    • subject matter,

    • construction,

    • social relevance

Interpreting art through economics mcss state conference lansing mi 2011

My belief is that it is most important for an artist to develop an approach and philosophy about life — if he has developed this philosophy, he does not put paint on canvas, he puts himself on canvas.—Jacob Lawrence, 1946 Jacob and Gwen Knight Lawrence, 1958. Photograph by Peter Fink. Courtesy of Jacob and Gwen Knight Lawrence. From his early training as an artist in Central Harlem to his retirement from university teaching in Seattle, Jacob Lawrence approached the creative process the way he approached his life — with an honesty and emotional integrity matched by few artists of his generation. He believed firmly that art can affect change without being pedantic; and that beauty resides equally in form as in content. For him, harmony was both an aesthetic and a social concept. Jacob Lawrence was the first American artist of African descent to receive sustained mainstream recognition in the United States. His success came early — at the age of twenty-four — but lasted almost uninterrupted until his death in June 2000. In the last ten years of his life, he received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Arts and more than eighteen honorary post-doctorate degrees. Jacob Lawrence's wife Gwen Knight Lawrence was a full partner in all of his efforts, and an accomplished artist in her own right. Like Jacob, Gwen Knight Lawrence began a lifelong pursuit of art in Central Harlem in the early 1930s. Her work, which reflected her interests and training in portraiture, dance, and movement, received increasing attention from the late 1960s onward in venues around the country. She was honored with a major retrospective in 2003 at the Tacoma Art Museum and at DC Moore Gallery in New York City. Jacob and Gwen Lawrence were both heirs and contributors to the cultural flowering of the Harlem Renaissance. Neither ever failed to give acknowledgement and thanks for their success to those who supported and mentored them in New York's Harlem neighborhood during those early years, and both were strongly committed to helping others in turn, particularly young people. In their later life in Seattle, where Jacob Lawrence was a professor of art at the University of Washington, they were beloved members of Seattle's cultural community who could be counted on to speak, appear, and support the arts whenever they were needed. In this section of the website you will find basic biographical information on Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight Lawrence, a detailed timeline of Jacob Lawrence's life, and a searchable image archive containing nearly 1,000 images of Jacob Lawrence's work.

4 frame student learning starting from art itself
4) Frame student learning starting from art itself

  • Describe the tools you see in the painting. What might they be used for?

  • How is the person within the painting feeling? Why?

  • Why do you think Jacob Lawrence used many primary colors in his painting entitled Tools?

5 draw student to economic connections
5) Draw student to economic connections

  • Economists have created different theories – Fiscal and Monetary Policy – to use as tools to fix our economy. Draw a picture of the business cycle. Where would you most likely find problems with inflation and unemployment?

  • Describe the tools government uses when enacting fiscal policy? Monetary policy?

  • How could you use these tools to “fix” a problem like unemployment?

6 propel student towards greater depth of learning
6) Propel student towards greater depth of learning

  • Create a new drawing reminiscent of the Tools picture during an expansionary period. Include fiscal and monetary policy tools.

Try one

  • DIA- The Diggers

  • Vincent Van Gogh,

    The Diggers, 1890

  • Economics Connection:

    • Factors of Production

    • Entrepreneurship

    • Demand/Supply/Equilibrium

One more
One More

  • Romare Bearden, Quilting Time, 1986

  • Economic Connections:

    • Opp. Cost

    • CPC curves

    • Int’l Trade

See the connections
See the connections?

  • Auguste Rodin, The Thinker , 1904

  • Economic Connections:

    • Serious thinking -> Economic Systems

    • Unemployment

    • Wall Street Occupation


  • Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman, 1937

  • Economic Connections:

    • Cubism->economics models -> circular flow

Rouge factory tour henry ford museum field trip
Rouge Factory Tour, Henry Ford MuseumField Trip

* See student guided handout

Diego rivera
Diego Rivera

  • Rivera Tour


Economic topics
Economic Topics

  • Unions

  • Monopsony

  • Socialism/communism/market systems

  • Automotive Industry – Detroit History

  • Entrepreneurs- Henry Ford

  • Oligopoly

  • Monopoly/Bi-Lateral Monopoly

  • Environmental Economics

Beyond the classroom
Beyond the Classroom

  • Imagine you are Diego Rivera in the present day. Would you modify your mural- Detroit Industry? If yes, explain how. If not, which parts of the mural you think are the most poignant today?

  • Create a mural illustrating your view of the current Wall Street Occupation movement.

Students create
Students Create

  • Art selection and interpretation

  • Research

  • Connections to economics

  • Their own artwork

  • Meaning beyond the classroom

Further resources
Further Resources

  • Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1934.

  • Dobbs, Stephen Mark. Learning in and through ART. Los Angeles: The Getty Education Institute for the Arts, 1998.

  • Downs, Linda Bank. Diego Rivera: The Industry Art Murals. W.W. New York: Norton and Company, 1999.

  • Gardner, Howard. Art Education and Human Development. Los Angeles: The Getty Education Institute for the Arts, 1990.

  • Ginsburgh, Victor A. and David Throsby, eds. Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture. Amsterdam: Elsevier,2006.

  • Green, Maxine. Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.

  • Goodman, Marilyn and Lieberman, Natalie. Learning Through Art: The Guggenheim Museum Collection. New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2001.

  • Heilbrun, James and Charles M. Gray, eds. Economics of Art and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001

  • Jackson, Phillip W. John Dewey and the Lessons of Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

  • Saccardi, Marianne. Art in Story: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children. North Haven: Linnet Professional Publications, 1997.