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Today's American Art: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art!

Today's American Art: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art!

Recommended Grade Level: 9 - 12

Course Credits: 0.5

Course Price: $250.00

Course Details:

Today's American Art Exploring the Fundamentals of Art

Welcome to the online course, Today’s American Art: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art, brought to you by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In this course, you’ll explore the works of several contemporary artists who employ a variety of techniques. You’ll experiment with these artists’ techniques, ideas, and concepts by creating artworks of your own, inspired by their work. These experimental art projects will help you find a concept or theme that you’ll develop for a class art exhibition. Get ready to play with new ideas, create, have fun, and talk with other students about the process of making art!


Throughout this course, you will learn about these elements and principles so that you have a language for talking about the artworks you are exploring and the artworks that you and your classmates are creating.

  • Reflection Journal: A. Mary Kay, Zenith
  • Reflection Journal: Carl Joe Williams, American Shotgun
  • Portfolio: Dot Design
  • Discussion Forum: Elements and Principles


Artists are always using their senses to experience, understand, perceive, feel, and appreciate the world around them. They use their eyes, ears, noses, hands, and mouths to interpret the environment. They use their experiences to form their artwork, creating works that are sometimes beautiful and sometimes disturbing, that sometimes tell stories, and sometimes express their points of view. Art has the power to move people emotionally.

  • Sketchbook: Line
  • Reflection Journal: Looking at the Whole Scene
  • Reflection Journal: Mary Ann Currier, Cala Lily
  • Reflection Journal: Fahamu Pecou, Gravity
  • Portfolio: Contour and Gesture Drawings
  • Discussion Forum: Contour and Gesture Drawing


What is creativity? Is it playing an instrument well? Is it faithfully drawing what you see? Or is that talent?

  • Sketchbook: Shape
  • Discussion Forum: Candle Challenge
  • Reflection Journal: John Salvest, Forever
  • Reflection Journal: Adam Belt, Through the Looking Glass
  • Discussion Forum: Solving Problems Creatively
  • Portfolio: Creativity Words


If you look on the back of a dime, you’ll notice a torch (representing liberty), an olive branch (representing peace), and an oak branch (representing strength and independence). Throughout history, artists have used symbolism in their work as a form of shorthand. That is, rather than completely spell out the full meaning of an idea, they use a character, a color, or an object as a symbol to convey the idea. Artists from the Gothic and Renaissance periods (1300–1600) used symbols prolifically in Christian religious art. Their goal was to remind the largely uneducated parishioners to follow the teachings of the church and not to give in to their sinful ways. People who were unable to read could look at these paintings and learn what they were supposed to know because everyone knew the language of symbols.

  • Sketchbook: Value
  • Sketchbook: Emoji Symbolism
  • Reflection Journal: Vanessa German, White Naptha Soap or, Contemporary Lessons in Shapeshifting
  • Reflection Journal: Delita Martin, Bearer
  • Portfolio: Symbolism
  • Discussion Forum: Symbolism


Telling stories is in our blood. Much of what we know of ancient civilizations is through the stories that people told through their art. This kind of art that tells a story is referred to as narrative art. The contemporary artists in this session create narrative art, but they use different techniques to tell their stories. As you explore their work, think about how you might like to tell a story through art. Do you want to portray a moment in time or a sequence of events? Are you interested in events from the past or the future? You might use images from well-known fables, myths, or legends to tell a story that is all your own. This session is about experimenting with visual storytelling. You’ll find an interesting person or event (real or imaginary) and create a project telling some of the story of that person or event, using any medium you like.

  • Sketchbook: Form
  • Reflection Journal: Gina Phillips, Fort Dirt Hole
  • Reflection Journal: Watie White, All that Ever Was, Always Is (Front Porch, 424 Emmet)
  • Discussion Forum: Telling Stories
  • Sketchbook: Story Sketches
  • Portfolio: Telling Your Story
  • Discussion Forum: My Story


In Session 6, you explore the work of two artists who have deep personal connections to issues that affect the entire country.

  • Sketchbook: Color
  • Reflection Journal: Vincent Valdez, The Strangest Fruit
  • Reflection Journal: Fahamu Pecou, Gravity
  • Discussion Forum: Mural Sketches
  • Portfolio: Mural Plan
  • Discussion Forum: Art for Social Justice


In Session 7, you explore the work of two artists who express their deep connection and commitment to the environment through their art.

  • Sketchbook: Space
  • Reflection Journal: Kim Dickey, Mille-fleur
  • Reflection Journal: Matthew Moore, Lifecycles
  • Portfolio: Environmental Art
  • Discussion Forum: Environmental Art


Both artists in this session assembled objects that they found into works of art. You will create your own “found object” art after exploring how found objects can be used to create art.

  • Sketchbook: Texture
  • Reflection Journal: Lenka Clayton, 63 Objects Taken Out of My Son’s Mouth
  • Reflection Journal: Pam Longobardi, Ghosts of Consumption (for Piet M.)
  • Portfolio: Objects Project
  • Discussion Forum: Found Objects


Think of every artist, artwork, concept, technique, and process you’ve explored in the course so far as seeds for your own artistic ideas. In Session 9, you begin to develop ideas for a series of works. You’ll explore your sketchbook to see what captured your interest or curiosity, and look for patterns and connections. Through writing, sketching, brainstorming, remembering, and discussing, you’ll identify the concept you want to work with in the second half of the course and then share your ideas with your classmates and your teacher.

  • Reflection Journal: Sonya Clark, Albers Interaction Series
  • Reflection Journal: Susan Goethel Campbell, Clods and Ground series
  • Sketchbook: Ideas
  • Discussion Forum: Course Project Ideas


The artists featured in this session document the challenges and issues they witness—food politics and foreclosure—through their photography. In doing so, they capture these stories of time and place, connect them to bigger issues in their communities, and share them with a larger audience. Be inspired by their art, concepts, and processes as you continue to work on your own series of artworks in this session.

  • Sketchbook: Unity/Variety and Balance
  • Sketchbook: Ideas
  • Discussion Forum: Plan for the Week
  • Reflection Journal: Susie J. Lee, Johnny
  • Reflection Journal: Jawshing Arthur Liou, Kora
  • Portfolio: Photo Project


While you’ve seen a few artworks in this course so far that could be classified as sculpture, you haven’t really explored sculpture as an artistic method. Most works you’ve seen have been two-dimensional—they have length and breadth, but no depth. Sculpture operates in three dimensions and can be created using a number of techniques including, modeling, carving, casting, and assembling.

In Session 11, you meet two contemporary sculptors. You’ll examine their works and make a sculpture of your own using paper-mache.

  • Reflection Journal: Kristen Cliffel, We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat
  • Reflection Journal: Dan Webb, Destroyer
  • Discussion Forum: Plan for the Week
  • Sketchbook: Project Progress
  • Portfolio: Mask
  • Discussion Forum: Sculpture Project


The word collage comes from the French, meaning, literally, “to glue.” To create a collage, artists assemble pieces of paper—magazines, books, newspapers, photos, etc.—and other two-dimensional objects (generally) to create a new work. The artists in this session created collages from discarded lottery tickets and letters cut from the Koran and the Bible. Their works derive meaning both from the materials that they are made from and from the form that they take.

  • Sketchbook: Principles of Design
  • Reflection Journal: Ghost of a Dream, Forever, Almost
  • Reflection Journal: Meg Hitchcock, Subhan'Allah: The Lord's Prayer
  • Discussion Forum: Plan for the Week
  • Sketchbook: Getting There
  • Discussion Forum: Collage Project


Session 13 begins the writing phase of your course project. Over the next two sessions, you write the text for your course project to prepare for the culminating event of this course—the final critique. In this session, you’ll review how contemporary artists title their series and describe them, as well as write the individual object labels. This will help you discover how you want to write about your own work.

  • Reflection Journal: Adonna Khare, Rhinos
  • Reflection Journal: Elizabeth Alexander, Queen's Garden
  • Portfolio: Titles and Descriptions
  • Discussion Forum: Writing Descriptions


You complete the writing for your course project by preparing an artist statement and sharing your draft with the class for critique. This writing and the other work you’ve done—photographs of your art, object labels, and descriptions—are the beginnings of a portfolio. You finish this session by learning how a portfolio of your work can help you get into college or art school.

  • Reflection Journal: Teri Greeves, Kiowa by Design
  • Reflection Journal: Nathalie Miebach, O Fortuna, Sandy Spins
  • Sketchbook: Artist Statement Writing
  • Discussion Forum: Artist Statement
  • Discussion Forum: Share Your Project


All of the artists in the course galleries were selected to inspire your own artmaking, including beyond this course. Learning by example is a powerful way to grow as an artist—it helps you find your own artistic voice. In this final session, you’ll celebrate all that you and the other student artists have accomplished in the course by showing the work you’ve created and critiquing the work of your fellow artists!

  • Discussion Forum: Share an Artist
  • Discussion Forum: Creating Our Class State of the Art Exhibit
  • Discussion Forum: Class State of the Art

Accreditation & Approvals

Cognia Advanced
International Association for K-12 Online Learning
National Collegiate Athletic Association
Northwest Accreditation Commission Board
Washington OSPI
University of California
Department of Education - Idaho
Arkansas Department of Education