My "Big Fat" Greek Life

Article excerpt

Raised in a Greek-American household (my father and maternal grandparents were born in Greece), I look for ways to introduce my students to art lessons with a multicultural theme. With this mind, I developed a unit for our school's Art Club, though it can certainly be used in art class. I call it "My Big Fat Greek Life."

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The unit introduces students to aspects of Greek culture, concentrating mostly on the art of modern and Classical Greece. I also share a bit of the language, customs, cooking and yes, even some dancing.

GREEK COLUMNS Most of the time is spent creating a Greek art project related to that week's theme. For example, one week the students studied the Classical Greek period and architecture, learning the three types of columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

Using the slab method, we wrapped clay around a halved paper-towel tubes and added detail such as fluting and scrollwork. (During firing, the paper tube burns away.) Once cool, students paint and decorate as they wish. Sometimes we make flowers with air-dried clay, and the flowers are attached onto a thin wire and wrapped around the column as a garland.

ALTERED BOOKS As we learn about Greek life, I encourage my students to collect pictures, sayings and photos to collage into altered books we keep as journals on the Greek unit. I demonstrate different techniques for them to decorate and collage their book. One time we painted watercolor paper and tore the paper into strips to weave into a patterned paper collage.

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The Greek key is also incorporated into the books by a stamp out of a foam-core square with yarn glued onto the surface. When the glue dries and hardens, the stamp is ready to be used in the students' altered books.

AMPHORA Another project uses inexpensive glass vases from the Dollar Store. These are transformed into Greek pottery urns or "Amphora." We learn about how during the Classical period, Amphora were painted to tell a story, usually about a specific battle or relating to a Greek myth. Tempera or acrylic paint that has been blended to look like terra cotta is applied to the glass surface and left to dry.

In the meantime, students plan how they will paint their vases by sketching their ideas onto scrap paper. They must keep in mind that they will be working on a three-dimensional, so their designs need to be thought out in order to go completely around the vase surface. We discuss mythology, gods and goddesses, classical battle scenes, as well as mythological creatures. …