Southern Arizona Folk Arts Curriculum Modules

visit the website  

Grade Level: 9-12

Arizona State Standards Grades 9-12:

1AV-P3. Reflect on and articulate reasons for artistic decisions.

PO 1. State reasons for making artistic decisions

PO 2. Evaluate the success or areas for improvement seen in the artwork

PO 3. Justify the evaluation of the artwork

2AV-P1. Analyze and interpret how elements of time and place influence the visual characteristics, content, purpose and message of works of art

PO 1. Determine the factors responsible for influencing works of art

PO 2. Analyze the ways in which a work of art expresses a point of view of the time and place in which it was created

2AV-P2. Describe the function and meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times and places

PO 1. Research a specific art object for its function and meaning within the culture chosen

PO 2. Compare and contrast the function or meaning of similar art images/objects of various cultures and times

PO 3. Compare images used today, from various times and cultures, for purposes and meanings other than originally intended

Honors Level

2AV-D1. Analyze the origins of specific images in the visual arts and explain their importance and influence

from: Arizona Department of Education Standards-Based Teaching and Learning


Website Summary: This website features many kinds of popular art found in Tucson's Mexican American community, both the conventional and unconventional. Students will explore selected sections in activities that challenge them to apply and question the knowledge, particularly in the context of their own lives.

Teachers will find much of the same curriculum useful from this website's companion website, La Cadena Que No Se Corta: The Unbroken Chain -- The Traditional Arts of Tucson's Mexican American Community.

Questions for starters:

  1. Begin by discussing the concepts of "folk" and then "art." Give students a chance to throw out brief ideas on what they are and write them on the board. What about "folk arts?"
  2. Allow students to read Dr. Griffith's introduction. Does this change anyone's mind?
  3. Some students may take issue with the introduction; encourage them to be critical. What about his idea of "folk?" Isn't all art made by some kind of societal subgroup?
  4. As a class, make a list of kinds of folk art, starting with the ones on the website, as well as La Cadena Que No Se Corte. Add others, drawing from the students' families. Throw in others, like tattoos (especially prison tattoos) and see where it takes things. How does this challenge the notion that folk arts are conservative?


Summary: Students will read about quilting in Southern Arizona and reflect on them as an artform.

  1. Have students look at the quilts from Randolph and reflect on them, especially given the comments on the website.
  2. Consider the statement: "They may call it art if they want to, but as far as I'm concerned, that woman don't know how to piece and she don't know how to quilt." Discuss it in class or have students write a journal entry about how they can (or can't) relate to the statement.

Chicano Murals in Tucson

Summary: This section contains information and photos of Tucson murals, which is an important public art form of the Mexican American community. Students will reflect on murals as art, as tangible works in their communities, and as a class project.

  1. Ask students to write a paper or journal entry: Why create public art like murals? What does it mean to have such a representation in the public?
  2. Ask students to write a paper or journal entry: Look through the murals in the exhibit. Which ones are still around? Are there more or less than before? Do changes tell us anything about Tucson and its community?
  3. Have students collaborate on creating a mural together, preferably in the community (with permission, of course). Contact an artist to assist in the project. Make sure students have input in the design, or design it themselves.

Low Riders -- A Contemporary Folk Art Form

Summary: This section provides a close and unique look at low riders in Tucson. Students will focus on them as a stigmatized youth practice as well as artwork with deep roots in Mexican culture.

  1. Allow students to relate their experiences and associations with low-riders, both negative and positive. Talk about it as an art form (this may take the form of a debate).
  2. Do a lesson on Baroque cathedral architecture or rural Mexican mating rituals (circling in the square). Have students compare and contrast the lessons and low-riders (as the article does). This can serve as a paper topic.
  3. Talk about the stigmatizing of low-riders, cruising, and youth culture in general. Place students in opposing teams for a debate or simply list pro's and con's on the board. Include student experiences to make it more real.
  4. Send students into their communities (or another part of town) to take pictures of low-riders, or write descriptions of them (e.g. in poems). Create a classroom exhibit or publication.

Mexican American Paperwork

With the assistance of an artist, have students create cascarones, piƱatas, paper flowers, and/or banderolas to decorate the classroom.

Mexican Food in Tucson

Summary: This enjoyable section covers some of the vital elements of Mexican cuisine, its roots, and its social significance. Its inclusion as a folk art provides for substantial challenge and possibilities. Students will be able to discuss the section and expand their knowledge with projects that link the web content with their own lives.

  1. Take turns reading this section on food. Hold discussion that allows students to reflect on Griffith's portrayal of Mexican food.
  2. Have students pick one of the dishes they are familiar with and write more about it. If not familiar with any, they can pick a dish popular within their own ethnic group/families and describe it.
  3. Create a photography exhibit to match the website. Display it in the classroom, make a publication out of it (e.g., a recipe book to sell as a fundraiser).
  4. As a class, read a book that centers on food, such as Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel (which, due to explicit content, is most suitable for mature high school students). Create discussion around the importance of food in a culture, referencing this website. As a final project, have students write short stories and/or poems that tie food into life in a similar way.

This module was developed by Roberto de Roock, Summer 2006.