Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Laying the Groundwork: ART Installation

Debi Barrett-Hayes


Students create a large-scale installation on the lawn or grounds of the school environment. Excitement is heightened by making humorous creations that use highly recognizable, appropriated images of art.


The student knows the difference between the intentions of artists in the creation of original works and the intentions of those who appropriate and parody those works.

The student knows and participates in community-based art experiences as an artist or observer.


-Source images: books, catalogues, prints, or online
-Pencils for compositions
-Powdered tempera paint
-All purpose four
-Drywall screws or nails
-Tape measure and/or yardsticks
-Containers to use to mix colors
-Small hand sifter
-Wooden stakes
-Caution tape to protect workspace
-Rubric copies


1. Image Selection (Self-guided exploratory and composing) The teacher can gather source images that would be appropriate for grade level, while still allowing student choice.
2. Image/Installation Ratio (problem solving): The teacher may want to set guidelines that an image may be no smaller than 5' X 5' as the goal is to create large-scale works.
3. Color Scheme: Purchase a variety of colors with the minimum selection of Red, Yellow, and Blue (Orange, Green, and Violet are optional). Black can be topsoil, browns from sand sources and white from pure flour.
4. Planning for Installation guided questions: Prepare some questions ahead of time, steps, and calendar of events.
5. Preparation of Materials: Provide enough containers, large garbage bags for mixing colors, and spaces to store materials. Provide a checklist for students.
6. Site Preparation: Locate sites, acquire administrative permission, pair students with specific sites, create a comprehensive map including all locations, number or label sites.
7. Installation Completion: Preplan your installation date, assign sites, make announcments for disseminating with a map of locations and invite other classes to tour the site. Teacher could formally invite colleagues and their classes to review the works. Prepare a review.
8. Exhibition Preparation: Rolls of string, scissors, wooden stakes, screws, tape measures. Each team will need a set of these to use at the site. Sets can be shared, but the teacher may create a site prep tool box.
9. Exhibition: The exhibition can be highly visible and dynamic if the exhibition date is preplanned and disseminated with planned tours of the site.
10. Evaluation: The teacher can create a simple evaluation for observers as well as a peer review document. These can all be included or incorporated into the rubric.
11. Documentation: Preplan for documentation by acquiring a video and still camera and deciding on a photographer.
12. Debriefing: Preview the video and prepare discussion questions, comments, and observations. Gather audience or observer comments from the exhibition.


(Learning becomes a public event)
Many times art teachers feel that what they do in classrooms is isolated from the rest of the school, community, and world. Students and teachers often want to reach out and interact, making news or soliciting a reaction and simply sharing their excitement for the arts. Does a tree that falls in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it? Some say yes, but so what?

(Ground level art advocacy)
Why? Learning about art, artists, and art history can be very exciting, and it can connect to many other areas of the curriculum. We can learn about the connections among disciplines by using the arts. Major movements and trends in our cultural/artistic expressions usually mirror and are influenced by politics, literature, science, religion, history, economics, and many other current events.

How? Public installations are a common way for artists to get the reluctant, often unaware, public involved in the creative act by becoming spontaneous observers. Lawn art is an easy and environmentally safe method of creating a visually striking and physically dynamic work of art while temporarily transforming an environment (in this case, the lawn).

What? Appropriation is when an idea, concept, or image is borrowed from an original source and appropriated for use in a new work. Throughout history and in contemporary culture, we can find many examples of images appropriate for a new and often humorous purpose. When an artist appropriates or borrows an image, the original intent and the new intent combine in ways that create new meaning. It is often important to understand the original in order to fully understand the meaning and purpose of the new creation.

In this lesson, students create a temporary lawn art installation from appropriated (borrowed) images of famous works of art. They work in cooperative groups to implement their plans as they research and select works to appropriate, plan the installation, and prepare all necessary materials.

There are many examples of installations, such as the Lawn Art proposed in this lesson. Examples can be sidewalk chalk artists who recreate famous works of art. Once you have former student examples, past student works can be used to gain attention and heighten anticipation.

Many contemporary forms of art include appropriated or borrowed images and references to historical works. It is important to consider the intent and purpose of the original source and the intent and purpose of the appropriated work. Students work cooperatively to create public lawn installations based on easily recognizable works of art.

For background: Discuss examples of places one might find appropriated images in contemporary culture and everyday life. Examples: Advertising billboards, commercials, cartoons, animated cartoons, [kitsch] objects, and other images from pop culture. Discuss the purpose and intent, comparing the original and the appropriated work.

1. The teacher or student leader should first select an image to recreate. This can be one image or a composite image. Many students like to alter a famous image or create a visual pun. It is suggested that the target audience easily recognize the image. Both creating a recognizable image and recognizing what is being created on the lawn promotes a positive response. Technology may be used to create a composite or a line drawing.
Cognitive Levels: Exploratory, creating and composing.

2. Image/Installation Ratio: A ratio of the original image to the created enlarged image must be determined. For example, will an 8” X 10” image be recreated to be 8’ X 10’ or 12’ X 15’? This is an excellent moment to teach measurement, proportion, and ratio. Formulas can be more complicated by creating more difficult ratios like 1:1.75. A color version of the final design should be produced complete with a measurement grid numbered and/or lettered for reference on the horizontal and vertical axis.

3. Color Scheme: The color scheme needs to be determined. Teachers can simplify the color scheme by using a coloring book style of translating the image into simple LINE, SHAPE, and COLOR. Keep in mind each color used in the original image or composite image will need to be created in volumes to create the lawn painting. It is often best to create a simple line drawing of a complex image and create a limited pallet of colors for the lawn painting. These drawings often appear as a line drawing with color.

4. Planning for installation with guided questions: A teacher-guided discussion on each group's proposal for installation should occur. Discussions can help the students identify areas of need or trouble shooting the actual installation. Peer review and class comments can promote revision and redirection of the proposal prior to installation.

5. Preparation of materials: The colors will need to be created in advance. This is an excellent opportunity to determine volume for square foot coverage. Students can experiment with the amount of color needed to completely saturate a square foot. Students must then figure the approximate square footage of each color needed. Colors are made using powdered tempera paint with flour for extender. The flour also assists with floating the colors over the lawn. Using various shades of sands and topsoils available at lawn and landscaping dealers, the students can create additional natural colors. Temperas can be missed to create a wide variety of hues, such as a range of blues, greens, or reds and pink.

6. Site Preparation: Once the image and colors are prepared, the location for the large-scale rendition needs to be prepared. Students find a right angle of a corner and using small stakes, such as 2.5” or 3” drywall screws or similar pins, mark off each of the squares of the large-scale grid. Colored string is used to line the grid with the screw pins helping to keep the lines in place. It is helpful to number or letter each row and column for reference when applying the colored powdered tempera.

7. Installation completion: Once the grid is complete and the rows and columns are identified, the artists may begin laying down the color. Small cups or hand sifters are helpful for transporting small amounts of color. The group plans where to begin so as not to trap unfinished squares within the work. For example, many groups work from the center of the grid out. Others work from the top/center, out and down. The important thing is to have a plan. Once the major colors have been applied, small subtle details may be added. Often black can be used to accentuate the design by funneling thin, solid black outlines. Topsoil works great for this kind of detail and is fairly inexpensive.

8. Exhibition Preparation: Once the work is finished, it is wise to lightly rope off the area at a distance from the artwork. This alerts passersby of the work and deters vandalism. If photographs are desired, they should be taken immediately, as the lifespan of these works is tenuous. Humidity and foul weather can destroy the vibrancy of the work very quickly.

9. Exhibition: If multiple works are created, a gallery walk can be organized for other classes of students to visit the temporal works. Artists can create statements about the works they appropriated (borrowed) and creative titles that are humorous or satirical.

10. Evaluation: Images can be evaluated using a rubric that includes the creative combination of the borrowed image and original aspects. The meaning, intent, or visual humor can be part of the rubric. The actual planning and implementation of the plan can be evaluated, as well as the overall resulting image. The works are best when they are easily recognizable images from famous works. This can be an element of the rubric, as well as teamwork, measurement, cleanup and title or artist statement. This is also a perfect project to promote peer evaluation.

11. Documentation: Document the entire process using video equipment and photographs. Students love to watch themselves after the event as an observer. This also provides another means of documenting, evaluating, and disseminating to others. For example, you could post the image and edited video on your home page.

12. Debriefing/feedback/celebration: The class watches as observers as the process unfolds via video. The teacher pauses during or after the video viewing to ask questions. Students can write reflective comments after viewing all process and resulting products.


Assess students' ability to select two or more recognizable original image sources, compose parody images, estimate colored and measured/ratio with class, and participate in a discussion/critique prior to installation.

Students also create a written statement, including title and artist statement, a comparison of original references, and defense of the composite image parody.

Students participate in video documentation of process and product and tour of work.

Students participate in a peer review.

For criteria of assessment of these activities, see the rubric in associated file. (Composite image plan with color scheme and two or more source images, created work, artist’s statement/defense including artists’ intentions, video documentation and exhibition tour with participant’s comments.)


This lesson can easily fit with mathematics: ratio, proportion, measurement and volume.

Web Links

This site features largescale arial views of crop art.
Circle Makers

Attached Files

This file contains a suggested rubric for assessing student work.     File Extension: pdf

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