Introduction to Public Art Lesson Plan

An Introduction to Public Art in Philadelphia for 4th/5th Grade

TOPIC: An Introduction to Public Art in Philadelphia for 4th/5th Grade


1. Goals: To acquaint students with examples of public art in Philadelphia and to introduce students to the elements and principles of design.

2. Objectives:
A. The students will have a basic understanding of elements and principles of design.
B. Students will be able to use the elements and principles of design as tools when discussing a public artwork.
C. Students will be introduced to a broad range of public artworks in the city of Philadelphia.


Public Art is not an art “form.” Its size can be huge or small. It can tower fifty feet high or call attention to the paving beneath your feet. Its shape can be abstract or realistic (or both), and it may be cast, carved, built, assembled, or painted. It can be site-specific or stand in contrast to its surroundings.

What distinguishes public art is the unique association of how it is made, where it is, and what it means. Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, 1992)

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Public art comes in many forms, but there is a language to help us talk about it in all of its variations. Some things to consider when looking at public art are the elements and principles of design, place, material, and process.

The elements of design are the building blocks of anything visual. They can be found in buildings we live in, the clothing we wear, the food we eat, and even our own bodies. Defining these elements helps us talk about what we see, and how an object’s visual design can affect our other senses.

The elements of design include form, line, shape, space, color, texture, and value. (Animated examples can be found here.)

These elements help generate the principles of design. The principles of design express how the elements of a visual object relate to each other and the developed whole. Principles include balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, variety, contrast, rhythm, and unity (Examples of the principles of design can be found here or here).

Other things we consider when discussing public art are:
•Figure (What is expressed in the work, and does it include a recognizable image?)
•Site (Where is the work located, and was it created for a specific place?)
•Process (Who initiated the piece and is it a result of a particular process important to the work or community?)
•Time (When and why was the work created, and will it last for a particular duration of time?)
•Material (What is the material, and is it specific to the work or place where the work is installed?)

III. ACTIVITY (10-20 mins)

Previously printed images of public works in Philadelphia from the Association for Public Art website (

Print a picture of a different public work for each student, or break into smaller groups, and provide a different image for each group. Have students locate and list examples of the following in their pictures.

Then have student(s) decide if these elements are working to create any of the following:

Before cleaning up, have students share with the class how the elements are working to express the principles in each work. Discuss the public art characteristics of figure, site, process, time and material

IV. CLEAN UP (5 mins)


Arts and Humanities

9.1.3.A: Know and use the elements and principles of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities. Elements (Visual Arts): color • form/shape • line • space • texture • value

9.1.3.B: Recognize, know, use and demonstrate a variety of appropriate arts elements and principles to produce, review and revise original works in the arts. Elements (Visual Arts): paint • draw • craft • sculpt • print • design for environment, communication, multi-media

9.1.3.C: Recognize and use fundamental vocabulary within each of the art forms.


1. Was student attentive during Principles/Elements of Design discussion?

2. Did the student participate in activity?

3. Was the student able to find some of the discussed principle/elements in the artwork provided?

4. Did the student share their findings in class discussion?

5. Was student respectful to other students’ opinions and work during lesson?


This lesson can be paired with any of the other lessons provided by the Association for Public Art.


Museum of Modern Art’s Teacher Resources Page:
Association for Public Art:
Pennsylvania Art Education Association:


1. This lesson can be paired with the lesson for Charioteer of Delphi. Related themes include:
•using figurative images to represent/inspire a community
•creating collective images
•lost wax casting
•similar formal elements (outstretched arms, stance, lines of sight, etc.)

2. This lesson can be paired with the lesson for Kopernik. Related themes include:
•creating universal images
•comparison of formal elements
•comparison of figurative versus abstract sculpture