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Compare and Connect: How do artists use stories from the past to address contemporary issues around identity? (Ready to Go Resource)

Ready-to-go resources are short, flexible learning activities that center art as texts. In “Compare and Connect” students use a guiding question to compare works of art within the context of a shared theme and produce brief writing examples. The activities are presented in google slide decks with teaching notes to make classroom implementation easy.

Michael Richards's Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian and Kehinde Wiley's Judith and Holofernes

Guiding question: How do artists use stories from the past to address contemporary issues around identity such as gender and race?

Featuring Michael Richards’s Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian and Kehinde Wiley’s Judith and Holofernes.

Make your own copy! Check the slide notes for the teacher’s guide.


Total Activity Pacing: 30 minutes across 2 days

Grade(s): 9-12

Activity Overview:

  • In this Compare and Connect activity, students will analyze two artworks that are “modern retellings” of ancient stories that were common themes of western art. Students will consider why we retell stories and how those stories can appeal to modern audiences. Finally, students will create their own modern and inclusive retelling of a traditional story.
  • In Day One: Discuss, Students will discuss two artworks that reference old stories (a folktale and a biblical and early-christian story) that were popular themes in art history. Students will consider why the artists referenced those stories and what they may have wanted modern audiences to consider about those stories. Finally, students will consider what elements make stories timeless and why we retell old stories today. 
  • In Day Two: Write, students will choose their own old story (myth, folktale, etc.) and rewrite it to be more inclusive and reflection of modern day identities and diversity. They may write it as narrative prose, narrative verse, or create a 1-page graphic novel version.