Teacher Resource Book


The MCA Collection Online Teacher Resource Book is designed for teachers to use in their classroom either as pre-visit preparation for a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art or as an independent curriculum reference on contemporary art and culture.  

This multi-layered tool will assist teachers in:

  • developing students' appreciation for and understanding of contemporary art

  • increasing students' ability to meet mandated standards for learning

  • enhancing critical thinking skills through a multidisciplinary approach

  • helping students make connections between art, their personal lives and experiences, and contemporary social and political ideas

  • Building skills in articulating and expressing students’ ideas and perspectives verbally, in written form, and in artwork

Features of this resource

Each of the twenty–three entries includes the following sections:

About the artist
A short biographical section providing the artist's background and artistic context.

About the artwork
In-depth information about the artwork, its creation, and the artist's reasons for creating it.

Questions for looking and discussion
Questions meant to prompt discussion and debate about possible meanings of the artwork and the ideas that inspired the artist.

Ideas for activities
Arranged by discipline in order to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the MCA Collection, these are quick, fairly simple ideas for expanding upon concepts addressed in the entry.

Related sources
Further references in print, video, and film.

Lesson plans
Though each lesson plan is designed with a specific age range in mind, plans are adaptable for all grades. Goals and standards are identified for all levels.
Possible thematic links among entries are listed at the end of each lesson.

Artwork currently on view
The following artworks featured in the Resource Book are part of our current exhibition, Strange Days, on view until July 2004:

Truisms, 1983 by Jenny Holzer
Les Merveilles de la Nature, 1953 by René Magritte
Mad House, 1958 by H.C. Westermann

Artist currently on view
There are artworks by these artists in the current exhibition, Strange Days, though they are not the primary pieces featured in the Resource Book*:

Loco, 1988 by Tony Cragg
Untitled, 1987 by Richard Long
Jacqueline Kennedy, 1964 by Andy Warhol

* see additional works section of the Artist's page

The artworks included in the Resource Book were selected for diversity in subject matter, media, and their relevance to classroom curriculum. Please call the MCA at 312.280.2660 to inquire about specific works.


The following themes may be used to link together two or more entries into a larger unit. Applicable themes are noted at the end of each entry.

Exploring identity
How do you describe yourself to another person? Our individual identity is based on many components: nationality, gender, interests, culture, race, values, and specific experiences. We also have an identity based on the variety of groups to which we belong. Explore how artists express these ideas about themselves, others, and the world around them. The artist’s choice of subject matter, the way in which it is represented, and the manner and materials he or she uses can often be revealing.

Representing our world
Many artists create work in response to current events and the world around them, choosing a variety of methods and materials to convey a message or to document people and places that have significant meaning. We can learn about ourselves and others, history and society, from contemporary artworks.

Art for art’s sake
Entries exploring this theme will help your students analyze artworks in terms of their formal properties, such as line, shape, color, and form. Students may explore ways of expressing themselves creatively through materials and various methods of art making.

Parts representing the whole
Lessons related to this theme will engage students in an exploration of the use of multiples in artwork. Students will explore how art making is often a process of combining different, or similar, smaller elements to create a larger artwork, just as in life smaller issues or events often create larger ones. These lessons encourage students to identify the processes of construction and deconstruction that often take place when understanding an artwork, written work, or societal issues.

Power of words
Artists incorporate words in a variety of ways in their work. Often artists juxtapose words with images to evoke a reaction or question a viewer’s notion of language. Other times artists use words alone as the subject of their artwork. The entries addressing this theme will engage students in actively looking at the relationship words have to one another and to images and how we construct meaning from language.

Advertising and media
Entries related to this theme will encourage students to explore how we receive information about the world around us through advertising and mass media. Some artists use these same techniques in their artwork provoking the viewer to question our media-saturated culture. How do television, movies, advertisements, magazines, and other forms of media (both images and words) influence our notions of reality, self or gender identity, and global awareness?

Grade Level, Subject, and Thematic Links


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