Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – African American History (Martin Luther King Jr.), Empathy, Self Esteem, Acceptance, Cultures Around The World (Africa)
Language Arts – Literature, Science – Go Green (Recycling/ Repurposing)
Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Nick Cave, Karen Katz, Todd Parr
Art Mediums– Costumes, Sculpture, Recycled Art, Fiber Art, Illustration, Art Careers – Sculptor, illustrator
Nick Cave, who includes fibers, upcycling and dance in his work, is truly an “Artist After My Own Heart”. Being a fiber artist and recycler myself and having three daughters who love to dance, Cave’s work is right up my alley. I have been intrigued by his work for the last couple of years. I first saw examples of his work at the Hirshhorn Museum and a short time later at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. BUT, I found true love when I recently saw a whole room of Cave’s colorful soundsuits in the NICK CAVE FEAT. exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN.
Working in three disciplines gives Nick Cave’s work an array of ways to integrate into your curriculum.
The soundsuit, full body costumes created from items found in thrift stores, were inspired by the Rodney King slaying years ago. Cave felt African American people, like himself, were not valued, that they were a discarded group of people. The soundsuits are a sort of armour to camouflage the wearer, so people will not “judge a book by it’s cover”. To date, Cave has created an army of over 500 soundsuits to battle social injustice. So, if you are teaching a Self Esteem, an Acceptance or Martin Luther King, Jr. (“I have a dream!”) unit in your classroom, Nick Cave would be a GREAT artist to introduce. We are all different in some way. Different doesn’t need to be a negative experience. We all want to be accepted. Some books that accentuate this theme are The Color of Us by Karen Katz and It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr. Videos of these stories can be found here and here. Talk to students about how they feel different. Why does Nick Cave feel different? Find a lesson including Nick Cave’s feelings here.
Making the soundsuits from thrift store items brings a new life to discarded items. Here is another place to introduce Cave’s work, as a part of a Go Green science unit. Students could create a simple mask shape from discarded cereal boxes in the shape used by Kinderart for this lesson. Then create the features for the mask using recycled items such as cardboard, bottle caps, lids, etc, like Adventures of an Art Teacher did here. Toys, dolls, stuffed animals and buttons can be found on Cave’s soundsuits also. Students could also bring in old small toys to incorporate into their masks. If you would like to explore recycling fibers, try out Babble Dabble Do’s Pieces Dolls or KROKOTAK’s Rag Dolls to create miniature soundsuit dolls. The dolls can be made from leftover fabrics from around the house or old t-shirts. Buttons and beads could be added to create sound. Check out a 5 year old’s soundsuit themed birthday party here.
As an extension to the above activity, share this soundsuit dance video with your students. Then, while wearing their masks or holding soundsuit dolls, students could choreograph a dance of their own.
Cave’s work could also be shared as a part of a Cultures Around the World unit. His whole body soundsuits are reminiscent of costumes and dances from Africa, the Hopi Kachinas, and Mardi Gras or Carnival.
Other contemporary versions of whole body costumes are Jim Henson’s Big Bird and Snuffleupagus and Julie Taymor’s Lion King animals. And let us not forget Wookie from Star Wars.
So, what do you think? Could you interject some of Nick Caves works in one or more of your classroom units? I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the post’s title and scroll down to the comment section. If you like what you’ve seen here, please feel free to toss me a “like” or better still become a follower.
Thanks so much for reading. Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!