Return to Headlines

Spartans honor Harlem Renaissance heroines in fusion of art and social studies


Students at Gates Chili Middle School celebrated Women’s History Month by paying homage to the women behind the Harlem Renaissance Movement.  


Students in sixth and eighth grades participated in the Women’s Empowerment March, an annual Women’s History Month initiative that challenges students across the state to discover, research and honor 31 iconic women each March. This year’s theme paid tribute to the Harlem Renaissance Movement, which revived Black art and literature during the 1920s and 30s. That experience set the stage for lessons and projects of the same theme that combined art and social studies.  


Student artIn Amy Cocuzzi’s art class, sixth-graders learned about American sculptor Selma Burke and explored what makes someone a visionary of their time. Burke crafted portraits of many prominent Black figures but is best known for her portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which may have been the model for his portrait on the dime. To cap off the lesson, students selected an inspiring woman and designed a coin using their image.  


Student artArt class also gave seventh- and eighth-graders the chance to create pop art portraits of Harlem Renaissance women. With each portrait, students wrote artist statements and participated in class critiques to analyze how their artwork relates to the historical and social circumstances of the Harlem Renaissance and pop art movements.  


Meanwhile in Cherie Spoto's social studies class, seventh- and eighth-grade students researched women of the Harlem Renaissance and hosted a mock dinner party to share what they learned with each other. To help with their presentations, they created a place mat with talking points, a mask of their chosen figure and came up with an artifact to represent them. They also wrote a paragraph about their figure for the Women’s Empowerment March web page.  


The artwork created as part of the Women’s History Month Harlem Renaissance tribute was featured in the annual Middle School Art Show and on the Women’s Empowerment March website.