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"What's Up Milwaukee?!" unit

This unit focuses on all of the amazing artist resources Milwaukee has to offer. Through observing interviews with the artists, students will be able to not only learn a new skill/medium, but also learn more about Milwaukee culture through these amazing artists. In the process of creating this lesson, I want to not only share with my students art resources that I'm already familiar with but also discovering new gems hidden within the magic that is Milwaukee!


-Melissa Mursch- Zines & bookbinding

-Tania Espinoza Bonilla- Fibers- coiled coasters and

plushy hearts for Valentines!

-Chris Davis-Benevides- Peruvian inspired ceramics!

(my personal favorite!)

Air dry clay "guardians"

-Maddie Nicholson- Stippling/charcoal drawings

-Payne Counihan- graffiti and street art inspired designs

Milwaukee arts/ artists with a focus on zine making, and studying fibers and ceramics

The unit focuses on local Milwaukee makers. The lessons are centered around the artists specific mediums. After learning about how the artist makes their work, the class will do a similar project in relation to their newfound knowledge in that medium! This lesson will help students experience local art through a different lens by showing commonalities of midwestern artists (specifically in Milwaukee WI). Students will see how these artists integrate their personal culture with their midwestern culture. Showing students artists like this reiterates the idea of getting inspiration in the small everyday things. This is also important because it shows young artists how other artists influence our communities and make meaningful connections.



Lesson Description

1st up: Zines! with Milwaukee artist Melissa Mursch- Rodriguez. students will start by watching a short 15 min interview with Melissa where she tells us about her process as an artist, her zine business Moody The Zine, and where she gets her inspiration and ideas from. Students will start brainstorming with each other about what their zines will be about. They will work on preliminary sketches and eventually start on their book binding (“cut and roll”) that was taught to them via demo video.

  • VOCABULARY Zine: self-published booklets featuring anything from collages to drawings to poetry. Riot Grrrl: an underground alternative female movement of the early 1990’s that spread ideas through handmade photocopied zines. Moody The Zine: a monthly zine publication made up of artist contributions with an emphasis on underrepresented creatives. Publication: the preparation and issuing of a book, journal, piece of music, or other work for public sale Photocopy: fast and cheap way to make multiples of something Accessible, accessibility: the ability of being “reachable” to most people- regardless of class/race/ or gender. Bookbinding: The art of making a book. Can take many forms such as sewing, gluing, stapling, folding, and cutting.

“Cut and Roll”: zine making method that includes rolling paper and tucking it into another piece of paper that has been cut to allow us to make a no hardware booklet (demonstrated in class). Ashcans/ Mini Comics: another word for zines. All interchangeable words, referring to cheaply made and accessible booklets. Illustrations: a picture or quick sketch Poetry: writing with special intensity that is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by using rhythm Woodland Pattern: Local Milwaukee bookstore that has amazing resources to zines and other creative art books. Located on Locust street in Riverwest.

Learning Objectives


  • Students will be able to create a personal zine with basic bookbinding methods. They will also learn how and where to pull their inspiration from and have that guide them in creating content for their zines.

  • Va: Cr 2.1.7- Organize and Develop

  • Demonstrates willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, meanings emerged in the process of art making


  • Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding by studying the work of riot grrrl and Melissa Mursch- Rodriguez and will create their own version of a zine. As a result of this, students will understand art can be used to inform people of important issues in our society, as well as a way to communicate without actually talking. It’s also important to understand how cheap and easily reproduced they are. Artists use them for all of these reasons and create beautiful books in the process.

  • Va: Re 7.1.8

  • Perceive and Analyze explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and how it impacts the visual image they create.


Students will be able to create a personal zine that communicates their understanding of where their inspirations and influences come from (personal cultures).

  • Va. Cn10.1.6

  • Synthesize and rel

ate knowledge to personal experiences to make art. Generate a collection of ideas reflecting current interests and concerns that could be investigated in art making.


Lesson Description

Next, we will be focusing on fibers! With Milwaukee artist Tania Espinoza Bonilla. We will start by watching a short 15 min interview with Tania where she tells us about her process and where she gets her inspiration from. Students will start with learning a basic running stitch via demo video and then use that knowledge to create a plushy heart by sewing 2 pieces of heart shaped fabric together and stuffing it with polyfill.

VOCABULARY Running Stitch- A line of small even stitches that run in/out of the material being sewn together. Coiling- The act of wrapping string around a cord in order to create a new form. Thread- Used for sewing 2 pieces of cloth together. Sewing- The act of stitching 2 pieces of cloth together Fibers- Made of natural or synthetic materials. Focuses on material/aesthetic over utility. Polyfill- Used for stuffing pillows and other soft objects like stuffed animals. Texture- the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface or substance. Identity expression- the act of being what you truly believe about yourself. Embracing- loving all that you are and feeling confident.

Learning Objectives


  • Students will be able to create a plushy heart with a basic running stitch technique Students will also explore with coiling and will make a coiled coaster. They will also use suggestions Tania gave to them through the interview on how to stay focused and determined with their art making process.

  • VA: CR 2.1.7

  • Artists and designers experiment with forms, structures, materials, concepts, media, and art making


  • Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts and instruction learned by creating a plushy heart and coiled coaster. As a result of this, students will understand how versatile art can be, especially in the fibers world.

  • VA:RE 8.1.7

  • Interpret art by analyzing art making approaches, the characteristics of form and structure, relevant textual information, subject matter, and use of media to convey a mood.


  • Students will be able to connect their knowledge learned from artist Tania and their fibers skills to create 2 fibrous art works.

  • VA: CN 11.1.7

  • Analyze how response to art is influenced by understanding the time and place in which it was created, the available resources, and cultural uses.


Lesson Description

We will be focusing on clay this lesson! We will be watching an interview I conducted with Milwaukee ceramics artist Chris David Benevides. We will start by watching the interview with Chris where he tells us about his process and where he gets his inspiration from. Students will be learning about the histories of Peruvian ceramics through slides that Chris will share in the video. This interview is a little bit lengthier than the last few, but he has some amazing stuff to say and the students will learn so much about Peruvian culture and clay! After discussing some specifics from the video like vocabulary words and processes, the students will proceed to work on a mini research project where they will explore one main point from the video that they liked (ancient Peruvian architecture, Peruvian clay pots, different kiln firings, ect…). After their research is done, they will begin working on a mini sculpture that will somehow relate to the research they did. Students will be working with air dry clay and painting their pieces with acrylic. These pieces can range anywhere from animal figures to things or objects that bring them comfort or the feeling of safety.


Ceramics- the art of making thing out of clay. Clay is an ancient art tradition.

Hand building- One of the oldest craft techniques- creating a clay sculpture without the use of a machine.

Bone Dry- Refers to clay which is ready to be fired. All the moisture is gone from the clay. Clay is VERY FRAGILE at this stage!

Coils- Rope like pieces of clay

Coil construction- Rope like pieces of clay that are stacked to form a wall and build the object. This technique is one of the most used hand building methods.

Slip- A liquid form of clay used as glue or decoration

Score- Roughing up the surface of clay for joining

Leather hard- Clay that is dry enough but still damp enough to be joined to other pieces. Hard to bend and soft enough to be carved without distortion.

Greenware- Unfired pottery that is done dry, a state in which clay forms are the most fragile.

Bisque- Unglazed clay, once fired at a low temperature to make the clay turn to stone

Kiln- Built of refractory brick and heated by electricity, gas, oil, wood, from temps of 1500-2340. Also called an “oven” for firing the clay

Fire- To bake in a kiln- cooking the clay

Glaze- A glassy coating that has been melted onto a ceramic surface, Its used to decorate the piece and to seal the clay surfaces.

Learning Objectives


  • Students will be able to create a clay figurine that demonstrates their

  • understanding of the of the slip and score process. Students will be able to pick what their piece is about, while still being heavily influenced by

  • what Chris taught them in the interview video.

  • VA:Cr2.1.6

  • Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.


  • Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of concepts and instructions learned by creating a small clay figurine. They are directly responding to the information given to them in the video and will use their newfound knowledge about Peruvian art to guide them in their clay process.

  • VA:Re7.1.8

  • Explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and impact the visual image that one conveys to others.


  • Students will be able to connect their knowledge learned from Chris and have a group discussion on how their personal culture is translated into their clay piece.

  • VA:Cn11.1.7

  • Analyze how response to art is influenced by understanding the time and place in which it was created, the available resources, and cultural uses.

Assessments for all 3 lessons:

Initial: "Has anyone ever heard of before?"

Formative: Kahoot quizzes and end of unit portfolios (google slides)

Virtual Exhibition:

The inside of the exhibition is dedicated to the "What's Up Milwaukee?!" unit and all of the different mediums the students explored. The "outside" gallery focuses on my younger student's work that they have been working on this school year.


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