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Sep 2017

Knowledge and New Friends through Artist Trading Cards

Knowledge and New Friends through Artist Trading Cards

This experience came about when a friend—also an art teacher and AP® Studio Art Reader—and I wanted to conduct a lesson that would connect our classes. We decided on Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and proceeded to introduce the lesson to our respective students at the start of the school year.

Before starting on the cards, my students first created blogs for their portfolios. Once these were up and running, I outlined the first theme for the students’ ATCs, which allowed them to use any range of media or style of art for their cards. The students also included the URLs of their blogs and their email addresses on the backs of the cards so they could communicate and send constructive critiques to their new “Pen Pals.”

My students were excited to create their ATCs and send them to their new friends, and were especially eager to receive works of art by their correspondents that they could keep and were curious to see what high school visual art students were making in other parts of the country.

Because my students were proud of their cards, we took pictures of them before sending them off to my friend’s school in North Carolina. Once she received them, they were “dealt” to her AP Studio Art students. Her young artists then echoed the theme of our cards, creating their own original takes on it in response.

Meanwhile, my kids were eager to receive the cards from their pen pals in North Carolina, and see how their themes and/or media and techniques were reciprocated. In other words, if their cards featured skulls or a hand, the N.C. students used the same subject for theirs. And, if my students had used a certain technique—such as paper cutouts—my friend’s kids created art using the same technique.

When the North Carolina cards arrived, my students immediately checked their pen pals’ blogs, and social-media accounts to see what types of artist their new friends were and to see their interests and likes.

Our students exchanged emails with each other and used the Feldman Method of Art Criticism to critique each other’s art. It was fun and interesting for them to receive feedback from someone they did not know.

This was such a success that my students were eager to create another round of ATCs to send back to their new cohorts in North Carolina. They were happy to make art and share. Soon, they were asking to meet their new friends so they could discuss their art with each other. Although our classes met at different times in the day, we arranged a time to Skype so our students could virtually “meet” each other.

This was such a success that my advanced class wanted in on the action, so I reached out to another art teacher and AP Studio Art Reader friend in New York. This time, however, we gave our students a theme, and had each teen select a contemporary artist from a list we provided. The young artists were to incorporate their artists’  styles or media into their cards.

They also were to include quotations from the artists and offered their own email and blog addresses on the backs of the cards. Just as before, we hoped to create bonds with students across the country, instill the steps of the Feldman Method of Art Criticism in a fun way, expose them to new artists/styles of art, and become more comfortable sharing and communicating about their art with others.

Through PowerPoint presentations, our students shared the inspirations behind their ATCs, showcasing themselves and their work. Students used images of their chosen artists’ work and explained why they used the particular styles and techniques for their cards.

For example, one student chose Wyland, and addressed the importance of conservationism. Another selected Leonardo da Vinci, and wrote backwards on his card, just like the great master did in his sketchbooks. It was gratifying for my students to introduce each other to new contemporary artists and see the imaginative work they were creating based on a particular artist’s style/technique/media.

There are always ways to improve and adjust a lesson to be better. Having students type out their email addresses/URLs and paste them on the backs of their cards would help avoid any legibility issues. Reserving the computer lab so students can use class time to write their critiques and email them would ensure the critiques get to their pen pals by the due date. Also, having a master list of email addresses and the names of their pen pals would make the teacher’s job easier.

If you do this earlier in the school year, you can set multiple rounds of cards to exchange. It always helps to have students excited to create and share. It may be fun to have students exchange ATCs within your county and connect during a field trip at a museum.

This project could easily be used at any age or grade, and is a great way to tie in technology and critiquing. It can easily be modified to work with any student and any theme.

Feedback from students was revealing. One student wrote, “ … we send off the cards and never really know when we are going to get them back … when we do, it’s a really pleasant surprise. …  It’s really cool to meet someone through their artwork. I’ve really enjoyed the whole process.” 

“This was an amazing opportunity … we got to integrate our own voice onto a card to send to someone else,” wrote another student, “…then, that other person would reciprocate with their own voice on a similar subject. It was … getting to know someone not from their words but from their art. Truly, it was a beautiful and amazing process, and I am thankful that my art teacher allowed us to experience such a personal and new way of learning.” 


Students enjoyed seeing what other high school visual art students were making in other parts of the country.



It was interesting for students to receive feedback from someone they did not know.



High school students will …
• connect and form bonds with other students at other U.S. high schools.
• create, exchange, and critique cards these other students have made.
• be able to identify and become familiar with the four steps of the Feldman Method of Art Criticism: Describe, Analyze, Interpret and Judge.
• be introduced to and be able to recognize different styles of art and/or techniques.
• share their newfound knowledge and Artist Trading Cards with their classmates.

• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Essential Questions: Why is it important to value art and share art? Why is it important to connect?

• Playing cards or cardstock
• Feldman Method of Art Criticism worksheets.
• Mixed media, paint
• LCD projector (optional)
• Computers/Tablets/Smart Phones (for communication between artist pen pals)

Kathleen Petka teaches art at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia.



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