In Program 2 of Art to Heart, students at Louisville’s Byck Elementary study artist John James Audubon and create their own paintings of birds. One of the reasons teacher Melanie Walker chose Audubon was this famous artist’s local connection: He spent 12 years in frontier Kentucky, first in Louisville and then in Henderson (in Western Kentucky), sketching and painting birds in his spare time.
To conduct a similar activity, research your community’s history for a connection to an artist. Or you might choose Audubon no matter where you live because even if the artist didn’t live in your area, some of his painting subjects—the birds and animals of America—undoubtedly do. You can use Audubon’s paintings of birds from your region—or birds of national interest, such as the bald eagle—as examples.
This art activity can be tied to science activities exploring birds and how they live or with activities such as feeding birds for the winter or observing birds’ nests in your neighborhood.
Explain that Audubon watched animals to create his work. Have your child or students look at pictures, photographs, and real birds they see around them. Talk about their observations.
- The Museum of Nebraska Art web site includes samples of Audubon’s work and a biography.
- The National Audubon Society web site includes educational materials, home activity ideas, and a listing of Audubon-related resources and organizations by state. (Check with your local Audubon Society for family events relating to birds and nature.) The site also features an online version of the artist’s most famous work, Birds of America. Audubon paintings of 30 state birds are included and listed by state.
- The Musee de la Civilisation web site includes another viewable catalog of Audubon’s bird paintings.
- The Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM, included in KET’s Visual Arts Toolkit, includes images from the John James Audubon Museum in Henderson, KY.