Arts Integration Strategy: I Spy

2 Min Read  •  Arts Integration

Last week, as I stood in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, studying a Jackson Pollock, I overheard a group of children standing nearby, studying the same abstract painting. These children were thrilled to try to find images within the abstract painting: “I see a kangaroo! I see a man riding a horse! I see a bunny! A bird! An arrow!”

I loved that these children were trying to make sense of something so abstract, and were having so much fun using their imaginations to find hidden pictures within the abstract painting. This inspired an arts integration strategy I’d like to share with you today, called I Spy

This strategy essentially allows students to find images within a piece of abstract artwork and create a collaborative story around it. 

Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (1950), abstract painting

Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (1950)

  1. Display an abstract work of art (e.g., Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm). 
  2. Have students “spy” something in the abstract painting. In abstract art with more clearly defined images (i.e., Kandinsky), students can spy a literal image in the work, or in something more abstract, (i.e., Pollock), they can use their imaginations to find a figure somewhere in the lines and shapes of the piece.
  3. Students write a narrative based on the figures they spied within the work. Here are several options as to how you might facilitate this creative writing:
    • Students might work collaboratively with a small group to create a story, interweaving all of the figures each student within the group spied to give the entire work a newly constructed meaning.
    • Have each student, on a piece of paper, write down the image they spied within the work at the top of the paper. Then have each student pass their paper onto the next student, who will write the opening sentence to a story as to how that figure relates within the abstract painting. Each paper will travel to every student in the class, who will add the next sentence to the story. When the paper returns to it’s owner, each student will write a closing sentence to complete the collaborative story written by the class or group.
    • Have students overlay an image of the object they spied over the original. (If you can distribute copies of the original artwork, students can use a marker to outline their image. If not, distribute any kind of clear paper, i.e. wax paper, and have students overlay their images that way.) Then, have each student write an “artist’s statement,” as though the composed the artwork in conjunction with the original artist.
  4. Extension: Students may perform their narratives as a monologue or in small groups as a collaborative dramatic work.