Lesson Plan | Juan Sánchez: My Important Place – MMoCA
Un Sueño Libre, 1987, lithograph
Visual Art, Music, Language Arts, Social Studies
Ann Kohl-Re, art educator
- How does Juan Sánchez show his feelings for his Puerto Rican homeland in Un Sueño Libre?
- What words and images would you use to represent an important place of belonging in your life?
- Learn about Juan Sánchez’s passion for his Puerto Rican homeland and community. Identify a place or community that gives students a sense of belonging and importance.
“In the US, everyone is a descendant.”
Juan Sánchez identifies himself as “New Yorican.” He was born in New York and is of Puerto Rican descent, an aspect of his identity that is central to his life and work.
For many people living in the United States, their heritage is a rich mixture of backgrounds and cultures, race, beliefs, and identity. In this lesson, students will study Un Sueño Libre and read about the artist, Juan Sánchez. They will use his work as inspiration for reflecting on how communities of people provide important anchors in life, and help inform our identities. Students will create a work of art using words and images that capture an important place of belonging in their lives.
- How would you describe the colors, lines, shapes, and textures in Un Sueño Libre?
- Notice the trio of girls in the largest photograph in this picture. Using their facial expressions and postures as a guide, how might they be feeling in this moment in time? Why might the artist have thought it important to include them?
- What else has Juan Sánchez included in Un Sueño Libre that expresses his feelings for Puerto Rico?
With your class, look closely at Un Sueño Libre and read about the artist, Juan Sánchez. Read the poem that is written on the lithograph and share your observations and thoughts. Watch the video of the song, “Almost Like Praying”, made by musicians and performance artists who have a strong love for Puerto Rico, the homeland of their ancestors. Puerto Rico is also Juan Sanchez’s ancestral homeland, and his love for this place is evident in Un Sueño Libre. Ask the students if they can see and hear the strong feelings that these artists have for Puerto Rico, and and if they can identify which elements of the artwork and song demonstrate these feelings. Using Un Sueño Libre as an inspiration, prepare students to create a work of art that describes a place that is important to them.
Ask the students to think of a place that represents community for them. Is it their home? neighborhood? classroom? school? city? Or perhaps a place where they or their family have lived before? Ask them to write or share with a partner or group the things that make this place important to them. How does this place give them a feeling of belonging? Is it a place where they feel free? happy? energized? calm? Instruct them to make a list of words and images that describe their feelings when they think about their important place.
Ask them to look at their list of words and images. Tell them they will combine them in a drawing. Alternatively, students could create a poem using the words they have listed. Point out that the images in Un Sueño Libre are surrounded by a strong black shape. Tell them that, because this work of art begins in their heart, they should draw the biggest heart shape that they can on a sheet of paper. Tell them to draw the images from their list inside the heart shape. They can draw each image in a box or other shape as Juan Sánchez has done, or simply arrange them inside the heart in their own way. Next, ask students to choose words from their list and to carefully add them to their drawings to create visual rhythm and unity.
If they wrote a poem, instruct them to unify the composition by writing the lines of the poem around the images. Alternatively, instruct them to do as Juan Sanchez did and write their poem at the top of the sheet of paper (plan this in advance so there is room on the page).
Next, ask them to use a black marker or crayon to make the lines of their drawing very strong—as strong as is their love for the community they are describing. Ask them to choose a few colors to add to their work of art. Tell them to first color the images inside the heart, and then to choose one color to fill in the negative space that surrounds the heart shape. Ask them to look again at how Juan Sánchez used strong lines and colors, such as black and red, to unify his image.
If they did not write a poem, ask them to write a description of their work of art or verbally share its meaning with a friend, classmate, or other important person. Ask them if there is a person from their important community with whom they could share their art. If so, tell the students to show their artwork to that person, and to talk to them about their important place; if they wrote a poem, read it. Help them to know that they will make their community even stronger by sharing their artistic heart and creative work.
Juan Sánchez, Un Sueño Libre, in the Art on Tour exhibition, In the Neighborhood: Community in Art, Un Sueño Libre artwork page, Art on Tour website, and other teaching resources on the artist; teacher-made example of My Important Place; 12 x 12-inch drawing paper, or larger; pencil, markers, crayons; video of “Almost Like Praying” by Lin Manual Miranda and other artists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1IBXE2G6zw
Homeland, community, imagery, composition, unify
Research, collect and share creative writing and videography about community
National Core Arts Standards
VA Cr1.2.1a, 1.2.2a, 1.2.3a, 1.2.4a; VA Cr2.1.1a, 1.2a, 1.3a, 1.4a; VA Cr 2.3.3a, 2.3.4a; VA Pr6.1.3a; VA Re7.1.1a, 7.1.3a; VA Re7.2.1a, 7.2.2a, 7.2.3a, 7.2.4a; VA Re 8.1.3a, 8.1.4a; VA Re 9.1.3a, 9.1.4a; VA Ch 10.1.2a, 10.1.3a, 10.1.4a; VA Ch 11.1.1a, 11.1.3a, 11.1.4a