Engaging with Bullying

Each year I teach an artmaking course to graduate art education students at George Mason University. This course allows us to examine the potential of using big ideas and meaning making as the foundation for art instruction.

By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher
By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher

Many great ideas and great artworks result, but today I’d like to share one artwork by Kellan Fitzgerald that illustrates this potential.

Kellan created an artwork about bullying. The artwork was an installation of sorts — a sculpture designed to be placed in a playground where students could view and interact with it.

By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher
By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher

The life-size figure held balloons that had messages written on them. Children were asked to write about their own personal experience with bullying.


Simple as they may be, these statements reveal sincere child experiences of hurt and ridicule such as:

  • “The called me fat.”
  • “A person stole my pencil case. I know who it was but  that person denied it.”
  • “Someone called me dumb.”
  • “Someone started a rumor about me liking a boy.”

Powerful as this sculpture might be on its own, it took on a whole new life as children interacted with it in positive and negative ways. By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher

By Kellan Fitzgerald, future art teacher

Some children even acted out the topic by bullying the sculpture. Picture5

Others felt empathy and showed friendship and support. Picture4

Art has such power and potential for helping children (and us) to examine the world we live in and come to deeper understandings. Isn’t that what education should be about?!

I am discouraged when I see art lessons that don’t take advantage of this potential and are delivered with an over-emphasis on the more mundane aspects of art, like the elements and principles of design, or media techniques. Sure, we need to teach these, but always in the context of a larger purpose. If you’d like to read more about using big ideas to design art instruction, go here.

Kellan, this is fine work, and I look forward to you joining the profession!


2 thoughts on “Engaging with Bullying”

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