Grades/Level: High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
4 class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom

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Lesson Overview

Students discuss the unique considerations that artists creating site-specific outdoor sculpture have to take into account when planning their work. They then choose sites and create models for their own site-specific works. Finally, they create proposals to present to potential patrons—such as school administrators or grant committees.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• discuss and analyze the sculptural and architectural elements of a 20th-century site-specific sculpture.
• work in teams to choose a space that will serve as a setting for a sculpture.
• construct a three-dimensional model for a large-scale, site-specific sculpture using found objects.
• use persuasive language in letters to potential patrons and in oral presentations.


• Image of Martin Puryear's That Profile
• Video clip about the making and installation of Puryear's sculpture: That Profile by Martin Puryear
• Disposable cameras
• Drawing pencils
• Scissors
• Found objects: any objects students are inspired to bring in, such as cardboard, juice cartons, colored paper, and wrapping paper

Lesson Steps

Note: Words in bold below are defined in the glossary for this curriculum (see "For the Classroom" links above).

1. Display an image of Martin Puryear's sculpture That Profile and discuss the artwork using the suggested "Questions for Teaching," found in the Image Bank or by clicking on the image in the Materials section above.

2. Point out that Puryear's That Profile is an example of site-specific art. Ask students where they have seen works of sculpture outside. Based on their experiences, discuss what elements they think a space should have in order for it to house a large sculpture. Ask how a place that the students are already familiar with, like a school yard or a street corner, would be as a setting for a sculpture.

3. Divide students into teams. Instruct teams to search for a location that they are already familiar with, and where they can envision a large-scale sculptural installation. Students should keep in mind the discussion at the beginning of class about locations where they have seen such sculptures. Point out that an outdoor space (as with Puryear's installation) has environmental and architectural factors that will affect the look and feel of the sculpture project they propose. (For example, are the materials weather proof? Is the work meant to be temporary?) For reference, have the students watch the video clip about the making and installation of Puryear's sculpture: That Profile by Martin Puryear.

4. Once teams have chosen their locations, have each take three photographs of the site from different vantage points. These photographs will allow each team to envision its sculpture from multiple angles—just as a viewer would experience the sculpture if it was installed at the site. Invite students to share the photographs with the class.

5. Have each team brainstorm an idea for a sculpture that could be installed in the chosen space. Have students consider some of the following:
• What do you notice about the chosen site?
• How is the site used and who uses it? How will this inform what type of sculpture you will create and where it will be placed?
• Do you want to create a sculpture that compliments or contrasts with the site?
• Which colors would compliment/contrast with the site?
• Will the sculpture be abstract, like Martin Puryear's That Profile or representational (a more traditional depiction of an object or person)?

Have students refer to the first paragraph of "Questions for Teaching" as one point of departure for their independent thinking.

6. After the groups discuss their chosen sites and possibilities for sculptures, have each student sketch his or her own ideas. Have each team decide which of the two-dimensional sketches will transfer best into a three-dimensional object. Groups should discuss the location, materials, and structure of the proposed sculptures as described in each of the sketches to help them choose the most appropriate one.

7. Tell students they will use found objects to create small, three-dimensional models of their sculptures. Students should bring to class any material they think they can use to construct their models. The finished models will be presented along with the photographs they took of the location.

8. After the models are completed, have each student write a proposal, using persuasive language, to school administrators or grant committees. The goal is to win a commission to create the full-sized sculpture in the proposed environment. You may wish to have students mail their proposals to actual grant competitions.

9. Have each team prepare a presentation for the class. Team members should present their model and site photographs as if they are convincing a potential patron to fund the project. Remind students to use persuasive language.

10. Discuss the following questions about each team's project in a class critique:
• What were the challenges and successes of working with the space that you chose, and with developing a three-dimensional model of your sculpture?
• What was the deciding point for your group's choice of one particular space?
• How were the designs of your models inspired or influenced by the space you picked?
• How do you think the space would change if your sculpture was completed and installed in that location?
• How did your knowledge of Puryear's sculpture and its Getty Center location influence your own selection of a location? Did it affect the way you created your model?

That Profile / Puryear
That Profile, Martin Puryear, 1999

© Martin Puryear


Assess students on their ability to complete the following:
• ability to work within a group to choose an appropriate and feasible location for a sculpture, then decide on the sculpture that would be installed there
• create a three-dimensional model of a sculpture that considers the sculpture's intended location, including the fact that the sculpture could be seen from at least three different views
• orally present on their team's model using persuasive language
• write proposals to potential patrons in order to win a commission for their sculptures
• ability to articulate their intentions, challenges, and successes in the class critique


Encourage students to visit the Getty Center to see Puryear's sculpture in real life as part of their research for their projects.

Using a shoe box, have students create a diorama of the location they chose. Tell them to create a model of the sculpture that is to scale with the diorama, and place it within the diorama.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grades 9–12 (Proficient)

1.0 Artistic Perception
1.5 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.2 Prepare a portfolio of original two- and three-dimensional works of art that reflects refined craftsmanship and technical skills.

Grades 9–12 (Advanced)

1.0 Artistic Perception
1.2 Discuss a series of their original works of art, using the appropriate vocabulary of art.
1.3 Analyze their works of art as to personal direction and style.

2.0 Creative Expression
2.1 Create original works of art of increasing complexity and skill that reflect their feelings and points of view.

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context
3.2 Identify contemporary artists worldwide who have achieved regional, national, or international recognition and discuss ways in which their work reflects, plays a role in, and influences present-day culture.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Describe the relationship involving the art maker (artist), the making artwork (product), and the viewer.
4.2 Identify the intentions of artists creating contemporary works of art and explore the implications of those intentions.