Sculpture Gallery

I first learned this activity from Sharon Grady at the University of Texas.  (I have modified it a bit since then.)  I use it with first, second and third graders. It helps students become comfortable with their bodies, learn to express ideas and emotions kinesthetically, and learn to trust each other. It gives every child a chance to shine and be the star in two very different ways.


First Part: Creating the Sculptures

Divide the class into pairs. In each pair, one student is the "sculptor" and one the "clay."


The sculptor "sculpts" his or her partner's body into a statue of his or her choosing. The sculptor may do this by physically moving the partner's body into position, or by showing the "clay" how to stand. The sculptor pays close attention to even small details like facial expression or the position of a finger. When the "sculpture" is finished, she or he freezes. (If the position is difficult or impossible to hold, the "sculpture" may memorized it and then relax until her or his turn in the "tour" arrives.)


Second Part: Gallery Tour

Once all of the sculptors have finished their masterpieces, I call them together in the center of the room. The "sculptures" remain in place around the room. In role as a museum guide, I conduct a tour of the "gallery." When we reach each work, the artist who made it steps forward and explains his or her work to the group. In this way we make a complete tour, giving each artist a chance to show off and describe his or her work. (Once a "sculpture" has been viewed, she or he may relax and join the group on the rest of the tour.)


Once the "tour" is finished, the partners switch roles and the process is repeated.


In our discussions afterwards I always ask the students, "How many artists created each statue?" At first they usually answer, "one," but I coach them to see that the "clay" is an artist too, since each one is different, and no matter how carefully she tried, an artist could not make exactly the same statue with a different partner.  Being human and not clay, the "sculpture" makes a real contribution to the work of art. This is a good introduction to the relationship between playwright, director, and actor--the actor makes a real contribution even if she does exactly what the director says every time, just as even the most slavishly literal director makes a contribution in addition to that of the playwright.