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arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Myth Maker
Ever heard the superstition that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck? What about the one that says finding a penny brings good luck? Make up a new superstition. See if anyone believes it.
Folklore

arts quote

Arts Quotes: George Jellinek
"The history of a people is found in its songs."
Music, History, Folklore

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Confucius
"Let a man be stimulated by poetry, established by the rules of propriety, and perfected by music."
China, Folklore, Poetry, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Ethiopian Proverb
"Move your neck according to the music."
Africa, Folklore, Music

John Steinbeck

Arts Days: October 25, 1962: Voice of the Common Man
The Nobel Prize Committee was clear in its reasons for honoring American author John Steinbeck: “…for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” When asked by a reporter whether he believed he deserved the Nobel Prize, Steinbeck said he did not.

His modesty notwithstanding, Steinbeck’s contributions to American literature is considerable. In works like The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden, he captures in plainspoken language the trials and triumphs of his characters. The writer imagined men and women who sought to make better lives for themselves and their families; they struggled in demeaning, demanding jobs, and they coped with events like the Great Depression.
Literature, America, Folklore, Geography, History

Fiddler on the Roof

Arts Days: September 22, 1964: Mazel Tov! It’s a Hit!
It was just a simple story of a Russian Jew with five daughters, based on a book by Joseph Stein. But thanks to Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, and Zero Mostel’s unforgettable turn as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof became one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. Tevye tries hard to preserve the traditions of his childhood, but as his daughters grow up, fall in love, and leave the family’s village, he struggles to accept change.

In songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye’s family’s life is recounted with both hilarity and poignancy. Fiddler would go on to be the first musical to break the 3,000-performance mark on Broadway.
Broadway, Musicals, Europe, Folklore, History, Theater, World Cultures

Cave Painting of a Horse

Arts Days: September 12, 1940: The Writing on the Wall
Estimated to be about 16,000 years old, the paintings in a network of caves found by four teenage boys are rare examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic era. Here in a region called Lascaux, hundreds of painted animals are visible on the caves’ walls, ranging from bison to stags to horses.

There are also geometric figures and patterns of dots that some say correlate with constellations. Some of the paintings show a sophisticated grasp of concepts like perspective and depth, too. Art historians say that the paintings indicate some of our oldest ancestors’ ability to express themselves in art.
Folklore, Geography, History, Europe, Visual Arts, World Cultures

Loch Ness Monster

Arts Days: August 22, 565 C.E.: Telling Tales
Decade after decade, century after century, sightings of the Loch Ness Monster continue to be shared by word of mouth.

It’s originally told that Ireland’s St. Columba spotted a beast moving toward a swimmer in the lake. When the saint made the sign of the cross, the monster quickly retreated. Ever since, tales of a dinosaur-like creature prowling the lake’s murky depths have surfaced, even as some have used cameras, sonar, and other technologies to debunk the myth.

In this fashion, the art of storytelling carries a tale down through the centuries, regardless of whether the teller can read or write. Sometimes stories may be embellished by a speaker; other times they are surprisingly consistent from one age to the next.
Animals, Geography, Folklore, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Snow White

Arts Days: December 21, 1937: The Fairest (and First) of Them All
The story of a lovely princess, seven sidekicks, and an evil Queen all played a part in Walt Disney’s initial venture into Technicolor. Based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White was also the first animated feature film made in the U.S. The making of the film was considered an absurd gamble, with its groundbreaking ideas that required the invention of brand-new technology.

Focusing on telling the story rather than garnering laughs, animators made sure the film had all the elements of suspense, comedy, romance, and tragedy of a feature film. The risk paid off. The audience at the premiere loved the film, which included original songs like “Someday My Prince Will Come."
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, America, Popular Culture, Folklore

A Christmas Carol

Arts Days: December 19, 1843: From Bah Humbug to Benefactor
Charles Dickens published this novella—longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel—about a cranky old fellow named Ebenezer Scrooge on this day in 1843. Stingy with money, even more so with compassion for the sufferings of his fellow man, Scrooge is visited by several ghosts on Christmas Eve, who show him scenes from his boyhood and the present day, as well as a dark and depressing future if Scrooge continues to treat others badly.

Scrooge undergoes a change of heart, waking up a new man on Christmas Day and doing good deeds for others. The story’s humor and gentle morality lessons delighted readers and critics then and now. Over the decades, A Christmas Carol has been adapted into musicals, films, ballets, and operas—there’s even been a mime version.
Literature, Europe, Folklore

Scene from Aida

Arts Days: December 24, 1871: Love on the Nile
One of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operas, Aida, made its debut in Cairo, Egypt at the Khedivial Opera House. Why there? Well, an Egyptian prince named Ismail Pasha had commissioned Verdi to write the opera in the first place, paying him 150,000 francs to do so—equivalent to about $32,000 today.

Verdi composed the music for the story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is enslaved in Egypt, and her star-crossed relationship with Radames, an Egyptian soldier. Interestingly, Verdi was miffed that no members of the general public were in attendance at this premiere, so he considered the performance in Milan, Italy, the following year to be its true debut.
Musicals, Opera, Africa, Composers, Music, Folklore

Loretta Lynn

Arts Days: December 28, 1970: Honky Tonk Woman
No kidding, Loretta Lynn really was the daughter of a coal miner. She grew up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the second of eight kids. The family was poor in cash but rich in love, and Lynn’s childhood provided the material she needed to write several of the songs on this record.

Her honesty and emotional delivery delighted her many admirers and converted lots of other people into country music fans. Over the years, this 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree has penned many more songs, often written with a strong feminist perspective, which had been pretty much unheard of in country music until she came around. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was also the name of Lynn’s autobiography and the movie about her life that stars Sissy Spacek.
Innovators & Pioneers, Music Legends, Family, Folklore, Music, Popular Culture

Charles Perrault

Arts Days: December 12, 1628: Father of Fairy Tales
Not many people can seriously lay claim to inventing an entire literary genre, but Charles Perrault is one exception. Relatively late in life, at age 67, Monsieur Perrault published new versions of old folktales in a slender book aimed at children. Complete with engaging characters, fantasy-laden plots, and moral lessons, the eight “fairy tales” in the book included “La belle au bois dormant,” otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty, and “Le petit chaperon rouge,” or Little Red Riding Hood.

He also used descriptions of actual places in France to embellish the stories; for example, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the Chateau Usse, a real castle in the western part of France that centuries later would inspire Walt Disney himself as he designed castles for his theme parks.
Innovators & Pioneers, Europe, Literature, Popular Culture, Folklore

Robert Johnson

Arts Days: November 27, 1936: Deal with the Devil
Revered amongst blues musicians and rock stars alike, Robert Johnson lived a life far too short to accommodate his ample talent. What’s more, there are few, if any, letters or other documents to give us a clear picture of the man. One thing is for sure: When the 25-year-old recorded this song, he fueled a powerful legend with which his name has long been associated.

Some say the song is about a pact Johnson made with the devil to give up his soul at a metaphorical crossroads in exchange for his amazing blues guitar skills. But other historians point out that the song is actually about the dangers a black man faces, walking alone after dark in the Deep South of the early 20th century, when the horrors of lynching were all too common.
Music Legends, Blues, Music, America, Musical Instruments, Folklore

Uncle Sam

Arts Days: March 13, 1852: Say Uncle
Within the printed pages of the daily New York Lantern, a certain patriotic fellow made his debut on this day. You know the guy: wears a tall hat printed with stars, a pair of red-and-white striped pants, a white beard, a somber expression. Give up? We’re talking about Uncle Sam, who in editorial cartoons and advertisements over the years has come to be the personification of the United States. Here’s the back-story: A man named Frank Henry Temple Bellew was the first to draw Uncle Sam for the Lantern.

Bellew’s drawing was based on a real person named Samuel Wilson, who helped feed U.S. troops during the War of 1812 with meat packed in barrels bearing the initials “U.S.” It was meant to indicate government property, but the folks unloading the beef joked about “Uncle Sam’s” latest shipment. Later, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast conceived of the stars-and-stripes outfit in which we are most accustomed to seeing Uncle Sam today.
America, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Folklore, History, Military

Woody Guthrie

Arts Days: February 23, 1940: Music of the People, For the People
The great folk singer Woody Guthrie communicated his messages of social justice and human equality through his music. Living as he did through everything from the Great Depression to the Cold War, Guthrie commented on these and other events’ effects on everyday people, like the hunger many faced in the Dust Bowl years.

“This Land is Your Land” was written in response to the themes of “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin; Guthrie considered that patriotic song to be out of touch with the cares and joys of common folks. When he created the song, he borrowed the melody of an old hymn called “O My Loving Brother” and set his own words to it.

Guthrie didn’t record “This Land is Your Land” until 1943, but he tinkered with the verses over the years, adding new words here and there.
Innovators & Pioneers, Controversial, Music Legends, Music, Folklore, America, Poetry

King David Kalakaua

Arts Days: February 12, 1874: The King of Aloha
Before Hawaii became America’s 50th state, it was a monarchy ruled by King David Kalakaua I. Kalakaua is credited with helping to revive and support Hawaiian art forms like hula dancing; instruments like the ukelele; and martial arts, like Lua.

You see, some religious missionaries on the Islands thought these activities were improper. They had spent years before Kalakaua was elected to the throne trying to suppress various elements of Hawaiian culture, including its languages and art customs—even surfing!

But Kalakaua believed that these traditions and activities were important for native Hawaiians to learn, enjoy, and share with others to help keep Hawaii’s unique cultural history alive.  For his efforts, he was nicknamed “the Merrie Monarch.”
Dance, America, Geography, History, Musical Instruments, Music, Folklore, World Cultures

Hans Christian Andersen

Arts Days: April 02, 1805: Father Goose
You may have had fairy tales read to you when you were a little kid, but did you know they were written more than a hundred years ago—in Denmark? Generations of children around the world know and love Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales from “The Ugly Duckling” to “The Princess and the Pea.”

Even though he was Danish, some of the stories he wrote have inspired figures of speech common in the English language, like “the emperor has no clothes,” from the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” And more than one of his stories, like “The Little Mermaid,” have been turned into a feature film movie. Somehow, Andersen’s stories feel ageless, not tied to a particular time or place, which may be one reason why they continue to enchant young listeners today, no matter where they happen to live.
Europe, Folklore, Literature

Kids and Culture

Tipsheet: Beyond Food & Fiestas
Practical ideas for creating authentic cultural experiences for your students
Folklore, Language, Music, World Cultures

Art Lesson

Article: Formal Visual Analysis: The Elements & Principles of Composition
Help students build techniques to interpret what they see into written words using art
Education, Folklore, Language

Grimm's Fairy Tales book

Lesson: Moving Tales
Students practice using their bodies to communicate through movement, improvisation, and pantomime games. Groups then read and interpret an assigned Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale
Dance, Folklore, Literature, Physical Activity

Russian Folk Dancers

Lesson: Discovering Russian Folk Dance
Students will learn the Russian folk dance "Troika." Then, they will work in groups of three (the traditional grouping used in the "Troika") to research Russian culture and history.
Europe, Dance, Folklore

Broom Bristles

Lesson: Searching For Cinderella
There are more than 300 versions and variations of the tale known as "Cinderella"
Folklore, Literature, World Cultures

Paul Bunyon

Lesson: Tall Tales Today
In this lesson, students are introduced to the genre of American tall tales and will create an original tall tale featuring a "larger-than life" main character.
America, Folklore, Literature

moon and raven

Lesson: Haunting Music
Learn about orchestral “program music” inspired by the spooky and bizarre
Musical Instruments, Music, Orchestra, Folklore

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