Sculpture With Richard Serra


The Basics

Good for: 14-18 year olds 

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! There is a lot to see and do.

Key Technology: This Flash interactive contains video, an interactive gallery, and games.

The Man of Steel

American sculptor Richard Serra's works are BIG—his most recognizable works are monumental steel sculptures. He has made great blocks, spheres and stacks of rust-colored metal sculptures, and has shaped large plates into curves, planes and other forms that are tied to—and define—the (often outdoor) space they occupy.

In this interactive microsite, you'll learn about Serra’s creative process, the historical contexts in which his work developed, and the tools of his art.

Think About...

Richard Serra creates HUGE art that leads to BIG questions! After going through the microsite, try answering the questions below.


  • What jobs did Richard Serra have before becoming the famous artist he is today? 
  • How does Serra go about creating an installation piece? 
  •  Describe Serra’s definition of Minimalist artists. What are some other definitions of Minimalism?

Critical Thinking 

  • In the section of the microsite called “How I Work,” Serra talks about a list of verbs he used as inspiration. Write down your own list of 10 verbs that you could use to inspire your own artwork, and then create a piece of art based on the words. 
  • Watch “My Thoughts” in the microsite. Look around your community and try and find the kind of public art that Serra talks about. How do you feel about the art you see? Do you agree with Serra’s opinion of art in front of public buildings? 
  • Look through the gallery; do you think Serra’s art is more impactful in a museum, outside, or as part of a city? Which one of his pieces would you want to have in your backyard?


  • Watch “06 Exhibit.” Which of the pieces is your favorite? Why? 
  • How do you feel about Serra’s thoughts about form in art? Does he make a good point that form cannot be defined? Do you think that form is something you can actually define? 
  • Think about Serra’s art. The art is not what you could call “traditional” art. Look around you as you walk around your school, home, or town. Do you see things that would inspire Serra? Are there buildings that would be enhanced by a piece of Serra’s art? What buildings already have art associated with them that enhance their aesthetic?

Learn More

Richard Serra's work is presented widely on the Web. If you want to go deeper, here are some sites to get you started:

  • PBS site Art21 has an extensive section on Serra's work, with special video of his studio practice-- including the making of "Charlie Brown" and a reflection on "Torqued Ellipses." 
  • In 2007, the MoMA presented a retrospective, Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years. Their site features a wealth of multimedia resources, including a gallery and sculpture garden video tour.
  • Getting to know Serra's huge pieces online is great, but it never replaces experiencing them in person.  Artcyclopedia features a list of museums and galleries that hold Serra's work in their collections. If you can, get out and visit these monumental works.


For the Educator

Artist Richard Serra uses the world around him to inspire his art. Using materials such as iron, steel, and lead, he builds massive art projects called “installations.” In this activity, students will use the world around them to inspire a proposal for an installation piece of their own.

Find the space
1. After viewing the interactive, have students reflect on their own environment.
Where could they see a similar piece of art in their own lives? The football field? Their front yard?

2. Have students pick the space for their installation. Inform them that they will only be building a scale model of the environment and installation, so it can be any space that they can actually visit. (Alternately, you could have them simply sketch their works.)

3. Have students visit the physical space. Students should bring with them a camera to record what the space looks like, and sketch paper to create a drawing of the “footprint” of the area. A “footprint” is an outline on paper of the boundaries of the space they will be creating their installation in. To extend the experience, have students measure the space using tape measures or other devices.

Plan their art  
1. Using their research of their space,
have students start planning what their installation art will look like. Will it be massive? How will it interact with the space? What material will they use.

2. Students should sketch a drawing of their installation.

3. Have students create the scale model of their art. This can be done using a wide variety of materials such as cardboard, paper, aluminum from cans, or plastic. Remind students that whatever material they choose should be reflective of what it would be in full size.

Fit their art into their space
1. Have students use their research from the first step to create a model of the space their art will “live” in. Using a wide variety of materials, students should create their space in as realistic a manner as possible. Remind students that their art will inhabit this space, so it needs to be in scale with their installation they created.

2. Install the art. Have students fit their art into their space using glue or another adhesive like tacks. The art and the space should “interact.” This is similar to what Serra does – the art is heavily influenced by how it will affect the space in which it is placed. Students should take a similar approach when installing their work, making sure that it fits naturally into the space they have chosen.

3. Present students’ art. Have a gallery opening, or a coffee house, to present the students’ work to the rest of the school community. If students are enthusiastic about the project, have them work as a group to determine the actual cost and time commitment it would take to have something like this installed at their school and present it to the principal.

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