Resources for Teachers

Through its grant program the Terra Foundation supports the development and/or dissemination of American art instructional materials for the classroom. A selection of foundation-supported resources is described below.

American Art at the Core of Learning

In November 2012, the Terra Foundation for American Art launched a multi-year initiative in partnership with twelve Chicago-area museums and in consultation with administrators at the Chicago Public Schools that explores ways to address the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (CCSS-ELA) using American art and related primary-source documents. Learn more about the project here. See resources developed through the project here.


The Civil War in Art

The Civil War in Art: Teaching & Learning through Chicago Collections  helps teachers and students learn about the Civil War and connect to the issues, events, and people of the era through nearly 130 works of art from seven Chicago cultural organizations. Developed by museum and library professionals, historians, and teachers, this website includes a high-resolution, zoomable gallery of images, illustrated essays examining the causes and impact of the war and role that art played, and lesson plans developed by teachers for teachers. 


Newberry Library Digital Collections for the Classroom


Art and Exploration in the American West and Mexico
 and Home Front: The Visual Culture of the Civil War North are part of the Newberry Library’s Digital Collections for the Classroom. These thematic collections of primary source documents are designed for easy incorporation into classroom teaching and support many of the skills emphasized by the Common Core State Standards. Each collection contains high-resolution digital images of documents, allowing teachers and students to do the work of historians.

Public Art in Chicago History

Public Art in Chicago History
illustrates ways to integrate public art into middle- and high-school classrooms. Developed by program faculty and participants over one year, the curricula cover a range of public art, from 19th-century monuments in parks to late-20th-century abstract sculpture on government plazas, and focus on their historical contexts and key concepts of visual literacy.


American Art

American Art (2008) is a curriculum manual from the Art Institute of Chicago that highlights forty-five artworks dating from the Colonial era to the 20th century in the museum’s collection, including a selection of works on long-term loan from the Terra Foundation. The manual contains: texts about the artworks; lesson plans; a timeline and overview of American art and cultural history; and maps showing the development of the United States. For a PDF of the American Art Manual, please click here



Picturing America

Picturing America (2007), developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a resource for teaching American history and other humanities subjects. It includes 40 large, high-quality color posters of a diverse selection of American artworks and an Educators Resource Book containing teaching ideas and background information to support the use of the posters in core subjects. With support from the Terra Foundation, a Picturing America set was provided to nearly every CPS school in the fall of 2008. Additional information about Picturing America is available at http://picturingamerica.neh.gov/. Download the complete Picturing America Educators Resource Book.


Chicago Humanities Festival American Art Lectures Online

See and hear the annual Terra Foundation Lecture on American Art. Fascinating slide talks are presented by leading historians of American art. Topics include humor, landscape, technology, modernism, and more. Downloadable study guides are available for each lecture as well. View the Terra Foundation Lectures here.


“Artbeat” American Art Segments

Learn about notable Chicago artists, collections, and places of artistic significance in these short “Artbeat” segments about American art, produced for WTTW11′s nightly news magazine Chicago Tonight. Topics range from Progressive-era murals at Lane Tech High School to Chicago artist and collector Roger Brown, and from Tiffany stained glass and mosaics at the Chicago Cultural Center to the art and work space of outsider artist Henry Darger.

Visual Thinking Strategies Video

Watch master teacher Philip Yenawine demonstrate Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a learner-centered instructional technique, in a 2003 teacher workshop. Yenawine engages participants in an extended examination and discussion of the painting Gallery of the Louvre in the Terra collection. Watch the video here. Learn more about the painting here.