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Art for Remembering

For Grades K–12

Art © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Table of Contents

Featured Work
Class Activity: What Color Is a Laugh?
Student Activity: A Walk to Remember
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Work

Robert Rauschenberg
(American, 1925–2008)
Ace, 1962
Oil, cardboard, wood, and metal on canvas
108 x 240 inches (274.3 x 609.6 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1963
Background Information for Educators


  • Practice  translating real-life experiences and emotions into abstract representations
  • Become familiar with Robert Rauschenberg's term "combine"
  • Become familiar with Ace, one Rauschenberg's "combines"
  • Create a "combine" in response to a personal shared experience
  • Work cooperatively to create a presentation of artwork about a shared experience



Play a game with your students to help them understand how sounds can be translated into colors and lines. Give each student a turn to make a sound. Ask the rest of the class to use their crayons to draw a picture of that sound. The results will be sounds depicted as lines, shapes, and colors! Do the same thing with emotions. Ask students to draw a happy line, a sad line, an excited line, etc. These drawings can be referred to later, before the students start the activity A Walk to Remember—The Remembering.


Please remember that all answers to these questions should be accepted, as students are responding to what they see and how they interpret what they see. You can add information from the Information for Educators when it seems to be appropriate.

Look at the artwork and its details (see photo gallery at the bottom of this page). Explain to the students that the small pictures are close-ups of the parts that are hard to see on a transparency. Look at the details and ask if they can find where each one belongs on the larger canvas.

Ace is divided into five rectangular sections. Can you find them? In real life, each panel is bigger than a whole blackboard in most classrooms. When Rauschenberg was new to New York, a city much larger than Buffalo, he created this piece after taking a walk. He chose the objects and paint to create a memory of the walk. Artists have to make decisions when choosing colors and materials to create a composition. Rauschenberg referred to this artwork as one of his "combines" because he used a combination of painting and objects.

  • Which objects did he use in this combine?
  • Why do you think those objects reminded him of the city?
  • What colors do you see?
  • Can you find the title of the artwork?
  • Look at the details. Discuss why he might have placed the real objects where he did? For example: why might he have hung the small pail on the "E" of the word ACE?
  • Do you see places where he dripped paint?
  • Do you see places where he stayed in the lines?
  • Can you find an old piece of cardboard that he found on the street in the last section? A piece of an umbrella?
  • Imagine you stepped into the painting:
  • What is the weather like?
  • Do the colors remind you of something? Explain.
  • What smells do you smell?
  • What do you see around you?

Isn’t it funny that Rauschenberg’s memory of this walk did not include any buildings, cars, or familiar objects from a city? Instead he used colors, shapes, textures, and found objects to represent what he felt and saw. The way he used paint was also different from a painting that shows a realistic city scene. Even though his work was not realistic, Rauschenberg considered himself a "journalist" because he wanted to record everyday life. That is why he included parts of real objects, expressive painting, color, texture, and line to communicate his ideas about an experience he had.


A Walk to Remember—The Walk

As a class, take a walk anywhere - your classroom, cafeteria, or neighborhood. You can even use your Gallery visit as your walk! Ask your students to remember the colors, sounds, smells, and objects that they see.

Choose a way for your students to obtain found objects. You can:

  • Visit the Materials Reuse Project to obtain a wide variety of diverse material for this project and future use.
  • Collect items from your or your students’ homes.
  • Have students collect objects during their walk. Encourage students not to disturb local gardens, trees, or other community resources.

A Walk to Remember—The Remembering

Back in the classroom, have the students choose objects that remind them of the walk. Remind them to think of themselves as "visual journalists" recording the feelings, colors, sights, sounds, and weather of the environment they visited. Have the students glue the objects to a rectangular sheet of paper. Be sure to use the same size paper for all the students. Note: for heavier objects use heavier paper and allow for glue to dry at least an hour or overnight. Have students use paint, crayons, or markers around their glued objects to depict more details about the walk. Remind them not to illustrate real objects. Encourage students to use color, line, and shape to represent what they saw and felt. Refer to their earlier drawings for ideas!

After each paper is dry, divide the students into groups of five. Like the artist, they will have to decide how to make one composition out of five panels to make a larger combine. Encourage them to try different arrangements. When they decide on the final composition have them tape the sections together and title their combine. Hang them up to show how they collaborated.

Have each group present its final composition, answering these questions:

  • Why did the students arrange their individual compositions that way?
  • Which details stand out the most? Which colors? Shapes?
  • How does the final composition remind them of their walk?

Ask the class to imagine stepping into each final composition:

  • What is the weather like?
  • Do the colors remind you of something? Explain.
  • What smells do you smell?
  • What do you see around you?

When the work comes down, separate the five panels and return each student’s individual composition.


  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language 1, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 4, 5



  • Audio for Younger Students

  • Audio for High School Students

  • Audio Description