This project was developed under the direction of Tracy Van Duinen, art teacher,
by Austin Community Academy students for the Contemporary Community Curriculum
Initiative 2000
Students are constantly exposed to advertising messages designed to make them believe they can’t live without a certain product. Even though the average teenager knows it is advertising and is probably stretching or distorting the truth, he or she still is effected by the charm and appealing presentation of advertising.

Contemporary artists, such as the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holtzer, and the collaborative artist team of Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock, and David Avalos use the style and sometimes the means of mass media to bring their messages to the people. These artists use bus, billboard, and poster graphics along with traditional museum and gallery exhibitions and installations to show their work. The messages come from social and political issues. These include everything from feminist issues to immigration and labor issues. This democratic, and often, controversial approach to artmaking is a nice fit for a majority of urban youth who rarely are given an opportunity to see contemporary "fine art," but who are very savvy about the arts of popular culture.

To begin this project, the students looked at the ways in which artist Barbara Kruger pairs text and image to examine how culture shapes our awareness and sense of reality and possibility. Using an inexpensive digital camera and a couple of computers, the art students created powerful statements about education, police brutality, Black on Black violence, teen pregnancy, fatherless homes, self esteem, and other issues that effect their lives.

Each student created a series of related pieces--looking for ways to most effectively capture attention and generate thought about the issue. Initially students tended to create text that literally described the image or issue. After much discussion and observation of other students’ works-in-progress, they gradually developed more complex approaches to combining text and image.

The Power of Advertising project doesn’t celebrate technology or make it the core of the content. Instead, the project uses contemporary technology in a matter-of-fact way--combining "high tech" black-and-white digital photography and large scale xeroxing with adding color with colored pencil or tempera paint in order to make the project accessible to a number of students in a low-tech classroom. It vividly shows that teachers don’t have to choose between content and technology or eschew working with technology in schools without much funding for equipment.