The Newspaper Ground project was developed by Olivia Gude, Jason Bozonelos, and Lacy Foy in the Express Yourself! group of the 2001 Spiral Workshop at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Artists make work in response to their own internal visions, interests, obsessions, desires, and dreams. Yet the work of artists is always situated in the zeitgeist—the times, the place, the conditions—in which they live and work.

It can be difficult for art classes to find effective ways to involve students in framing their work processes within social, cultural, and historical contexts. Unfortunately, in trying to help students to understand how the meaning of their work is generated in response to a contemporary milieu, art projects have a tendency to ask students to express a fixed opinion or take a stand about “what’s happening.”

There’s nothing wrong with polemical art, but making authentic art usually means that the artist does not have a total a priori stance in relation to subject matter. Rather a basic assumption of aesthetics is that the artist comes to understand his or her relationship to the content through the sensuous and intellectual activity of artmaking.

The Newspaper Ground project encourages art students to use the context of the daily news as the starting point for a personal artistic exploration by literally using the pages of a newspaper as the ground on which to begin an artistic exploration. The process of the project rejects pre-planned solutions in favor of giving art students the experience of letting content emerge through expressionist strategies—opening themselves to what is given, downplaying unimportant text and imagery, emphasizing significant words and pictures, and juxtaposing additional materials to the emerging work.

Though Expressionism is a popularly accepted strategy for understanding and valuing works in much middle school and high school art curricula, there is a real need for projects that encourage students to thoughtfully engage in work processes based in Expressionist techniques. As experienced art teachers know, just telling teens to “express yourself,” doesn’t usually work.