“That’s my DJ” Illustrated Mix CDs

Students will curate an illustrated  “mixtape” using images of artwork and digital music files. The official title of this says “mix CDs” instead of “mixtape”. I’d want my students to actually burn them to CDs to swap/turn in! This Art History project is geared towards middle and high school students. I plan on teaching this lesson as a “guest teacher” during my Fellowship or for my own art classes in the future. I had a professor in college who gave us the option of bringing in mix CDs to swap, which made me think about teaching a lesson based on them. 

“Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”- Kandinsky

I highly recommend that you listen to some music while you read this just to get the full effect. Here’s a song suggestion 🙂 (A reeeeemix mix mix)

So here we go.

I used  Google Art Project and Dropbox.com. Through this post, I’ll throw in some examples of alternative that you could use. Instead lf flushing it out via essay. I’ll show you step by step how students will transform into art historical DJs

1. Career in the arts – Curator

Students will learn about the role of the Curator in the museum and how they will be act as curators for their projects.

In a nutshell, Curators catalogue the art, manage the artwork/objects within a museum and decide what goes where in an exhibition. They make decisions about which pieces go next to one another on the wall. For more info on this, just google “What does a Curator do?” for lots of answers! 

Through this project students will be practicing art interpretation, organization, planning, and presentation skills while also being exposed to many different artists of various eras and works of different mediums. When you look at a photo or painting, you’re going to view it through your own personal lens based on your experiences, interests, and taste. Through this project, students will practice responding to artwork individually  in a personal way. 

2. On the 1’s and 2’s

Second, students pick a pre-determined number of songs to work with. I found that starting with a large selection to narrow down works best, I used Itunes and pressed “shuffle” 60 times, dropping these random songs into a playlist as I went. I then edited the playlsit by taking out songs I wasn’t feeling and making sure I had a variety of genres and artists to keep it interesting. This took me from 60 to about 40 song selections.

3. Finding Visuals

Next I put my updated playlist on shuffle, made a cup of tea, and started perusing artwork to illustrate my mix cd with. Students could do this in class on their computers  with headphones in. Using the Google Art Project at www.googleartproject.com., students will  research this compository of around 32,470 (and growing) art works from Museums across the world, to find artwork that “fits” the songs. They’ll need to make an account to create a galleries for their images.

What do I mean by “fit”?  Teachers can make guidelines for students to follow or brainstorm some in class. Students could study music videos of different genres to get ideas, or pick a lyric of a few songs and find images that illustrate that lyric. I just went with it, no real guidelines. I thought about the moods and tones of the artworks and the people and objects that were represented in the photos and paintings that I viewed. 

4. Matchmaking

I continued to edit my playlist as I went, when I found a good “match” for a song, I would drop that image into a gallery on Google Art, and drop the song into a “finals” playlist. I found images by searching for words I heard in songs while I was listening or ideas, colors or images that the songs put in my head. I searched these words into the Google Art search bar.

Sometimes I’d randomly run across an image without looking that I knew would fit a song on my list, so I’d drop it into a gallery. To keep track of my matches, in the “add description” box below the images in my gallery, I’d write the artist and song that I was thinking of. An additional lesson could teach students how works of art are labeled and they could practice labeling them in the description box. 

Other times I searched by artist. I tried not to be too literal, (like if the song is talking about dancing, search for a painting of people dancing) but with some students that might be the best approach in certain cases.

I basically continued this process until I had it narrowed down to about 25ish “pairs” of songs and images that I and my own reasons for why I placed them together.

5. Show & Tell

Students could prepare a “talk” and present their gallery of images with songs, picking out 4 or 5 of their favorite or strongest “pairs” to explain. Students could profile a few of their musical artists and a few of the painters whose work they used.Google Art images cant be saved directly from the website, but they could search for these images online and create a powerpoint or an Imovie presentation with songs.

Students could also “swap” CDs with one another and give feedback.

The moment you’ve been waiting for! Here’s my illustrated mix CD. 

6. Press Play

Click the song link below each image to listen as you look. Try to figure out the connection between the two. For some, I gave you hints! For the sake of posting these on my blog, I screenshot the images from Google Art. (this might be illegal, sorry google)

and used Dropbox.com to host my music online and link them here (this might be illegal too, sorry artists).

Disclaimer: I picked this “set” for various reasons. Some matches were made because they’re funny, some that I can use as examples for teaching this because I’m sure teens would know them (i wouldnt use all of these, sorry for the occasional profane word. My B! You could make students edit the songs in garage band or even compose their own), and  some because I really love the image although I less than love the song or vice versa.

I chose the order by grouping the images together a certain way… if that makes sense. Maybe you’ll figure it out as you look. Remember to click the links below the images to hear the songs, they’ll open in a new window!

Without further ado.

The Dinner at the Ball
Adolph Menzel

“Where Da Party At”- Jagged Edge

Jazz Rhapsody
Romare Bearden

“Otis” Jay Z and Kanye West

Sounds so soulful don’t you agree
I invented swag” 

1868 or 1869
Edgar Degas

The Hat” – Ingrid Michaelson

“I remember the first time we danced.
I remember tunneling through the snow like ants.
What I don’t recall is why I said,
“I simply can’t sleep in this tiny bed with you anymore.”  

-Ingrid Michaelson

“Make portraits of people in typical, familiar poses, being sure above all to give their faces the same kind of expression as their bodies.” -Edgar Degas

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
Michael Halsband

“Ready for Whatever” – TI :

“Hate the price of fame ’cause it costs too much” -TI

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” -Andy Warhol

Two Breton Girls by the Sea
Paul Gauguin


The water is warm
But it’s sending me shivers
A baby is born
Crying out for attention
Memories fade
Like looking through a fogged mirror
Decisions too
Decisions are made and not bought
But I thought this wouldn’t hurt a lot
I guess not” 

Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils
Around 1826
William Blake

“I Don’t Trust Myself” – Mike Posner

“If my past is any sign of your future
You should be warned before I let you inside” -Mike Posner (John Mayer)

“Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?” –Job, 3. 20

Location #12
Yeondoo Jung

“Ice Cream Paint Job” – Dorrough

Yeah buddy, rollin like a big shot. Chevy tuned up like a nascar pit stop. Fresh paint job(check), fresh inside(chck) Is the outside frame and the trunk wide?”

Untitled (Trace 1, 2 & 3) (Trace 2)
Ingrid Calam

“Point to B”-Prefuse 73  

“PM:If you weren’t in the music business, what would you be doing right now?  
Prefuse 73: Hmm … maybe painting a picture or writing something.”

(interview with prefix magazine‘)

Fighting at Pasir Salak 2
Zulkifli Yusoff

“Mighty O” – Outkast

The damsel’s in distress but they a mess 
They only like my armor, and that I’m a performer 
They read one magazine and wanna think they gettin warmer 
They only getting colder, hell, maybe I should throw 
a double diamond party in the north pole”

Landscape with Cart
Juan Manuel Díaz Caneja

Jesus Paid it All

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow”

Isaiah 1:18″
New International Version (NIV)
Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Preparation of Christ’s Tomb
Vittore Carpaccio

“Divine Romance” -Phil Wickham

“Your innocent blood, has washed my guilty life
In Your presence God I’m completely satisfied”

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”- 1 Peter 2:24

Portrait of Catherine II
Fedor Rokotov

“Rich Girls” – Schwayze

Hey Rich Girl
Let me get that credit card number
Shoot I just wanna buy you a smile”

The Beginning of Afro-Chic
Carrie Mae Weems

“Turn Me Away (Get Munny)” – Erykah Badu

I look like a model
I’ll do what I gotta do
to stay in the running cause I want your money
Give me some
I’ll be the one back stage”

” I have the ability to sing with emotion and feeling, but if you say I sound like Billie Holiday, that’s cool. Let’s look at who Billie was: she was this person, this singer, this beautiful diva who could move the audience with the slightest gesture of her hand. ” – Erykah Badu

Robert Mapplethorpe

“Good Morning Heartache” – Billie Holiday

Good morning heartache
You old gloomy sight
Good morning heartache
Thought we said goodbye last night
I turned and tossed until it seems you heve gone
But here you are with the dawn
Wish I forget you, but you’re here to stay” 

 Billie Holiday

“I am obsessed with beauty. I want everything to be perfect, and of course it isn’t. And that’s a tough place to be because you’re never satisfied.”- Robert Mapplethorpe

Noguera Street Seen from Balmes Street
Francesc Gimeno

“If I Could Go”-Angie Martinez

If I can go, contigo, I’ll pack my things, soon as you say
Baby vamos, we’ll fly away, like there is no, no tomorrow
If I can go, contigo, I’ll tell my friends, nothing at all
I’ll get my things, soon as you say, baby vamos, we’ll fly away”

Rocky Landscape
Ramón Martí Alsina

“Champagne Supernova” – Oasis

Someday you will find me 
Caught beneath the landslide 
In a champagne supernova in the sky”

“Too much good fortune can make you smug and unaware. Happiness should be like an oasis, the greener for the desert that surrounds it.” Rachel Field

Hughie Lee-Smith

“Bigger Than Us” – Andy Davis

Oh, and love’s not just the sum of us 
It’s so much deeper 
Goes so much wider 
Love of a sweeter kind 
Love with a patient mind 
Bigger than my eyes have ever seen 
Than my imagination dreams 
It’s big enough 
Bigger than us”

“We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

(please please please, like it, comment on it, share it with a pal, smoksignal it to someone. i’d like to know who’s reading what i’m writing and liking… cause chances are i’ll probably like what you write too!  holla atcha girl!)

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