Data in the Arts?

Data. It’s a word that we as educators hear quite often. We analyze data, we teach our students to analyze data. But, in our world of blurring the lines between science and art, there is more to data that numbers and graphs. There is a movement in the world of contemporary art to create artistic visualizations of data. Yes, there are charts, graphs, maps, timelines, tables, etc., but what if we thought outside the box about how to visually represent our data? What if we thought outside the parameters of what our word processing tools allow, and we used our hands to visually manipulate a work of art to communicate information?

If we think creatively about how to have our students represent data, we can effectively use arts integration while attending to the standards for mathematical practice ,as well as the artistic habits of mind. Below are some driving questions you might use to infuse inquiry as you merge the ideas of data representation and visual art, as well as ways to begin implementing such an approach in your classroom.

Driving Questions for Students

  • What are various types of visual representations of data?
  • How can we evaluate an artistic visualizations of data?
  • What are the purposes of visual representations of data like the charts, maps, graphs, timelines, tables, etc.?
  • How can we make visual representations of data aesthetically pleasing while also communicating necessary information?
  • What kinds of visual representations of data are the most effective for communicating various types of information?

Means of Artistic Visualizations of Data Representation

  • Abstract painting
  • Line art
  • Collage
  • 3D sculpture

Idea for Implementation

In order to get your students comfortable with the idea of visually representing data in an artistic way, it is important that they have an understanding of how to read traditional forms of data representation (charts, graphs, etc.).

Have students analyze an existing graph or chart and create an abstract painting to represent the same information. Have students write an accompanying artist statement describing their technique and how it represents the data provided.

Once your students are comfortable with reading and representing data in an artistic way, begin to branch out. Read different types of data representations (infographics, anecdotal data, etc.) and have students find ways of representing this data. You can also have students begin to experiment with artistic materials. In the beginning, give students a menu of options, and as they gain comfort, open up the doors of possibility. Allow students to think outside the box- how would they like to see data represented? Introduce students to non-traditional examples, and let them take ownership!

Check out my Pinterest board full of ideas and inspiration for Artistic Visualizations of Data HERE.