"Further the Dream," Martin Luther King, Jr. School, Cambridge, MA
There are a few different types of wall paintings that you'll see when you walk around a city. For example, there are wall murals, graffiti, and places where graffiti has been painted over, which I'll call "cover-ups."

Let's look at murals first. Murals are always made with the permission of the person who owns the wall. They are usually painted by groups of people to decorate the wall or to honor a particular person, like this one honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Here are some of Cambridge's many wall murals.


"Precautionary Principle"

"A Celebration of Imagination"

When someone paints on a wall without getting permission from the wall's owner, it's called graffiti. Even though graffiti is also something we see a lot when we walk around a city, it is illegal and can make people very upset.

Graffiti artists will sometimes make their paintings on walls they don't think anyone cares about. Often what they make can look interesting, beautiful, and a lot like a mural. Even though it may seem that no one cares about the wall, if you don't get permission to paint on it, it is always illegal and is still likely to make people upset.
In fact, in every city there are people whose job it is to clean up walls that were painted on without permission. As it can be very hard to remove paint, the city and building owners have to hire people and special equipment to get the walls back to the way they were originally. Here you can see someone at work removing paint by using a pressure washer. They might wash off the graffiti or paint over it. The graffiti removers' painting becomes another kind of wall painting, which I'll call "cover-ups." These "cover-ups" of graffiti can also be seen all over the city.

These blocks of paint in the picture are where someone cleaned up after a graffiti artist, painting over the graffiti with their own paint. Sometimes the "cover-ups" do a good job of making the wall look the way it was originally but sometimes it looks like a whole new kind of mural, with pretty colors and interesting patterns.



A mural


A "cover-up"
One of the most important differences between these different types of wall paintings is that some were painted with permission and some were not. Only the graffiti was painted without permission.

Another difference between these wall paintings is that some are expressing an idea and some were just doing a job. Only the "cover-ups" were just doing a job and weren't made to express an idea.


Robert Rauschenberg's "Erased de Kooning Drawing"
Now think back to one of the artworks from Lesson #1: Robert Rauschenberg's "Erased de Kooning Drawing." This artwork was made by an artist who had the idea that he could make a new artwork by erasing another artist's drawing—with the artist's permission. Rauschenberg had an idea for what he wanted to make just like muralists and graffiti artists have ideas for what they make. Also, Rauschenberg made his artwork on top of something that wasn't his, the same way that muralists, graffiti artists, and graffiti-removers paint on top of walls that aren't theirs.

There is also the issue of permission. Rauschenberg got permission before making his artwork just like people who paint murals and "cover-ups." Also, Rauschenberg erased someone else's artwork to make his own, in the same way that "cover-ups" hide someone else's painting with theirs.

See how a group of fourth-graders responded when asked about these isses:

Compare Mr. R's (a.k.a. Robert Rauschenberg's) artwork to the wall paintings we've talked about.
How are they similar? How are they different?

"I think Mr. R's drawing is similar to graffiti. I think this because there bolth strange. And you have to look at them in a certain way to get the picture." —Seamus


"The wall paintings are similar to Mr. R's artwork because they are both forms of art.

Cover-ups are different than Mr. R's artwork because Mr. R had an idea and the people who did the cover-ups didn't."


"Mr. R's artwork is similar to murals and graffiti becase they all started with an idea. Mr. R's artwork is also similar to cover-ups, because with both of them there was something there, and now the original thing's gone.
   Mr. R's artwork is different from murals and graffiti because Mr. R's artwork is just a blank piece of paper, and murals and graffiti have a picture or words. Mr. R's artwork is different from cover-ups because Mr. R's artwork started with an idea and cover-ups didn't.
   Mr. R's artwork is similar to murals and cover-ups because whoever does the murals and the cover-ups all had permission.
   Mr. R's artwork is different from graffiti because Mr. R had permission to make his artwork, and the people who do graffiti don't."

"Mr. R's artwork is similer to cover-ups because they have both been erased in a way. Mr. R's artwork and cover-ups are different becuase a person had permission to erase it and in the cover-ups the owner wantied to erase it." —Nisha


"The Mr. R's artwork is similar to cover ups because to me they look like they were both erased. They are different because one was a famous art work and the cover ups are made for not showing the graffiti. That is how they are similar and different." —Jaylen


"I think Mr. R's artwork is similar to cover-up because them both covered up sumthing.

I think Mr. R's artwork and griftey is different because griftey is on walles and that griftey is words."


"Mr. R's artwork and all of todays examples are similar because they are all considered artwork. Mr. R's artwork is different from all of todays examples because Mr. R's artwork looks just like a plain white piece of paper and all of todays examples actually have something on them." —Sam


"They are different because Mr. R's work is erased and the other examples you can see them.
   There are different because Mr. R's masterpiece is new and the rest of them are plain. Graffiti and Mr. R's work are different Mr. R had permission to erase his work, people who do graffiti did not get permission to make their work."


"The graffiti and Mr. R's artwork are different because gaffiti are words and Mr R's artwork doesn't show anything at all. Mr. R's artwork is similar to the cover-ups because they both show nothing." —Carlin


"Mr Rs artwork is simalar to cover ups because it is a solid shape like cover ups.

Mr. R's artwork is different from graffiti because graffiti is multiple colors whereas Mr. R's artwork is solid."


"Mr. R's artwork is diferent from all of todays exxamples because thire is actually something there in todays examples where as not in Mr. R's. They are the same becuase they are both art. (Mr. R's work and today examples." —Jeremy


"Mr. R's work is similar to murals because they are both art.

Mr. R's work is different because Mr. R had an idea."


"Mr. R's artwork is the same as cover-ups because they both got erased. Mr. R's artwork is different as cover-ups because cover-ups got covered by pant and Mr. R's artwork got erased. This should show you how they are different and the same." —Katie


"The cover-ups and Mr. R's artwork are similar because there both covering something.

Mr. R's artwork and the cover-ups are different because the cover-ups have some colers."



Download a PDF of the lesson plan used to teach this class. Should you use this plan as a reference for teaching purposes, send me an email. I would really love to know.