At The Foundations School, our students frequently draw from real-life artists to create their own projects. Recently, our third-grade students learned about fiber artist Bisa Butler and used Adobe Photoshop to create self-portraits inspired by her work. 

Bisa Butler is an artist who continues to transform quilting. Born in 1973, she earned her undergraduate degree in fine art from Howard University and her master’s in art education from Montclair State University. While earning her master’s degree, she took a course in fiber art that inspired her to pursue quilting. Her quilts, which feature notable historic figures as well as everyday people, are vibrant celebrations of Black life. She draws on the African American tradition of quilting and incorporates African textiles in her work, proudly showcasing who she is and where she comes from. Her work has been displayed in dozens of prestigious museums, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.

In their first session, our third-grade students learned about how Bisa Butler uses figures and colors in her projects. They discussed what constitutes a “self-portrait” and how to decipher the emotions in Bisa Butler’s work. In their second session, they learned the tools of Adobe Photoshop and took photos of themselves that would become the canvas for their self-portraits. Finally, in the third session, students manipulated the contrast and color of their photos to create self-portraits that mimic Bisa Butler’s style. They had free creative reign to create something that truly reflected them. Their work will soon be displayed in the Sallie and Berton Korman Art Gallery. 

This project introduced our students to a prolific artist working in a unique field. But rather than just learning about her in a lecture or reading about her in a book, our third-grade students were able to immerse themselves in Bisa Butler’s work and create. They were able to showcase their own unique personalities and have fun doing it.