Connecting People Through Art

9, 10, 11, 12

Students view examples of media being used to promote responsibility and acceptance. They view YouTube videos that inspire them to make connections with people locally and globally. They learn about an artist who leaves free art in public spaces to raise optimism in tough times. They explore stereotypes and prejudices and discuss their responsibility to promote respect for diverse points of view.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • identify the value in making connections to diverse people.
  • describe personal responsibility for promoting the common good.
  • tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something
  • acceptance: generally approved; the act of taking or receiving something offered; believing
  • social responsibility: the belief or ideology that a person has an obligation to act to benefit society at large. This responsibility can be passive, such as by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, such as by performing activities that directly advance social goals


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the following quote on the board or on a poster: “We are good at picking out people who are different from us. Our instincts tell us they are a threat.” (Matt Harding) Discuss whether the group thinks that this is accurate. As part of the discussion, share that at one time, identifying people different from us was a survival instinct; however, nowadays we have to deliberately override this instinct in order to connect with people. Discuss the benefits and dangers of seeing differences as a threat. Ask, “How does the game we played in Lesson One support the idea that we are good at noticing differences?”

  2. Tell students that Matt Harding created a video of himself dancing all over the world. The video became popular on YouTube because Matt was so sincere in wanting to connect with people of other cultures. Dancing (badly), laughing, and smiling with people seemed to break many barriers. The video is called “Where the Heck Is Matt?” and can be viewed at Facilitator note: The title may be inappropriate for the students, but the message of the video is powerful and worth showing. Preview the video before deciding whether or not to show it.

  3. Tell students that Matt’s video project brings people together through something we all share—the joy of dancing. Matt believes that dancing connects diverse people and that everyone wants to feel connected. Discuss the group’s beliefs/opinions about feeling connected.

  4. Print an article about the Smile Boston Project: one artist’s act of spreading optimism and hope throughout the community. Bren Bataclan gives away free paintings to random people under the condition that they smile more. Discuss how Bren’s project uses art to uplift and make connections between people.

  5. Reflect on the meaning of making connections with others as a way to take action for the common good (philanthropy). 

  6. Talk about how we can share art as a means to bring together people in community and uplift people or issues. Think of art in its many different forms. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.