Arts and Books — Censor or Celebrate?

The legal and historic background of copyright, public domain and provenance — encouragement to create in the arts and sciences and to be rewarded — are introduced against the historic and current examples of looting of art, book banning and burning, and banishment and firing of those who make literature and arts accessible. Weekly means for inspiration and access to the arts, books and culture are also explored in Post Arts, Style and Entertainment.

Thousands of historical and cultural works from 1926 entered the public domain in the United States this year. “From a certain honey-loving bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood to a classic Gershwin ballad, works published or registered in 1926 now join pre-1925 works already in the public domain,” according to the Library of Congress. From “Bye Bye Black Bird” to the first published novels of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, to the first books of poems from Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker, to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”


In this month’s curriculum guide, we examine copyright, public domain and provenance.  Blood art and museum policies and practices have gained attention — as research goes beyond the museum labels. We also introduce the birthplace of films and the benefits (and downside) of being the location for shooting movies and television shows.


The writing of Washington Post art, film and pop culture critics are highlighted with particular attention to Great Works, In Focus, the more than 100 essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee. They serve as models for making connections to literature and the arts as well as experiencing the sheer pleasure of the work. We look at the potential for one artist to inspire the work of another.


The burning and banning of books became less a history lesson and more a reality in communities across America in the last year. We introduce perspectives on this issue — those for and those against censorship — from history and current actions. The serious tones of this topic are balanced by the Going Out Guide and Post resources to experience local arts, books and culture.


May 2022

Public Domain
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Provide Provenance
Art, English, U.S. Government, Visual Arts
Establishing the authenticity of a work of art involves confirming the artist and history of ownership, known as provenance. Read and discuss the KidsPost article, “Provenance: Crucial history about past owners of artworks.” Examples are given of current legal and ethical issues of provenance. Be sure students understanding why this is important to museums, owners of artwork and those who view them.


Reconsider Acquisitions Exhibited
Art, Business, Ethics, U.S. Government
Two articles may be used together to explore valid ownership of museum exhibits. Begin with reading Karen Attiah’s commentary “Blood art has no place in museums.” Questions are provided to guide discussion.


In May 2022 the Smithsonian announced its codifying of acquisitions practice. Before reading, review the meaning of “acquisition,” “artifacts,” “deaccessioning,” “originating community,” “prescriptive rules” and “repatriation.” Discuss “Smithsonian announces new policy on repatriations.” What distinction is made between legal requirements and ethical decisions?


NOTE: You may wish to read these related articles:
• “Smithsonian is changing its approach to collecting, starting with the removal of looted Benin treasures.”

• “U.S. museums are trying to return hundreds of looted Benin treasures


Make a Label
Art, English, Visual Arts
Several of the articles refer to reading the labels that accompany exhibits. What is the purpose of these labels? Give students Museum Labels. The first half of this activity covers the basic label for artwork and artifacts. Art students could be encouraged to write labels for the artworks they create.


The second half of the activity expands the content of labels to include more information on the object(s) and the artist to enrich the viewing experience. 


Be Inspired by Artists
Art, Journalism, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
As visual commentators, editorial cartoonists develop their own style which is comparable to the editorial voice of columnists. Four editorial cartoons are provided to illustrate how established cartoonists can be inspired by other styles, approaches and techniques to enhance the visual commentary. Give students Inspired by Artists with questions to direct reading the cartoons of Michael Ramirez, Mike Luckovich, Ratt and Al Goodwyn.


Winnie-the-Pooh Enters Public Domain
Art, Business, English, Personal Finance, U.S. Government
As Bambi and Winnie-the-Pooh enter the public domain in 2022, how they and other characters will be used is to be seen. Read “From Hundred Acre Wood to public domain.” Answer the questions found in 1926 | Time for Winnie-the-Pooh and Others to Enter Public Domain.


Trademark and Copyright vs. Public Domain
Business, Economics, Social Studies, U.S. Government
Read and discuss Duke University’s Center for the Study of Public Domain article  “This Bear’s For You! (Or, Is It?)” that explores whether companies can use copyright and trademark to claim rights to public domain.


Explore further with Court cases. Brian Murphy wrote in Advertising Law Updates:

When the copyright in the "Steamboat Willie" version of the character expires (on January 1, 2024), Disney will be armed with these trademark registrations. How successful efforts by Disney and others to use trademark law as a sword remains to be seen, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox. See also EMI Catalogue Partnership v. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc.

Expand Existing Incentives?
Business, Drama, Economics, English, U.S. Government

Location of filming is another aspect behind the scenes in film and television production. Ask students to think of favorite television shows now and in the past. How many are filmed on a studio lot and which ones are filmed on location? What about the houses in Brady BunchA Christmas Story, and Full House/Fuller House or the ones renovated in Love It or List It?


If students think it would be great to see Virginia or where they live in a show, find out how it can happen. Read and discuss “How to get Virginia in the movies.” Personal and State Benefits in the Movies may be used with discussion of the article.

To Read and See
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Read About Art
Art, English, Journalism, Visual Arts
Pultizer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee writes the column, Great Works, In Focus and art-focus articles. Three of his works are reprinted to introduce artists, to serve as models of personal essays about art and to illustrate the inclusion of literature in art commentary.

• “The Pure Perfection of Plums” and the activity worksheet With a Nonchalant Apology, This Is Just to Say

• “Beauty in Blue"

• “The freedom that comes with living our own stories


In addition the longer essay that Smee wrote on the anniversary of his 100th Great Works, In Focus column is reprinted. It is excellent for Advanced Placement and upper level art students. Read “If you see one piece of art, we have 100 suggestions.”


A directory of all his Great Works, In Focus columns is found online. You could use the short introduction to his series, “Great Works, In Focus,” and the questions with any of these. Students could work individually, in pairs or small groups. Pairs and groups might use the categories provided to sort the works and study two to three from a category. 


Write About Art
Art, English, Journalism, Visual Arts
Use the columns of Sebastian Smee and the questions in “Great Art, In Focus” to direct viewing (and writing about) of art and as models and guidelines. In addition The Post’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott — who has been a classical music critic, and then culture critic — provides insight in his work. Since 2011, he has combined art and architecture into a beat. Recent articles include “National Gallery enters new, overdue era with African diaspora show,” “Why did it take Ukraine to remind us of war photography’s relevance?” and “In a sea of suffering, one image of motherhood distills the misery of war.”


Students may select a well-known work of art that has contemporary relevance, a photograph taken by themselves or found in the newspaper, or works in a student art show. Bring the work to life, express a perspective on it and encourage engagement with the work or event.


Write a Book Review
English, Journalism
Ask students to write a book review to inform classmates about a book they enjoyed. This activity enhances reading skills; critical thinking; analytic, evaluative and explanatory abilities; and composition fluency.


Reviewing a Whirl of Books provides steps for younger students to follow to write a book review as well as two KidsPost book reviews. Students also have Review a Book Review activity to acquaint them with how reviewers include basic information and Close Reading: Book Reviews to focus on the opening and closing paragraphs of book reviews.


Write a Movie Review
English, Journalism, Visual Arts
Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning chief film critic Ann Hornaday writes in-depth reviews. Michael O’Sullivan, film critic, editor for The Post’s pop culture team and reporter covering movies and the people who make them, writes shorter reviews that appeal to readers looking for a quick, knowledgeable answer to Is this movie worth my time and money?


Check out The Movie Review(er), an early curriculum guide when we were in PDF format only, for guidelines for movie review writers, movie math, a movie lingo word study, and a Harry Potter quiz.


Write About Music and Dance
Dance, Journalism, Music, Theater Arts, Visual Arts
Review these activities found in “Spanning The Arts” — Cover the Arts in Your School and Music Across the Disciplines.


Have students think of the basics of journalism: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How as they report on a performance to be held. With what music or related dance might students be familiar or how might this show open them to new expressions?


Look for Weekend and More Activities
Art, Dance, English, Music, Physical Education, Theater Arts
Every Friday The Post inserts WEEKEND in the newspapers. Gives students the activity, It’s Friday. Read WEEKEND. The questions may be used with any week.


Teachers may review “Weekend Section” introduction found online and the suggested activities found there. Each focus has three levels of approaches from younger to older students. Note that items in the list of content may have changed name or no longer be in the weekly section.


Find Your Going Out Options
English, Journalism, Media Arts, Physical Education

Going Out Guide — D.C.-area nightlife, events and dining — is found online as well as in WEEKEND. Check out the pages and sections to find appropriate events and restaurants for students and/or families. What’s happening now and the near future? Two activities are provided to acquaint students with the resources found within The Washington Post: It’s Friday. Read WEEKEND. And It’s Sunday. Relax with ARTS&STYLE.


Write About Food
English, Health, Personal Finance

Food is necessary for survival and the source of enjoyment with family and friends. Planning the grocery list or reviewing restaurant reviews. Looking for seasonal options and learning where our meals are sourced may be included in activities. Review Food resources and activities found in Food — A Delicate Balance.


Write a Dream Day Essay
English, Geography, Health, Personal Finance, Physical Education

Get to know your students and help students to understand their classmates. Read Dream Day essays found in WEEKEND and online in the Going Out Guide. What kind of information is found in the introduction? What other information is provided for readers? Write your own Dream Day essay.


Check the Local Living Section
Art, Health and Wellness, Music, Theater Arts

The introduction to the Local Living section was written several years ago. Some features in today’s Local Living insert remain the same to inform readers of local entertainment, family and health features. The interests and needs of readers change some over time — this is reflected in new columns. Time also creates change as seen with the retirement of Dr. Gridlock and this year with the retirement of long-time enchanting Garden Editor Adrian Higgins.

Teachers might have students compare and contrast type of coverage.

Read Books About Books

Begin With the First Banned Books
English, Reading, Social Studies, World History

To provide students with background on why books have been banned and burned, teachers might introduce them to these examples.

1. Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the List of Prohibited Books, was compiled by the Roman Catholic Church and published from 1529 in Netherlands, Venice in 1543 and Paris in 1551 until 1948. In what categories would students place the first prohibited books? Why were these works dangerous?


2. On May 10, 1933, university students across Germany burned thousands of books that were “unGerman,” including those written by Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Erich Maria Remarque and Heinrich Heine. “To align German arts and culture with Nazi ideas” books that were considered decadent were thrown into bonfires as the bands played, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Show students “Nazi Book Burning,” a short film on this site.


In 1938 the Nazi Propaganda department issued a list of authors whose works were to be burned — whether they were in public or private libraries.


3. In 2021, The Post’s Retropolis section took a look at “Burning books: 6 outrageous, tragic and weird examples in history.” After reading these examples, discuss why people burn books.


Remind Students of the Books of Their Childhood
English, Reading, Social Studies

Teachers may wish to review “Books Children Love, ” our resource guide that focuses on the authors of children’s books, including articles about Beverly Cleary and Dr. Seuss. Student activities include My Children’s Literature Experience.


Consider Recent Efforts to Censor Books
English, Reading, U.S. Government, U.S. History

In the midst of political campaigns, school board meetings and public library oversight, concerns have been expressed about books available to students and assigned in classes.

Four pieces are provided to give perspective on the issues. Read and use the questions in Censor or Celebrate? to guide discussion.

• “The furor over ‘inappropriate’ books has a thrilling subtext
• “Book bans are canaries in coal mines
• “‘Everywhere Babies,’ a picture book celebrating infants, on list of banning targets in Florida”
• “Ban guns, not books, to save kids from harm”


What pressure to comply has been placed on educators, principals and librarians?

• For a March 2022 example read “An assistant principal read the children’s book ‘I Need a New Butt?’ to second-graders. He was fired.”

• Columnist Alyssa Rosenberg responded in “‘I Need a New Butt?’ belongs in schools. No buts about it.”

• For a follow-up article, read Michael Cavna’s “He was fired for reading a ‘Butt’ book. Will his life return to normal?”


What Do Teachers Have to Say?
Cross Disciplines

National Council of Teachers of English’s Freedom to Teach Statement was authored in conjunction with National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Science Teaching Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship. After reading the statement, discuss the principles presented. 


Why Listen to Audio Books?
Career Education, English, Reading

Not every writer goes to college. They use their life experience. And then there’s author Lizz Huerta who had a different tutor. Read “Before I was a novelist, audiobooks taught me how to tell a story.”


Do your students listen to audio books? After reading Huerta’s first person guest article, you might have selected audio books to illustrate the different listens Huerta relates.


To Paris — Where Film Began
English, Journalism, Media Arts, Visual Arts

Surprise! Hollywood is not where film began. For both a film history lesson and a review of an exhibit, read “An L.A. museum pays homage to film’s birthplace (hint: It isn’t L.A.).” The Film Critic: Ann Hornaday and Film’s Birthplace activity is provided for use with the review.


What Will You Find at the Library of Congress?

Art, English, Music, Theater Arts, Visual Arts

The Library of Congress is more than a repository of books. Check out these online resources in the arts. Teachers might ask students to explore the LOC for interesting digital collections in the arts.

• “Celebrating Asian American Representation in Film
• “Celebrating Indigenous Voices: New Poetry and Literature Recordings in the PALABRA Archive”

Listen to recordings of poets reading their works.

 • “Celebrating Yiddish American Popular Song


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Donna McCullough



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In The Know 

Censor To remove or suppress in whole or part publications, theatrical presentations, films, letters, and artistic works that authorities may consider offensive, immoral, obscene or harmful to society. To limit access because of "age appropriateness."
Nazi-Era Provenance Research Research undertaken by museums on the provenance of its collection of European art during the years of the National Socialist regime and World War II, 1933 to 1945. Because of the widespread loss of artwork through wartime looting, Nazi confiscation, and forced sales due to racial persecution, particular attention is paid to changes in ownership during this period of time.

A work of art is its history of ownership, from the time of its creation to the present. The study of provenance is a traditional part of art historical research, as an object’s chain of ownership can inform a scholarly understanding of the work of art itself: its function, condition, and its place in the history of taste and collecting.


Public Domain

When works enter the public domain, currently at 95 years after copyright, they can be shared without permission or fee. 

ANSWERS. Inspired By Artists

War Criminal

1. The attack on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people that began Feb. 24, 2022, orchestrated by Russian President Putin.

2. Vladimir Putin (1952- ) served as Russia’s president from 2000-2008 and was re-elected in 2012. He is a former KGB officer. They see him as a war criminal for authorizing the attack on Ukraine, especially with the indiscriminate use of bombs and attacks on civilians, leaving many of them homeless and sheltering underground. When these were drawn and published, the true extent of attacks on civilians in villages such as Bucha had not been seen by reporters, photojournalists and war crime prosecutors.

3. Ramirez effectively uses boldface type to create the illusion of a coat and tie. Lighter weight typeface and negative space creates the blond/graying hair and receding hairline. The use of varied typeface creates the eyebrows, whites of the eye and sinister eyes, large nose and lips. The clustering of typeface also creates the shadows of nostrils, inner ears and neck.


Picasso’s Guernica Updated

4. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish innovative painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, etching artist and theatre designer. He experimented with and shaped Cubism, Surrealism and other modern art and artists. Taught from the age of 7 by his father who was an artist. Later when at Spain’s top art academy, he preferred to roam the Prada, studying the masters exhibited there.


     In 1937 he painted Guernica expressing his view of the Nazi’s devastating bombing of the Basque town of Guernica and violence of the Spanish Civil War. The tragedy of war on innocent civilians is powerfully rendered — and can be compared to today’s devastating bombing of Ukrainian villages and civilians. The painting was exhibited in a world tour; it is 11 feet tall and 25.6 feet wide. It is currently on exhibit in Madrid in the Museo Reina Sofia. The menacing minotaur became a central symbol of his art afterwards.

5. Responses should include the addition of Putin, holding a paint brush and paint can. Luckovich clearly sees Putin as the creator of this modern horrific scene. Information about Guernica and a reproduction can be found at Guernica, 1937 by Pablo Picasso.



1. Ratt tells his readers in the lower left corner of his editorial cartoon after his name.

     One of the youngest recipients of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Kara Walker, an African American artist, is best known for her bold images using the traditional silhouette. Walker upends the genteel, Victorian origins of the medium by graphically portraying scenes from the antebellum South to explore the politics of slavery, race and gender.


     She also has been inspired by other artists. After the tragedy that beset the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Walker created a volume exploring the interconnectedness of the sea, race and poverty by juxtaposing examples of her work and historical works from the 19th century. 

2. a. Silhouette of female figure on knees bending to pick cotton with head tied in cloth; female figure bending and holding frying pan; female figure standing upright, wearing heels and holding gavel.

b. Behind the standing figure is the seal of the Supreme Court. With it and the gavel, readers know she is wearing the traditional robe of a justice.

3. Possible responses: The enslaved Black female would rise from the field to the house/kitchen to be the educaated next justice of the Supreme Court. “All rise” is asked when the judge enters the courtroom. And with the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Jackson we all rise.



4. From left, Elvis with his thick dark hair, oversize glasses and lips; small-size of leprechaun wearing top hat and beard; rabbit with colored Easter eggs.

5. To believe the Taliban would allow girls in Afghanistan to get an education was as realistic as believing Elvis is alive, leprechauns exist and the Easter bunny brings eggs.