For two weeks, Anne Manzella’s Studio Art class had a social studies atmosphere, as students learned about the iconic Norman Rockwell paintings and their relation to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech in 1941. Roosevelt’s speech articulated his vision for a postwar world founded on four basic human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Turning the conversation to present day, Manzella’s students discussed 21st Century freedoms they believe to be important, as a foundation for their own “Rockwell” designs. In addition, Tom Daly from the Norman Rockwell Museum spoke to the students before they began their work. Click here to see a photo gallery.
“The exercise of thinking about what freedoms we value today sparked a lively discussion in class about things like expression, privacy, women’s rights, and marriage, to name a few,” said Manzella, Shaker High School’s Art Department Supervisor. “It was particularly interesting to me that for our social media generation, some of the original four freedoms are still felt to be of great importance.”
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of FDR’s speech, the Norman Rockwell Museum teamed up with New York’s Capital Area Art Supervisors to present a unique exhibition that looked at the concept of the four freedoms from the perspective of a new generation. “Reimagining The Four Freedoms” was on display at the museum for the month of March, including student work from Manzella’s class, as well as seven other surrounding Capital Region school districts. A total of 100 pieces were on display at the museum, which is located on 36 acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life.
“The concept of reimagining the iconic Four Freedoms in our country’s history has been a rewarding experience for my class,” said Manzella. “Beginning with the research of FDR’s inaugural speech and the application of commercial illustrator, Norman Rockwell’s paintings for the 1940’s War Bond effort, provided insight into the freedoms our ancestors held in high regard. Participating in this creative graphic design exercise reminded us that there are so many privileges we have that are important to not take for granted.”
Click here for a video of the project produced by the Norman Rockwell Museum.