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About picturing america in cursive type age and map of the USA.

Picturing America - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Picturing America?
Q: Why do you think Picturing America is important?
Q: How many schools and libraries are currently participating in the program? How many will be in the future?
Q: Where does the funding for Picturing America come from?
Q: How can teachers incorporate this program into their existing curriculum?
Q: Should the masterpieces be used individually or grouped together? 
Q: Picturing America incorporates a variety of artists from many different time periods.  Are they intended to represent the entire canon of American art?
Q: Where can I find additional information on this program?
Q: Who developed the concept for Picturing America?
Q: What was the process for selecting these images?
Q: What schools were eligible to receive this program?
Q: How did schools or libraries submit a Picturing America application?
Q: Could citizens—in addition to teachers or librarians—receive the art?
Q: When will Picturing America launch? How long will it last?

Q: What is Picturing America?

A: Picturing America is an innovative program that helps teach American history and provides students with a gateway to the entire universe of the humanities. Picturing America is a free resource that provides each participating institution with a comprehensive package of materials that includes: 

  • Forty large, high-quality color reproductions of the selected masterpieces (24” x 36”).
  • A Teachers Resource Book providing a wide range of ideas and background information to support educators using the works of art in core subject areas.
  • Additional resources and lesson plans available through PicturingAmerica.neh.gov.

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Q: Why do you think Picturing America is important?

A: Perpetuating democracy is difficult. And it’s become more difficult in an increasingly fast-paced, global environment. Picturing America conveys our common heritage and ideals by bringing us face to face with the people, places, and events that shaped our country. It provides an innovative way to experience America’s history through our nation’s art.

By bringing some of our country’s finest works of art directly to classrooms and providing the educational context for these images, we can open more eyes to the legacy of our great country.

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Q: How many schools and libraries are currently participating in the program?

A: The NEH’s goal is to make Picturing America available to the greatest possible number of schools and public libraries across the country. In June 2008, the NEH awarded Picturing America sets to more than 56,000 schools and public libraries nationwide. The additional application period concludes November 14, 2008 (for delivery in March and April of 2009).

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Q: Where does the funding for Picturing America come from?

A: Primary funding for Picturing America comes from NEH’s We the People program, which provides a variety of grants to strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture, including those for the Picturing America program. Additional support has been provided by other federal agencies and private partners. 

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Q: How can teachers incorporate this program into their existing curriculum?

A: Picturing America is a tool for teaching American history and culture through our nation’s art, and is designed to serve as a gateway to the entire world of the humanities. Supplementary materials include resources and lesson plans for using the images to teach social studies, history, writing, literature, geography, civics, and other subjects. The images appeal to students and citizens of all ages, from elementary school through high school and beyond. 

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Q: Should the masterpieces be used individually or grouped together?

A: The works in the Picturing America collection were selected for their quality, range of media, and ability to be grouped in ways that expand the program’s educational potential.

Each of the works featured in Picturing America may be explored individually. Yet the collection also lends itself to the study of images in endless combinations that reveal enduring American themes. For instance, the composition of James Karales’s memorable photograph of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march echoes Emanuel Leutze’s portrayal of Washington crossing the Delaware—reminding us that each generation makes their own sacrifices for freedom. Martin Puryear’s sculpture, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, further illustrates the continuing labors demanded by our nation’s ongoing pursuit of equality.

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Q: Picturing America incorporates a variety of artists from many different time periods.  Are they intended to represent the entire canon of American art?

A: The Picturing America images span several centuries and feature artists ranging from early American Indian artisans to painters Mary Cassatt and Thomas Hart Benton; and photographers Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, to architects Frank Lloyd Wright and William Van Alen. While these images are not intended to encapsulate the whole of American history or its art, they are a cohesive sampler of significant works that serves as a starting point for learning about both.

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Q: Where can I find additional information on this program?

A: Additional information and resource materials are available in the Educators Resources section of this website. You may also sign up to receive email updates when additional information and resources become available.

  • Click here to sign up.
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    Q: Who developed the concept for Picturing America?

    A: The desire to tell the story of America through works of art motivated the NEH to develop Picturing America. Our nation is united by our devotion to shared ideals. Great American art can help us ensure these ideals are studied, passed on, and remembered. Meeting this objective was the inspiration for this program.

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    Q: What was the process for selecting these images?

    A: The images were carefully selected by NEH program staff, under the direction of former NEH Chairman Bruce Cole, who taught and wrote about art history for nearly three decades before becoming Chairman of the Endowment. The featured artists in Picturing America range from early American Indian artisans to painters like Mary Cassatt and Thomas Hart Benton; from photographers, including Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, to architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright. While these images are not intended to represent the entire canon, they are a sampling of significant and enduring works from the whole body of American art.

    The works in the Picturing America collection were selected for their quality, range of media, and ability to be grouped in ways that expand the program’s educational potential.

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    Q: What schools were eligible to receive this program?

    A: Public, private, parochial, and charter and home school consortia (K-12), as well as public libraries in the United States and its territories, were eligible to receive Picturing America awards. Other libraries with collections that circulate to the general public and offer reading-based programs for the general public were also eligible to apply. Picturing America award winners each received a set of 20 laminated posters (approximately 24” x 36”) with reproductions on each side and a Teachers Resource Book with more information about the artists and artwork, and lesson ideas. No cost sharing was required. School districts and public library systems were able to apply on behalf of all member schools and libraries. In addition to schools and public libraries, through a partnership with NEH, the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Head Start, made Picturing America available to the 20,000 Head Start centers around the nation.

    Individuals and organizations other than K-12 schools, home school consortia, and public libraries were not eligible to apply.

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    Q: How did schools or libraries submit a Picturing America application?

    A: There were six main steps required to apply for Picturing America:

    1. Registration on the Picturing America Web site
      • Applicants chose whether to apply for a single school or library or multiple schools or libraries.?
      • Applicants provided applicant information.?
    2. Applicants provided recipient school or library information.?
    3. Applicants completed collection use questions.?
    4. Applicants reviewed and edited their application.?
    5. Applicants listed an authorizing official and certified authorization.?
    6. Applicants submitted their application.

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    Q: Can citizens—in addition to teachers or librarians—receive the art?

    A: Applications were accepted from all K-12 public, private, parochial, and charter schools and home school consortia and public libraries in the United States and its territories. Individuals and organizations other than K-12 schools, home school consortia, and public libraries may still benefit from the program by visiting PicturingAmerica.neh.gov.

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    Q: When will Picturing America launch? How long will it last?

    A: In January 2008, the NEH awarded Picturing America sets to more than 1,500 pilot institutions. The application process for Fall 2008 awards began on January 7 and extends through April 15, 2008. Participant institutions are encouraged to retain Picturing America in their permanent collection of resources, and NEH’s ultimate goal is to make Picturing America available to the greatest possible number of schools and public libraries nationwide. 

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