Middle Schoolers Explore History Through Visual Storytelling

By Hannah Garcia October 5, 2023

Artist and author Ariel Aberg-Riger visited 80 Sparks Street to discuss her work with visual storytelling through primary sources in the public domain with students in their history classes. Aberg-Riger discussed her artistic process and gave the students the opportunity to try collaging using photos of everything from people to fish, and in between.

All of the art in her novel America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History, is sourced from the public domain and places like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian to maintain artistic integrity and not plagiarize from other artists. She let the students explore one of the public domain websites she used for her novel, then encouraged them to use copyright-free photos however they wanted. 

As Aberg-Riger explained, taking pictures off history books’ pages provides new meaning to the subject and the audience. Instead of disconnecting with a black-and-white photo on a page, engaging with just the picture changes the interpretation of a moment in history, making it more salient and accessible. 

From a fish with a toupee to a reimagined Amelia Erhart, students not only let their creative thoughts flow but also learned to think about the images they encounter daily in a new light thanks to the artistic freedom encouraged by visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger.