Kehinde Wiley Honors the Power and Beauty of Everyday People
Grades: 3 - 5

Video Description: Kehinde Wiley rose to stardom as the master painter behind President Barack Obama’s portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. In St. Louis, he’s unveiled a new series at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The subjects behind Wiley’s paintings originate from a trip to North St. Louis and Ferguson in 2017, where Wiley and his team street cast models for the series. The everyday men and women memorialized in his grand, large-scale paintings look immensely familiar. Wiley lauds the work as being a “celebration of 21st century culture.” When he spoke with the models, he requested that they wear clothing in which they felt comfortable – that reflected their own personal style. So the models wore camouflage and Nike t-shirts. They wore jean shorts and midriff tops with tattoos fully on display. However, the poses they assume hold a different kind of familiarity. As part of this project, Wiley took inspiration from masterworks within the museum’s collection, so these everyday people take on the roles once reserved for the wealthy and the white. The portraits reflect a personal narrative, both of the subjects and the artist himself.

Type of Video: Story*
Unique Video ID: DVisual Arts-431**

Quick Ideas for Using the Video:

  • In the video, Mr. Wiley refers to the relationship between art museums and the community. Ask students to consider the following questions: What do you see as the role of art museums in communities today? If you were to exhibit your work at a local museum, what community message would you want to send?
  • In the video, Mr. Wiley refers to the influence of art history on his work. Ask students to consider the following questions: What periods or movements from art history influence their own work? How? Is there an era of art history they’d like to learn more about?
  • Have students respond to the artwork. What do they think of the subject matter? What do they like about the colors, style, etc.? Would they be interested in creating artwork like this? Why or why not?


*Story videos employ a narrative form to highlight a topic, location, or practitioner in the area of study.

**The unique Video ID can be used to quickly locate a single video in the ET collection. This search function is designed to let teachers assign students to watch a specific video and have only that video appear as a search result. Just click on Search and choose “By Video ID.” Then type in the Video ID as it appears above. Be sure to include the dash.