Closer Readings Commentary

Sending out an SOS! Save Outdoor Sculpture!

Are you looking for something to do outdoors with your kids and/or students this summer?

Check out the Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!) Project.

Sponsored by EDSITEment-reviewed Smithsonian American Art Museum and Heritage Preservation, SOS! is a program committed to identifying, documenting, and conserving outdoor sculpture nationwide. SOS! works to generate appreciation, enthusiasm, and a sense of ownership for America’s largest collection of art and to promote outdoor sculpture as an education resource.

A sculpture represents a moment in time: either a person, animal, or event that is "frozen" for us to see.

Public outdoor sculpture—the most user-friendly form of art and history in America—is a rich and accessible resource. Sculpture has the potential to inspire creativity, community involvement, and scientific experimentation in people of all ages.

Unfortunately, as a teaching tool, sculptures and monuments have been virtually overlooked—until now.

Teachers, scout leaders, camp counselors, and other adults who direct students’ learning in formal and informal settings, you’ll discover lots of ways to use this project with the children you supervise (the primary audience for SOS! is the 9–14 year old set.)

All activities in SOS! have been designed as springboards for further discovery and support national standards of learning for history, science, and art. They have been sampled by museums, and public art administrators as excellent avenues to conduct learning and have fun!

Stuck indoors? No worries, just visit the SOS! interactive online 4 Kids site that is organized around the following questions:

  • Do we see the same way? Click on a sculpture and you'll make the picture bigger. You will also find interesting information about the sculpture and the artist.
  • Where is America’s sculpture? Outdoor sculpture can be found in every state in the United States. Click on the state to see some of the sculpture there.
  • How can sculpture come alive for me? Find ideas for “Making it Real”—bringing students favorite story to life! Make a play starring your favorite sculpture! Design a poster of your favorite hero!
  • Who can make a difference? Learn how to use SOS! as the focus to teach young citizens to appreciate and preserve the sculptures and monuments in their towns. Read how the projects make the kids feel—in their own words.
  • Inside Outdoor Sculpture, interdisciplinary resource guide, kit, and website, that aims to encourage Americans to see our national collection of outdoor sculpture with new eyes, to relate to it in new ways, and to safeguard it for future generations. It adopts a hands-on approach to examining outdoor sculpture in three ways—a resource guide, a loan kit with objects, and a website; these three components can be used alone or together. SOS! Sculpture Cards and lesson plans are now available online.

SOS! is taking steps to help communities save their treasures. SOS! works with partners of all kinds—community groups, students and teachers, state and local agencies, civic organizations, preservation agencies, and service clubs—to focus attention on the preservation of outdoor sculpture and to use these treasures as an educational resource.


Tom Otterness, Rockman statues, U.S. Courthouse, Minneapolis, MN. Photo, Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.