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Winter Break Wonders Activity: Music and Art

Music-inspired painting

Today’s activity is inspired by our upcoming virtual concert celebrating the new year! In this project, we’ll look at how music and sound have influenced artwork in the Crystal Bridges’ collection and make our own musically inspired creations.


Look Closer:

The works you see below were inspired by sound. Both artists Stanton Mcdonald-Wright and Stuart Davis were part of a movement called Synchronism which believed that color and sound are connected. They created artwork that responded to everyday sounds, like noises you hear at a café or breakfast table.

Other artworks in our collection are linked to a particular piece of music. Marsden Hartley titled his painting Hall of the Mountain King after a piece of orchestral music. We’re not certain why Hartley chose to title his work this way, but maybe he felt a connection between the sound of the music and the landscape he painted.

Has listening to music ever inspired you to create? Think of your favorite song. How do you feel when you listen to it? What might it look like if you could see it?

Painting by Stuart Davis
Stuart Davis, Breakfast Table, 1917, oil on canvas, 48 1/8 x 34 1/4 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Dwight Primiano.
Painting by Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Au Café (Synchromy), 1918, oil on canvas, 50 x 28 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Dwight Primiano.
Marsden Hartley, Hall of the Mountain King
Marsden Hartley, Hall of the Mountain King, ca. 1908-1909, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2010.94. Photography by Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Activity: Create an Artwork Inspired by Music


  • Paper
  • Any artmaking supplies you have at home
  • A way to listen to music


Step 1: Find artmaking materials around your house. Make sure you select a medium with a variety of colors.

Step 2: Decide on a few songs to ring in the new year. These could be from the New Year’s concert or some of your favorite tunes.

Step 3: Play a song and write down how it makes you feel. Are you excited, nervous, or silly?

Step 4: Then decide on the colors you think best represent the music. There’s no right or wrong colors to choose; just think about what matches the mood of the song.

Making a collage

Step 5: Choose what gestures or shapes you want to create. If the music is fast, maybe you might create something bold with sharp lines. Or if the music is calming, your piece might have organic shapes and squiggles.

Step 6: Then create your artwork! Repeat these steps to make a few pieces, each while being inspired by a different song. Then place your artwork together and compare what you’ve made. How do your different creations represent the songs you listened to?

Your musically inspired creations might look something like this:

Music-inspired painting
Music-inspired collage
Music-inspired painting

Book Recommendations:

  • I See a Song by Eric Carle
  • Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Pinkney
  • Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss

Have fun!

Written by Marie Hofer, museum educator, Crystal Bridges.


Special thanks to our sponsors:

Youth and Family programming is supported in part by AMP Sign & Banner, Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Juan, Marcy and Joaquin Camacho, The Coca-Cola Company, iHeart Media, JTH Productions, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Pinnacle Car Services, Procter & Gamble, Gordon and Carole Segal, The Simmons Family Fund, and ViacomCBS Consumer Products.

Education and Learning is supported in part by Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, The Northern Trust Company, Pamela and Wayne Garrison, Doug and Shelley McMillon, Jack and Melba Shewmaker Family, Neff and Scarlett Basore, Galen and Debi Havner, Lance and Sharon Beshore, Cardinal Four Foundation, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Harry Cornell, Cox Communications, Dorothy Hurt, J.M. Smucker Company, Kimberly-Clark, Nice-Pak Products, Inc., The Russell Berrie Foundation, Stephen and Claudia Strange, Felix and Margaret Wright.