Make: A Collage Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom – hopeful people as far as the eye can see – is one that’s so familiar, but never fails to inspire.

A photo of MLK from his I Have a Dream speech in Washington DC

Using simple shapes, I recreated the image in collage form for a Martin Luther King Jr. kids art project you can use for discussion (as well as a bit of art theory). The simple repeated forms layered on paper give kids a hands-on way to explore visual perspective.

But more importantly, this project creates an opportunity for adults to explain the historical perspective – what this captured image represents, a more complete history of MLK’s teachings, and invite discussion about how this moment in time relates to current events.

Our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a Dream art collage for kids project sitting on a white background.

To make your own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. art collage you’ll need:

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • Multiple colors of construction paper
  • Scissors
  • A Glue Stick

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

Our free printable Martin Luther King, Jr. art elements

DIY Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art Collage Instructions:

  1. Cut out the simple shapes for your MLK collage

    There are quite a few ways to make this collage your own. For the most part, this is made with simple shapes you can easily eyeball to cut out and recreate. We made a template including the incredible Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself (and each of the shapes to scale) in case you’d like to keep this simple – but I think it could also be constructive to have kids draw MLK, Jr., individual faces on their “crowd” cutout circles, or incorporate actual photographs in the collage.
    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
    Once you have all of your collage pieces cut out, you can follow the pictures below to see how we layered the pieces to re-create the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech image. At each step, secure your pieces with a glue stick.

    Tip: Feeling like all these cutout shapes are going to mean ALOT of prep work for you? Instead of cutting out the small circles for the faces in the crowd, you can invite your kids to draw them right on the paper, or make the faces from fingerprints instead!

  2. Glue down your background shapes

    Start by laying down the background (the sky, the Washington Monument, and the reflecting pool). 
    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.

  3. Add trees to the mid-ground by gluing down circles

    This is a great lesson in perspective for kids. For reference, you can print out and refer to the actual photo at the top of the post to help them recreate the line of trees in perspective.
    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.

  4. Glue smaller circles in the mid-ground to add the crowd

    Begin adding the crowd. To create the crowd I used 2 sizes of circles, but you can use more or less. There’s another little mini-lesson in perspective here too, in that the farther away something is, the smaller it will be. Small circles will go towards the back, and larger circles will be at the front.
    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.

  5. Finish by adding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to your collage

    Add Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – you can use the one from our template PDF, cut out a printed picture, or draw your own! 

Rather than being a stand-alone art activity, this is intended to be paired with discussion. If you’re looking for ways to begin the conversation here are a few ideas for places to start…

And while we’re here, I’ll take a minute to share Bob Adelman too, the freelance photographer who captured this moment with incredible skill. “I shot with one eye on the lens, one eye on history, and my heart was with the movement”. You can find a whole collection of his civil rights photography here.

Our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a Dream art collage for kids project sitting on a white background.

Working with younger kids? This project is a little advanced for little ones still learning how to use scissors. You can skip the sharp-edged tools and cut all the pieces out for them to arrange, or invite them to use watercolors to make a set of their own diverse peg dolls instead, for a project that encourages education, inclusion, and acceptance. SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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4 Comments

  1. WOW this art project is absolutely magnificent in memory of Dr. MLK and this historic day. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring collage idea.

  2. we are so excited to do this this week as we learn about Martin Luther King Jr, thank you so much for sharing your idea and your templates! hope it is ok that we shared it on our blog for anyone who saw us do it and would like to try it out as well!

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