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Fun Art History Assignments

Trying to sneak vegetables into my son&#;s diet is like trying to sneak art history into my visual arts curriculum. Sometimes it&#;s not as easy as it seems, and he gets bored of the same old vegetable, much like my students get bored when I teach art history the same way. Therefore, I frequently try to find new, unique, and hidden ways to incorporate more art history into my curriculum. The more art history the better.

A couple of years ago, I needed a lesson or activity to use on the last day of the quarter. If you&#;re like me, you prefer the last day of art class to be as stress and mess free as possible. I wanted the activity to include art history and to be fun for my students.

I browsed the internet and my art supply catalogs for ideas. After finding an art BINGO game that was out of my budget, it occurred to me, I should make my own BINGO set! So that&#;s exactly what I did.

First, I created a blank BINGO sheet using Microsoft Excel.

On a separate spreadsheet, I pasted images of famous works of art with the artists names below. This second spreadsheet served as the bank of images used for the blank BINGO cards. (If you decided to try this, be sure to include extra images so the games last a little longer. I had a bank of 48 different images.)
I created a few examples and then I handed the project over to a couple of my students. They copied and pasted the images randomly into the blank BINGO spreadsheet and created a classroom set of 30 Art History BINGO cards. Here is one example.

The best part about this project is that now since I have the blank template created, I can create a variety of art themed BINGO games!

If you&#;d like, you can download a free BINGO template right here!

What are your favorite activities or games to use to teach art history?

What kind of BINGO would you create for your classroom? 

Art History Can Be Fun!

Ideas from Teachers

Submitted to Getty TeacherArtExchange
Middle School and High School - ElementaryArt Games
Many of these ideas are adaptable for different levels.


Artist's Un-Birthday Party - Submitted by Christa Wise

In my high school, students have a lot of fun with an un-birthday party. They randomly draw an artist's name from a "hat." They must look up this artist and read enough about him/her that they can come up with six items that would make good gifts for the artist. They wrap the six presents in a box that is constructed/painted in the artist's style. At the "party," each student opens his/her box and explains why these items would be appreciated by the artist and show examples of the artist's work to help everyone understand the style of the wrapping for the present. Naturally we also have cake and milk.

For instance: In a clear plastic box with black electrical tape edges ("beams,") a student presented the International School work of the architect Philip Johnson (best known for his glass and beam home in Connecticut). Included were a small set of blueprints, round black eyeglasses (his signature look), and other stuff I don't remember. In the Monet box we found a small Japanese bridge, artificial water lilies, and sunglasses that this "plein aire" painter would have found useful. Renoir got arthritis cream among other stuff, Frank Lloyd Wright got blocks, and Mary Cassatt had a baby doll.

I think this kind of project requires the students to read and use higher order thinking skills to synthesize what these artists might have valued in their lives -- maybe makes them more real than a report often simply down-loaded from the internet. Adapting the style of the artist to the wrapping for the present is a different spin on the time-honored assignment of working "in the manner of" a famous artist.

We display the final pieces with a small 3 x 5 ( x cm) card next to each of the six present items to explain why these things were chosen for the box. There is a lot of interest in looking at each others' presents, and I think this is a pretty good way to expose students to a lot of artists at once. It isn't deep, but I think it is pretty effective and fun!


Christa added in a separate email: Sometimes I do this before visiting an art museum. I choose artists whose work we will be seeing getting everyone a little familiar. When kids split in groups, there are four "experts" on four artists in every group.


Sara Gant did the Unbirthday lesson with her students and they had a party to celebrate. From Sara: The kids did do birthday invitations to teachers who had planning periods at that time, as well as admin/office people etc. I had one class doing it. I brought in a cake and they brought drinks, brownies, cookies, etc. The birthday presents truly showed that the students were making connections and had learned about their artist. One boy did Dali and had put a mustache trimmer in his box Someone else did Keith Haring and had put a condom in it- knowing full well the artist had died of Aids. See Sara's Lesson plan


Artist's Trading Cards - Submitted by Christa Wise

Before taking an overnight trip to Chicago, I had students choose a topic from my list (of stuff I knew we'd see). Each student had to make four trading cards, like baseball cards, for their topic. We had a standard template they could find on the computer. We printed up all the cards (30 students times four -- cards) and made a set for each of the participants.

Then, when parents were present at the at final details meeting before the trip, we had students sit with their roommates (four to a group) and had a Quiz Bowl about the facts on the cards. The winning team were declared kings/queens of the trip, and got to have "first pick" of everything -- where to sit on the bus, bigger candy bars at break, choice of rooms.

It was good preparation and gave them a lot of information. We had lots of carry-over, students spieling off information from the cards to impress docents or peers. It got to be a game.


See sample cards (PDF's): Sample front showing photograph/portrait and imageSample front (no images) Sample back - You just need a blank template for inserting the information on the back of the cards.

Sample template and box pattern - from Chia's Rubber Stamp Art

See the Art History Timeline high school lesson


Gallery Talk - Submitted by Marcia in Illinois (See also Living Painting)

I use drama with my senior studio class. Each year they create and perform Living Paintings at the Student Art Show opening. (See examples of the integration of art and drama) They act (as the figure in the painting) in tableau in front of their (life-sized) painting while another student "docent" talks to the audience about the artist and the time period. This information has been researched by the "docent" and the art student. We perform this as if it were a "Gallery Talk", moving from painting to painting. My friend, the Drama teacher, has her class help with costuming, props and dialogue. We spend one month on these for 2 hrs. of performance. We haven't ever really linked this to the State Standards in Art or Drama - but I know we should. (Note from Judy - There are many connections to the art curriculum. Marcia is going to try to get images to share the next time she does this)


Acting the Part - Submitted by Marvin Bartel

Many students enjoy acting out something about an artist. Students form small groups. Each group selects an artist from a list of names supplied by the teacher. They research the artist and prepare a short skit. After the skit they hand out review sheet for the class or post a poster for the class to review. The skit can be like a talk show interview or the artist in her studio explaining a painting she did. The group can discuss a large reproduction or a projected image based on a prepared script. The actor playing the artist answers questions about her sources of ideas, composition, difficulties, special interests, her own childhood, her training, and so on.


Living Paintings - Submitted by Renee Berge

My 8th graders did a "Living Art" project. There is a professional group in Laguna Beach, California that does this type of production. Sunday Morning did a feature on it. I wrote CBS and they sold the segment to me for $ It was worth it. The students picked a painting, usually with people in it. They research the artist, interpret the painting and write a paper as a group of 2 to 5 students. They then recreate the painting in large format, they create the background with a variety of materials and then put themselves as the characters into the famous artwork by creating costumes. The students set up there background and props then pose for 5 minutes as a curtain is lifted to show them. One student is picked to narrate the history of the artists and explain why the artist created the work. We entered a contest at a museum for middle school and high school students. My favorite rendition was the Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.


Sara Gant did Living Paintings for her Art Night. The student were a huge success. See Living Paintings by Nancy Walkup.


Life Size Figures - Artist Research - from Barbara Andrews
Level: Middle school - high school (Adaptable to upper elementary)

Collect a number of corrugated boxes for this. Students can work in groups. For more permanent sculptures - make wood boxes (collaborate with the Industrial Technology classes).

Students research an artist and art style that has figurative work. Students also research Marisol Escobar.

Students assemble boxes (these are life size figures) - apply layers of Paper Mache - paint with a base coat. Select a figure from one of the paintings of your selected artist. Paint the figure on all side of the boxes (showing front - side and back views of what the figures might look like). Note: two students painted American Gothic as basketball players for their school so students do show some creativity. For wood boxes - students can use house paints making them more permanent (priming with a good oil base primer). Wood sculptures can be displayed on the school grounds.

Note: Barbara gets house paint donated from local hardware and paint stores. They do a lot of mural painting in the community. She began her student centered class with one class and now has five periods a day. Offering student centered art has made scheduling nightmares go away. Students can repeat the class year after year. All levels are in the same period. Students are highly motivated.


Bi-fold Painting - Artist Research - Submitted by Renee Berge

Another project I really liked for art history research was a bi-fold with a mirror on one side, the students painted a portrait of the artist on one side and it reflected in the mirror. Around the mirror was a 3" border and the students recreated bits and pieces of the artist into a collage painting. For example, one student picked patterns from a variety of Matisse's painting and used them. On the back of the bi-fold was a biography of the artist. (See example on Renee's Web Page.)


Art History TimelinewithArtist Research Paper - Submitted by William Van Horn


Artists Poster - Submitted by Kimberly Hutts

An idea that I think I got from the NAEA Conference is to have them do research "posters" instead of papers. I offered this to my Jr. high students as extra credit last year. They were required to research an artist and type up a short biography as the main part of the poster. They also had to include a small print of a work of art created by that artist, a time-line of important events during the artist's life, a picture of the artist, either an informal critique of the work of art that they included or historical information about that work of art and a list of references on the back of the poster. I graded of accuracy of information, readability, neatness, composition of poster, and inclusion of all required components.


Artist Poster Lesson- Submitted by Dorothy MorrisArtist Research Worksheet

Artist Research - Accordion Fold Book- Submitted by Kara LiCausi

E-Reports Web Pages- Submitted by Lazelle Parker (Archive)


Assignment: To create an electronic report about a 19th or 20th century artist.

  • Each individual "website" has a page of biographical information, a page analyzing an artwork by the featured artist and a page for the bibliography as well as "About the Webmaster."

  • The students used the links provided on the Art History Research Links page to fill out a worksheet. (Archives)

  • For the design of their web pages, they used images from sites found on the Webmaster Info and Links page. (Archive)

Cross Curricular Art History Research - Submitted by Stephanie Corder


Students select an artist of their choice, research, then create a composition of an area of their school "in the style of" the artist of their choice. They write a report to share with the class. Shown: Welcoming Stairway in the style of Chagall.



Open media (within reason)
18 x 24 (46 x 61 cm) Drawing Paper
Visual resources/prints for a variety of artists from several time periods

Modern Movements - Submitted by Dawn Stein

Day 1 - Students visually sorted postcard images of each of 6 time periods. Child Sized masterpieces (below) has good sets of images if you don't already have a collection.

Day 2 - I had the students break into groups and do online research in the LMC. (I have the gathering info sheet they used at school - let me know if you're interested in it)

Day 3- Students worked together to created a poster for their art movement - that would be used by them to introduce the movement to the rest of the class. They had additional text resources available for continuing the project.

Days 4 and 5 - Students worked on ways to present the info in the spirit of Gardner's MI theory; meaning they could use anything they wanted to present the info. Rap, Newspaper edition, Newscast, Act out a image. (I think most teachers would be uncomfortable with this much leeway. I also plan to have a booklet available to tell them specifically how to go about each option, with job roles.)

Week 2 - They made a 5 minute presentation and then I followed up with a project that was made in that style.


Slide Jam (BC Periods) - submitted by Dawn Stein

When I introduced the BC art periods, I found that most of them had a pretty good feel for the work (we have an awesome History/Social studies dept apparently!) So, I broke them up into groups, they did some reading and then we had a "slide jam."

Students sat in their groups (so they could communicate with each other) and I showed a work of art. If they claimed the art period's slide, they got a point. (I also asked why it belonged or didn't belong) If they missed one that belonged to them, they lost a point. Another group could also get a point for recognizing the period it actually belonged to. They also lost a point (or maybe two) for guessing the wrong one. A student kept a tally of points for me.

They seem to like anything that's competitive in 6th grade. They really had fun and wanted to play this one again.


Sentence Puzzle/Scramble - Submitted by Janet

One thing I did once was type up the information about the artist I wanted the kids to know, then cut the paper up into strips and numbered them. As the students entered, I handed each student a strip. The stood in a line, in order and took turns reading the information. I also had a complete handout for them to put in their folders.


Six Traits Workshop Ideas - Submitted by Kimberly Herbert (also for elementary)
You take a passage about any subject, format it so each sentence has one line, and cut them apart. The students work in groups to put the passage back in a logical order. Another activity that they showed us that can be adapted for any subject is also fun and incorporates writing. The teacher makes a list of facts, non-facts (false facts), and opinions about a subject. Students work in groups to organize the bits into the proper categories. Then they individually write a paragraph using only the facts.


Scavenger Hunt - Submitted by Michal Austin (also for elementary)

I have my students go on a scavenger hunt - put up several reproductions and a list of things to find. Or, put up one painting and have them see who can come up with the most objects that can be seen in the painting.

I like to break up the info into smaller chunks, and include children's books whenever possible. It is amazing how even the most jaded high schooler will sit and listen quietly to a picture book - I usually open with a "just humor me on this, OK?" Picasso can be introduced with "When Pigasso Met Mootisse," Van Gogh has several books written about him, and more books about different artists are coming out all the time. I am planning on sharing several of these with my high school students and having them write and illustrate some children's books about different artists. Paul Harvey always has interesting tidbits about different artists. Students love the gossip and memorable stories about artists - I like the book "Artists, their lives and what the neighbors thought" (title may not be accurate).


"Blind Date" (from NAEA presentation by Diane Asay) - Kimberly Hutts

"Let's Get Visual: Using Images in Art Classes" presentation by Diane Asay - "Blind Date": Using prints with figures as their main subject matter. Ask students to speculate as to what it would be like "if these two went on a blind date." ~ Kimberly Hutts

Maggie White adds - I've used her "blind date" idea with my art history classes and it's a lot of fun. My favorite couple are David and Judith (who assassinated Holofernes - Warning, some teachers in the U.S. may find this image troubling.). Both were ordinary Jews who did something heroic to save their people, though by different means. Pick out any two famous works of people and send them on a blind date.

Naming tables after famous artists (Submitted by a number of teachers)

Name the tables where your students sit after different artists then study those artists over the course of the year. Many teachers change those names each year. Each table would do an independent study of their artist and then present to the class sometime through out the term. Put artist names in a hat to see who goes first - second and so forth. Provide a lot of help for the first group to get the ball rolling. Less help will be needed for the next groups. Maybe even have each group present a brief hands on lesson? Set up learning centers in your classroom for each artist. If possible, provide web page resources. See Woody Duncan's Table Artists pages. Assign one lesson where students develop their OWN project inspired by their table artists. This might be a culminating lesson towards the end of the term.


French Cafe - Submitted by Jeremy Wehlan

My area is drama so that would be my solution and I have an idea for you

That was a very interesting period (Surrealism was the topic) in art and almost everybody was in Paris at the time. I've been teaching for twenty years so I know that classes are made up of kids with mixed ambitions, some are driven and others coast. If you can get some of your more ambitious students to each pick an artist that was living in Paris at that time, or not, just an artist from the time, who maybe went to Paris. Get them each to pick one artist and to do some basic research on that artist, read a biography or something like that. They all had attitudes about each other, some were friends, others hated each other. Then fake a French cafe set in the classroom and have them do an "improv" as these characters inhabit the cafe. Don't forget the costumes, that is a real selling point. It can be as simple as a scarf, a hat, a cane, etc., but any attempt at costume adds a level of excitement/fun that should not be missed. If the other students get excited by the idea, let them find another artist of the time or even before that time, just an artist with an attitude and let them join in. It could be a once a week thing. Everyone can get into the act as bartenders, waiters, dancing girls, etc. More ideas can be found on Jeremy's Website.


Interview a Famous Artist - from Harold Olejarz

Famous Artist Interview Projects - Students selected and researched a famous artist. One of the students played the artist and another interviewed the artist. See the student videos on Harold's site.


Shoe Box Gallery - Submitted by Kathleen Arola

Lesson plan by Laura Shifflett- Students study an artist via the Internet and collect images. They create a mini gallery of the work. (Archive)


Artist Game - Art History Research - Submitted by Jeannie Sandoval

Jeannie Sandoval sent in this link woaknb.wz.sk
You can print off this template - or have students design their own.


I can see this working as a group artist research project. Teachers can pre-select a list of artists for the students to consider. Each groups picks a different artist from the list.


Divide the students into groups of three. Make the game boards with spaces in three different colors. One student will write questions about the life of the artist -- those will be keyed to one color of the board. Another student will write specific questions about the art of the artist - and that will be a different board color. The third group member writes questions about the times of the artist (world events and artist's contemporaries). Maybe have each student come up with ten questions (some may be eliminated by group discussion)

Some questions could even have a bonus! - The students take a trip to the gallery and select a small laminated print to keep featuring a noted work by the artist. Maybe even have a fourth pile of cards that are more challenging questions - student gets to move double spaces if answered correctly.


The group decides on game colors and the design of the three piles of cards. Students read over all the questions written and select the best ones for printing (integrating technology). The group also settles on a token design.


After the project is finished - Groups exchange games for a day to play. Students can easily make copies of the games to take home. The original game is laminated and kept in the art room for other classes to play.


Elementary Ideas

Letter to the Artist - Submitted by Kathleen Arola

This is good for elementary through high school. I think it would be really fun to have kids address envelopes to past or present famous artists (either the same artist for the whole class, after studying that person's work, or different artists for everyone, after individual research, depending upon the grade level). The envelopes could be covered with designs inspired by the artist to whom each one is addressed. If time permitted, letters could be written to the artists (either before or after designing the envelopes) and placed inside them. The letters would have to show an understanding and knowledge of the artist's work by the questions that are asked.


Added by Judy Decker: Oh definitely do the letter too! students would have to write the letter referring to things from the artist's life Like pretend Vincent just got to Arles and ask if he has settled in and where. Ask if he has heard anything from his Gauguin Tell him you heard the Sun flowers are gorgeous around there - ask him if he has considered painting them Kids would have to be familiar with that area of France, too, and ask if he has been to such and such a place yet Ask if he has met a "friend" of theirs - the postman -- and so on. Maybe the first year - do all the same artist for your own sanity. Have groups do different time periods in the artist's life Like Picasso - so many different styles!


Some could even do his young work as a kid - like be a "pen pal" - Pretend that they are answering the last letter they received - so students would have to figure out what Picasso (or whoever) would have written to him/her first. The artist might have said "I just finished such and such a painting and give a thorough description Older students could actually write two letters - one from the artist and one to the artist. You could give guidelines like: Letters must include description of at least one major work. Letters must include date/time period - location - three facts about the artists life. Make similar requirements for what the should should share about them - Maybe include three facts (in a creative way) about their location from the same time period. What was going on in USA (or your country) when Picasso was growing up?


Artist on a Box - from Sandy Jahnle

(In response to the envelope idea) My students used boxes in a similar way this past year -- students did their research on an artist and their product was a six-sided box with a drawn example of the artist's work on one side, a short bio on the second side, and the other four sides were devoted to Description, Analysis, Interpretation, and Judgment of the art. See the following website for more ideas:


woaknb.wz.sk~projects/critic. This idea is suitable for elementary through high school. (Archive)


Dress up as the Olde Masters - Lesson plan by Valerie Kerwin. See background information on this page.


Putting on an Act (Matisse) - Submitted by MaryAnn Kohl

This is something MaryAnn did for a young artists conference in Ferndale, Washington. She had four different groups of kids, from age K They wanted her to focus on a great master, and do an art project in that style. She chose Matisse, because she has always loved his paper cut-out phase. When the kids entered the room, she was dressed as Matisse, sitting up in bed (his last years were such), cutting paper and talking about "his" art. Then they did some paper cut-outs as a follow up. She also showed them some pictures of Matisse and his work. She found some beautiful quotes from Matisse that were part of her dialog.


  • Matisse draws blindfolded and says, "I wanted to see if I had the image in my fingers."

  • "My drawing effort (cutting paper) is flowering after 50 years of effort."

  • Matisse draws in the air before drawing on the paper, saying "When my hand makes a strange journey of its own, it is that I had not yet begun to sing."About being bedridden: "I can't get up any more. So I had my bed moved to the largest room in the house, and here I work." He is covered with a yellow blanket with red flowers. Working with large scissors, he cuts away at paper. He tapes charcoal to a fishing pole and draws on the ceiling and wall.

  • He once said, "I feel all the curiosity of a traveler in a foreign land. I go forward totally in my expression of color."

  • About cutting paper, "I am like a medieval sculptor carving into stone." and "With only scissors and paste, I set a dancer free."

  • Having drawn his grandchildren on the ceiling over his bed, "I drew my grand children on the ceiling today., They keep me company."

  • When asked if he would go back to painting. "I have plenty of time for that - I'm only 83!"

Other quotes:

  • My work is like peering into a mirror that is steamed over.

  • Copying objects is nothing. One must express feelings!

  • My life is an effort that stems from my search for the truth.

  • I want my art to fill rooms with gaiety, a place to make people happy.

Naming tables after famous artists (submitted by a number of teachers)

Name the tables where your students sit after different artists then study those artists over the course of the year. Many teachers change those names each year.


From Linda Woods:

I bought 6 books for my table artists that have full page illustrations. I determine my table artists each year on what post card collections I find, or what book I find to cut up. Not too scientific. This year my table artists by "default" are O'Keeffe,Escher,Renoir,Matisse, and Audubon. I cut out six foam core shapes, spray painted them glossy black, drilled holes for hanging, and splashed each artist's name on them in silver with some zippy little pattern backgrounds. I'm hanging two back to back illustrations from these books from the foam core with fishing line. From the bottom of the posters, I am dangling cutout words relating to each artist. These will hang over each table to give my table groups "identity." My bulletin boards will be more pages cut from these 6 books and all about the table artists. On my first day, we'll play some game about the table artists briefly.


Last year's artists were Van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, Botticelli, Degas, and Vermeer.


Suggested "First Day Games" for table artists:

1. Artist "Scavenger Hunt" (Submitted by Michal Austin) - Come up with a list of things they need to find in the paintings/works you have on display. Have them work in teams. The first team to find all gets a reward - like each member will get a small laminated mini print of their table artist (I am giving you permission to make prints from your resources for this purpose) -The prizes could be postcard size - with info about the artist, a self portrait or photo and image info on the back). Now - the problem is - you won't know who will win so have no clue what prints to make up in advance. My answer to this would be to have a page of digital images printed off for each artist and let the kiddies who win pick out the one they want (four on a page for each artist - just four would be enough) They will order their prize so maybe have an arty treat too as an immediate reward.

Got any Sax product freebies? or fancy pencils?

2. Letter/Email to the artist (idea submitted by Kathleen Arola). Have each team come up with a series of questions they have for their table artist. Look at all questions each group came up with at the end of the day Select five or six per artist and then set up an email account for each one on Yahoo (Can you Yahoo from school? Many schools have Yahoo mail blocked). Use the same password for each Yahoo account [email&#;protected] - [email&#;protected] and so forth (you might find that some may already have Yahoo accounts. You will email the artist from your own school account. When the kiddies aren't around - you would work on answering their questions (even call upon the art ed list experts to help if you are stumped - some list members may be "experts" on certain artists) - then mail back the answers -- and include a book (from your library) - or web sites where they can find out more. You might consider getting a parent volunteer to be the artist and have the parent volunteer send the email (make sure the questions you give them are ones the parents can easily find answers to). This was sparked by seeing Kathleen's letter post - I added the technology twist to do email. Naturally - I would like to put a sample series of questions ( a student sample letter) and answers on IAD for this. Each kid could write a letter to the artist and decorate the envelope "in the style of" (a self directed lesson - no added teaching on your part - you just provide the materials - Colored Pencils. Crayons and/or markers would be easiest to monitor).


Linda reinforces her Table Artists everyday - From Linda:

Sometimes I tell my kids to do things as they walk to the door things that have to do with their table artists. For example, one of the posters I have on the wall for Escher is the Waterfall where the river flows uphill on a rooftop. One day I told them to move like a river flowing backwards to the door. one day I told them to turn from day into night as they walked to the door. I told the Renoirs to dance a waltz to the door. On another day I told them to pinch their cheeks till they were really rosy and walk in their most elegant clothes to the door. The Matisses had to form a group organic shape while holding hands as they walked to the door. One day the Matisses had to walk in a pattern to the door. O'Keeffes had to walk like a skeleton to the door, slither like a desert snake to the door, and one day had to hold GIANT flowers as they walked to the door. The Seurats had to pretend to ride on a circus horse to the door, imagine that their feet were paint brushes and paint a dotted line to the door. Audubons have had to quack to the door, fly to the door, and pretend to be taxidermied as they walked to the door. They love that game. (Linda comes up with all of these ideas on the spot - she has shared many more with me).


Artist Activity Cards - Submitted by MaryAnn Kohl

I've just posted some "art activity cards" for the regular elementary classroom, though may be used in art rooms as well. The cards are taken from my book, Discovering Great Artists, and you have permission to print them one time for classroom use, but not for distribution (please). Go to: woaknb.wz.sk - choose "Activity Cards" - Download pdf file


Note from Judy: These would be great for your "Free Time" Art Days. Print out these Art History Activity cards and laminate them. Add to them with some of your own favorite artists. Place cards in your various media centers.



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