Doing Collage Art

What is Collage Art?

Collage art consists of a collection of pictures, words, and other materials retrieved from various sources and pasted together to form a symbolic composition of images. Collage art began centuries ago with the invention of paper, and became mainstream around the end of the 20th century when European artists such as Picasso began to incorporate it into their artwork.

Any form of palpable object may be used to create a collage. Newspapers, magazines, clothing, and books are just a few ideas for collage art resources. The works created by collage art can be very moving, especially when images of well-known or cultural icons are used. For this reason, collage art has the potential to speak volumes when used for HIV/AIDS awareness and education.

Why Use Collage Art for HIV/AIDS Education?

Collage has the power to bring awareness to communities concerning HIV/AIDS because there are so many diverse ways in which it may be approached. As there are no concrete standards of what a collage must look like, anyone is free to create their own masterpiece. Furthermore, because collages tend to be a medley of bits and pieces, it allows for multiple people to work on one collage simultaneously, uniting families, friends, and communities.


    ✓ Materials are easy to come by, as an assortment of items may be used in a collage
    ✓ “A picture is worth a thousand words”: messages and information may be better understood on an emotional level through the use of images
    ✓ Many people can collaborate on one collage
    ✓ By using books, newspapers, and magazines for collages, it is possible to gain knowledge about both past and current social issues


    x Depending on the target group, interest may be lacking when it comes to creating collages. For example, some may find it juvenile.
    x Depending on the community, appropriate materials may be difficult to come by, as various governments have been known to strictly regulate the circulation of printed media
    x Materials used for collage art may not be durable against the forces of the elements, such as the outdoor elements, time, etc., thus shortening the lifespan of the work

*TIP* Showing examples of compelling collages as a demonstration may help to both inspire and bring clarity to the target group.

Existing Methods of Collage Art

While the word “collage” embodies all forms of art composed of an assortment of found objects, this particular art medium can be broken down into a couple of specific styles. Most people tend to think of a collage as a flat picture made up of cut and pasted pictures, words, and other articles. However, collage art is not necessarily limited to such forms.


Photomontage is the layering of photographs upon photographs. There are numerous methods by which this can be done, ranging from simple cut and paste techniques to more advanced film layering with the use of a darkroom. While the end result of darkroom photomontage can make for a beautiful work of art, it is an expensive and difficult task that may be hard to introduce in a community setting.

With the expansion of the digital art world, however, sophisticated and less complicated photomontage techniques are becoming ever popular. Computer programs such as Photoshop and Adobe InDesign are available for creating photomontage pieces. Unfortunately, the drawback to these programs is that computer access is not always obtainable for the desired target group.


Assemblage is another form of collage, using 3D materials to create a unified sculpture. Assemblage can be a fun and easily available activity, as there are no limitations on the types of supplies that may be used. What many people may identify as “junk” or “garbage” can be transformed into a unique and intriguing assemblage figure.

Leading a Collage Workshop

A wonderful aspect of creating collage art is that it is very much a social activity. Youth are able to discuss and bond while creating their collages, and can look to one another for advice, ideas, and encouragement. When leading a collage workshop, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that the workshop is a success:


Where will the workshop be located? Public places are ideal, for they draw attention to the issue at hand and spur the interest of onlookers. It is also important to be aware of the set up of the location. Large tables with plenty of room for multiple people to work at once will make for a light and sociable atmosphere, as participants will be able to mingle with one another. A few ideas for suitable locations include:

  • Public parks
  • Community Centers
  • Schools
  • Public Museums
  • Libraries

*REMEMBER* When working in a public place, be sure to have the appropriate permission from the proprietor of the desired setting.


It is also important to have the appropriate materials available for participants. Scissors, glue, paper, books, magazines, and newspapers are the very basics of collage art tools. If the budget for a collage workshop is very tight or non-existent, be resourceful! Community centers often have craft materials to lend out, and used or outdated newspapers and magazines can be obtained for free from local shops (just be sure to ask before taking). Used bookstores offer wonderful collage supplies for little cost, and participants may be asked ahead of time to bring anything they think would be suitable for a collage workshop.

Creating a collage is often easier with the use of a solid surface, so provide tables and chairs. Again, community centers, libraries, or schools may lend out such equipment, but picnic benches provided in public parks can be useful as well. A collage workshop does not have to be formal; sitting on the floor or ground is another option for seating arrangements, and can in fact be beneficial for generating a relaxed and open environment (be sure that sharp objects or garbage do not pervade the seating area!).

Before, During, and After the Workshop

Before the Workshop

Before the workshop date, decide on the desired level of audience participation. How many people are expected to attend? Who will attend? How will they receive word of the workshop event? Some ideas for publicizing the event:

  • Distribute posters around the neighborhood/city to make known the purpose and details of the workshop
  • Contact friends and family, and enlist their help for attracting participants
  • Get in touch with community leaders and teachers who may be able to announce the event to great numbers of people and youth

During the Workshop

While leading the workshop, there is great opportunity to connect with the participants and make clear the purpose of the event. It is also a prime time to document the event so as to lengthen the lifespan of the awareness brought to HIV/AIDS issues. Some ideas for documenting the event:

  • Photographing participants as they create collage art and socialize
  • Allowing for participant feedback through the use of guest books
  • Notifying local radio or television stations of the event may prompt media interest

After the Workshop

Once the workshop is finished, any documentation of the event may be posted on the Internet, or displayed within the community in community centers, libraries, or schools. Likewise, the art created through the workshop may be donated to community centers, libraries, schools, or shelters. Museums and art galleries may also be interested in displaying the art.

Incorporating Multiple Art Methodologies
Blending various art forms can have a powerful impact on the project at hand, as well as enhance the final product. Some art forms that can be incorporated with collage art include:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Billboards and Murals
  • Poetry
  • Books & Novels
  • Narrative Writing

World Wide Web: Information on Existing HIV/AIDS Collage Art Resources

Art for AIDS International (n.d.), Retrieved July 2007, from

Children as Community Researchers (March 2001), Retrieved August 2007, from

Global Collage (1996–), Retrieved August 2007, from

International Visual Methodologies for Social Change Project (n.d.), Retrieved August 2007, from

The Body: Visual Aids (1999-2007) Retrieved July 2007, from
(not all images in The Body's gallery are collages, but there are some good examples)


Bantock, Nick. (2004). Urgent 2nd Class. Raincoast Books

Grosenick, Uta. (2001). Nan Goldin. In Grosenick, Uta, Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century (156-161). Italy: Taschen GmbH

Mitchell, C., Norris, G., Mbokazi, T., Rorke, F., & Goba, S. (2007). Where do we start? Using collage to explore very young adolescents' knowledge about HIV and AIDS in four senior primary classrooms in KwaZulu-Natal. In International Journal of Inclusive Education, Volume 11, Issue 4 (July 2007) 481 – 499.

Ruskin, Cindy. (1988). The Quilt. New York: Pocket Books