Introduction: Talking Art Display

Displays in school hallways can get a bit dull. Most of the students don't look at them or give much thought to the work they create for them. I wanted to create a more engaging display that would require my AP Art students to speak thoughtfully about their artworks. This display uses a Makey Makey and Scratch to create a display that, when touched, plays recordings of the students talking about their work.

To hear all the student's comments, check out this Scratch project!


Makey Makey


computer speakers

insulated wire

wire strippers

metal tape

scotch tape

packing tape




butcher paper

Kwik Stix tempera paint

Step 1: Hang Art

The first step is to hang the artworks on the inside of the glass. Packing tape works well since it's clear. Just mount the paper artworks first, so the tape isn't directly applied to the artwork. It can be easily cut off when the display comes down.

Step 2: Wires

The Makey Makey wires aren't long enough, and we don't want our display to show the alligator clips, so the next step is to cut a piece of insulated wire for each artwork.

Use a wire stripper to strip the ends of the wire and tape one end next to each artwork on the outside of the glass.

Step 3: Labels

Add a piece of tape to the end of each wire identifying the work or artist. Once they get all jumbled together and wrapped into the inside of the case, you'll be glad to have these.

Step 4: Make Buttons

Cut a square of metal tape for each wire end on the front of the glass. I used some patterned scissors to make them a bit more fun and less obvious that they weren't perfectly cut.

Step 5: Buttons for Earth and Stop

The Makey Makey requires the user to complete a circuit, so you'll also need an "earth" button or two. My case is pretty large, so I put one on each side using red wires.

I also added a green wire for a stop button. If some wacky students decide to press all the buttons at once, you'll want to be able to turn it off.

Follow the same process as the wires on the glass.

Step 6: Signage and Instructions

Most people haven't used a Makey Makey before, and even if they have, they won't be able to see it. Therefore, you'll need some instructions. Make a sign, or two, that makes it clear they need to touch both an "earth" button on the side of the display as well as a button by an artwork.

Don't forget labels for the individual artworks and a larger title banner.

I used Kwik Stix tempera paint on some butcher paper for my signage. The Kwik Stix are my new favorite material for making large signs. They're like giant oil pastels that dry, so they don't smudge and rub off on everything.

Step 7: Hook It Up


Have your students record themselves talking about their artworks using the app of your choice. However, make sure it records to .wav or .mp3 files, because those are the only types that you can upload to Scratch.


Go to to create the code for your Makey Makey.

Head to the Sounds tab at the top right of the page and upload your sound files by rolling over the + button at the bottom and choosing upload.

Select any dead space as the beginning of the files and delete it. Otherwise, people think the display isn't working because they touch it and it takes too long for the audio to start.

Add a "When [space] key pressed" code block followed by a "Play sound [meow] until done" block.

Duplicate until you have one for each artwork.

Change the keys so they're all different and they match the keys on the Makey Makey.

Change all the meows to the recordings you uploaded.

For the stop button, use a "When [space] key pressed" code block followed by a "stop all sounds" code block.


Put your laptop inside the display case and connect the Makey Makey.

Add an alligator clip to the end of each of the insulated wires.

Check the labels on the end of the wires and match them with the code. Connect them to the matching location on the Makey Makey.

Attach the "earth" wires on the sides of the display to the "earth" sections of the Makey Makey.

Step 8: Speakers, Backdrop, and Power

Plug some computer speakers into the laptop and hang them outside the display case.

I used a couple pieces of cardstock to staple around the cord in a way that supported it enough that it would sit on top of the ledge above the display.

Add some butcher paper behind the artworks to hide as many of the wires as possible.

I turned off all the power saving features to keep the screen from timing out. If it does, it won't work. To compensate, I turned the screen brightness all the way down. I also ran the charger cable out of the display case and into my classroom. I'll have to unplug it each morning and plug it back in each afternoon to keep it from being a tripping hazard, but it's worth it.

Step 9: Have Some Educational Fun

This type of display is more thoughtful for students to create and is a great example for others who are still learning how to talk about their artworks and what they mean.

Makey Makey Contest

Runner Up in the
Makey Makey Contest