There’s a mural in Winsted, Connecticut, that’s five stories tall. It’s 120 feet long. Artist Ellen Griesedieck created it. She had help from thousands of students all over the country. The massive artwork took more than 20 years to make. It’s now on display for the public.PETER BROWN
Griesedieck calls the work the American Mural Project (AMP). That’s also the name of the arts center where it’s displayed. The mural celebrates American workers. Steelworkers, heart surgeons, athletes, and a teacher are among those pictured. “There’s somebody real behind every piece of this,” Griesedieck told TIME for Kids.MARIE STALLING
To create the mural, Griesedieck met workers all over the United States. She took photos of them on the job. Then she painted them. There’s Pamela. She’s shown working at an aircraft factory in Everett, Washington. There’s Nina, a farmer. And Edwin. He’s a New York City police officer. “The portrait of him is 18 feet high,” Griesedieck says. “But his story is way bigger than that.” Griesedieck likes to get to know the people she paints. This makes her portraits feel personal.SHARI MARKS
A Team Effort
Student participation is a big part of Griesedieck’s art project. So far, AMP has worked with 15,000 students in 17 states. In West Virginia, fifth graders from Ceredo Elementary School worked with a glassblower. They made a 42-foot image of water on which a fishing boat is floating. In New Mexico, kids made ceramic tiles. They form the shirt of a mechanic named Stitch.
Kathy Reddy teaches art in Fairfield, Connecticut. She and her students have been involved with AMP for more than a decade. Reddy’s first and second graders made life-size self-portraits showing what they want to be when they grow up. These were displayed at the school. Older kids made a quilt. It shows work done by their grandparents. It will be displayed at AMP. “Every one of the projects we did was a lesson that kids have a voice,” Reddy says, “and that they can express themselves in an artistic way.”MARIE STALLING
The AMP building is a former mill. Inside, pieces are still being added to the mural. “We’re a work in progress,” Michelle Begley says. She’s the education programs director. “We anticipate that we’ll never really be done.”
Students who go to see the mural can take art classes at AMP, which also leads programs in schools. “We’re really focusing on hands-on, open-ended creativity,” Begley says.
For Griesedieck, AMP is all about collaboration . “I tell kids, ‘When you come here, we’re working together on something bigger than we are,’” she says. “The only way you can do something like this is if you work with other people.”
Piecing it TogetherCOURTESY ELLEN GRIESEDIECK
It takes teamwork to install a giant piece of art. These workers are using a mechanical lift. They’re adding a large-scale portrait of New York City firefighter Melissa Bennett to Griesedieck’s mural.
Bennett’s portrait is just one part of many. For example: “We’ve got 116 pieces of marble that look like a jigsaw puzzle of the Statue of Liberty,” Griesedieck says. Adding those heavy pieces to the mural took more than a month.