American Mural Project at the Hartford Library

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The miniature scale of what the mural will look like.

Yesterday, in the mess of rain and wind, our entire department (okay, there’s only three of us…) trekked down to the Hartford Public Library where the American Mural Project was opening its exhibit.

This project is probably one of the coolest, yet most difficult things in the world to describe. Founded by artist Ellen Griesedieck ten years ago, the idea began as she working on projects about people across America in all kinds of careers–from copper miners to taxi drivers. She decided she wanted to do a mural encapsulating the energy and work ethic of America, and so the project was born. Griesedieck is an incredibly petite (which is saying something coming from 5’0″ me) bundle of kinetic energy and positivity. Just talking with her you find yourself becoming excited and more invigorated. She’s kind of like caffeine.

When I think of a mural, I think of a big painting on a wall. This, however, is a multi-media, 120-foot long, five-story high, 10-foot deep, three-dimensional undertaking that you will be able to climb and walk through. It’s not only paint on a flat surface, it will involve fiberglass, wood, fabric, tile, wire…and a whole lot of scaffolding.

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Attaching the last piece to the scaffolding

Many of the components of the project are being or have been created across the U.S. by people from all walks of life (Griesedieck aims to have collaborative projects in all 50 states) including items built by  students, folks associated with NASA, items signed by athletes like Joe Torre and Muhammad Ali, scraps from various Habitat for Humanity projects, school children and more.

One section will even include 100  giant “links”  with signatures from members of different communities all over the country–one was just created in Colorado with Greg Mortensen, author of Three Cups of Tea being the first signatory. By the end of this, over 10,000 people will have participated in this project.

Another strong supporter of this project was Paul Newman, who served on the Board and was a personal friend of Griesedieck. In fact, it was she who did all the portraits on the Newman’s Own products.

photoOn display at the Hartford Public Library are components of the mural–many standing two stories tall and attached to scaffolding. As we arrived, volunteers were attaching a giant piece of honey combed aluminum that had been “forgotten” by the movers. Only when one compares the size of any one of these pieces to the small-scale model can you get an inkling of what a massive undertaking this is!

The mural is to be housed in Winsted, in an old mill that once made McCormick spices. Currently, it’s not tall enough to hold this bad boy, so the roof is being raised, literally. Originally, Griesedieck hoped to build it in North Dakota. Clearly, Connecticut was the better choice.

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No joke--it's gonna be HUGE

Be sure to stop by the Hartford Public Library and check out the exhibit in the very front at street level–you’ll be amazed. Inside the building proper are a series of pictures depicting the many collaborative projects across the country that will become a part of the mural–kids dressed in garbage bags dancing on giant paper with paint on their feet, science students building metal orbs, and more. This is truly the American Mural Project.

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