To provide a visual documentation of the people who helped build this country, Ellen decided she wanted to involve people from all 50 states, particularly kids, in the mural’s creation. And she wanted to make the mural so big, to have such an impact, that no one would be able to ignore the wonder and art in the work we do. With partners local to the project sites—from leaders of charitable organizations to top professionals exploring new frontiers in their own fields—she began working with kids on art projects that address health, fitness, conservation, energy alternatives, space exploration, and more.
To date, more than 15,000 students from 17 states have contributed to the mural through AMP’s education and artistic initiatives, and nearly 50,000 are expected to contribute once the mural is finished. Ellen and partner artist-educators have led school children in art projects that teach about the history of work in America, generational work histories, and future work opportunities. With 33 state projects remaining, AMP will continue to add more elements in the coming years that will become integral components of the existing mural.
AMP is dedicated to translating America’s diverse history of work into a selection of lesson plans, applicable for all grade levels and available to students and teachers across the country. Like AMP’s state projects, the curriculum focuses on collaboration, diversity, community, open debate, and creative problem solving. The multi-subject lesson plans typically involve an art project as a way into history, geography, math, social studies, and American culture. The lesson plans are catalysts for getting participants to become physically involved with learning, to create projects beyond their imagination and textbook knowledge, and to consider new opportunities of their own.
The original impetus for the curriculum was to open up the experience of AMP’s state projects to students across the country. The projects have also served as opportunities to develop aspects of the curriculum. With a 2008 grant from the Alcoa Foundation, AMP has been developing the curriculum for several years. It is now in use in 20 schools in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut.
The map to the right depicts state projects finished (green states) and upcoming state projects (light blue states). The icons on each state represent ongoing collaborative projects.
Alabama – Work Clothes Project
California – Helix Project
Colorado - Pennies for Peace Project
Connecticut - Foundry Project
Illinois - Hope Meadows Project
Louisiana - Mid-City Dance Project
Maine - Scavenger Hunt Project
Massachusetts - Foundry Project
Minnesota - Paw Prints Project
Nevada - Agassi Academy Project
New Mexico - Taos Tiles Project
New York - Foundry Project
Pennsylvania - Manchester Craftmen's Guild Project
South Carolina - Indigo Squares Project
Washington D.C. - D.C. Project
West Virginia - Glass Project
Wisconsin - Salvaged Timber Project