Valerie J. Christell
Big art

Enormous mural wants your touch

By - Jul 9th, 2010 04:00 am
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What’s the smallest piece of artwork you’ve ever seen–that wasn’t the result of an artist’s hysterical demolition–and where did you see it?

Have you, perhaps, perused through Coke-bottle-strength pince-nez those miniature paintings on ivory, encased in metal and glass, with exquisite detail done with what must be a size negative five brush? After leaving whatever museum space you found them in, did your mind burst, python versus alligator style, when you drove by one of those relatively huge outdoor murals aiming to make whatever social statement has been deemed appropriate to for that community? Did you then ask yourself if bigger is better?

A study for the AMP. All photos by Shari Marks

If not, then just wait a moment as we take a step back. The sacred indoor murals of Michelangelo and DaVinci have to cope with a much younger relative, what they might consider a black sheep, in the paintings adorning outside walls of buildings and underpasses.

This art reaches out to all people, whether they like it or not. Some viewers even confuse them with advertisements, but not to worry, because those are created by artists, too, yes?

Now this where the true mind bending begins, as there’s a new mural in town (in Connecticut, actually) that’s already too large for the inside or outside of any current building, and it’s still expanding.


Well, it’s been dreamt of, the core of it is being worked on, and there’s a building to be built around it–an expensive frame of sorts. And the point of this mural, as with any good social statement or advertising art piece, is to build it and they will come.

And your participation, not just your observation, is now invited.

Children add their mark to the mural

This weekend, Mequon’s Gathering on the Green is hosting a festival that includes a huge, collaborative art creation opportunity. If you believe that all people should express themselves through the arts, then this is for you. All ages of artists and non-artists alike can come together to create a part of an individual expression about creativity and working together.

Named the American Mural Project, it’s billed as a celebration of American ingenuity, productivity and commitment to work.

AMP is the brainchild of Connecticut artist Ellen Griesedieck and the late actor Paul Newman. They’ve birthed a huge one, too. The mural is so immense that a special building is being created for what will, understandably, be the largest indoor collaborative artwork in the world. It’s a sculptural, mixed media painting that will be 120 feet long, five stories high and ten feet deep.

Architectural firm Burr McCallum has finished the plans for the renovation of two mill buildings in Winsted, Conn., which involves raising the roof of the mural building 25 feet. Maybe it’s not quite the architectural project Daniel Burnham oversaw for the 1893 World’s Fair, but the entire undertaking follows Burnham’s maxim: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

Artist Ellen Griesedieck

AMP’s aim is for the renovated mill buildings to become a destination for field trips, guest lectures and workshops with local artists and artisans to inspire, invite collaboration and reveal to people of all ages the varied contributions they can make to American culture. Integrating artwork from each state will enhance this goal.

This project may end in Connecticut, but its roots will always be in Wisconsin. Based on the grand size envisioned for this mural, the creation of its paper pulp pieces, called links, required the creative minds and skills of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee School of Engineering and Keiding Corp. The individual link is the largest recycled paper pulp piece ever created from a mold anywhere in the world.

MSOE’s Rapid Prototyping Center through MSOE developed the links model. The RPC, one of the best in the country, is used by nearly 200 area businesses to reduce the time of product development. Keiding, a world-leading designer and manufacturer of recycled, molded pulp products, has been fabricating AMP’s links from MSOE’s model.

So for the American Mural Project, as widespread as it gets in its quest to honor workers’ ingenuity, Wisconsin will always be firmly at its foundation. That’s big. So now the question is, do you want to be part of something big?

Gathering on the Green performing arts festival runs July 8-10. The American Mural Project collaboration takes place Saturday, July 10.

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