Our American Narrative Continues

  • An older woman holds children in her hand, a sign for hope for her future generations to make a better life in this new country.
  • The youth artists draw the design from the sketch to the panels.
  • After drawing the design with pencil, the team outlines the shapes with blue paint.
  • Lead Artist Danielle McDonald’s smile is reminiscent of the smile of the women in the painting.
  • The figure, based on a youth participant who emigrated from the Caribbean, opens up his heart to reveal that we are all connected.

Project Description

Created for public display at Ellis Island, “Our American Narrative Continues” is a six-part mural panel series celebrating the rich history of immigration to the United States.
As part of Groundswell’s Teen Empowerment Mural Apprenticeship (TEMA), Groundwell’s youth artist team was amazed to discover that nearly 12 million immigrants poured through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. During their research, they learned that more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island, the nation's chief gateway during the years 1892 to 1924. The students explored the public dialogue about immigration today, and asked themselves if America is still a nation which embraces its history as a country built by immigrants
The panel series is split between a historic narrative, which illustrates the journey to and through Ellis Island, the immigrant identity during the early 20th century, and the historic notion of the American Dream, and contemporary panels, which explore the process to become an American today, the fragmented identify experienced by many current immigrants, and the notion of the American Dream in the 21st century. The historic panels have an aged, sepia-toned aesthetic, balanced by the vibrant, vivid color palette of the contemporary ones. Throughout the mural design, a butterfly motif suggests that freedom and migration is both essential to the human experience and beautiful and natural.
Ultimately, viewers of the panels are invited to question how the treasured notion of the American Dream, where once hard work gave the promise of personal achievement and success, has given way to one rife with challenges, obstacles, and barriers to success for new immigrants.
Download educational curriculum (pdf)
Visit Ellis Island's multimedia website (link)

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Project Info

Fun Facts

Suggested Activity
Create a painting that reveals your ancestral roots and any tales of migration experienced by your family.
“By illustrating the personal side of the immigrant experience, these youth artists have conveyed the powerful notion that migration is a fluid process, not something to be overcome or shed.” – Lead Artist Danielle McDonald
More than 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who crossed this island before dispersing to points all over the country