Groundswell Mural Project Ellis Island

Mural of a boy sharing his heart
One of the murals painted by artist and youth participants.
1. The best scholarship and good research are the place to start. Youth artists met with NPS educators, took field trips to relevant historical sites like the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, and used first-rate scholarship to conduct intensive research on the importance of immigration in U.S. history.

2. We should not shy away from conflict and controversy in and about the past. Students sparked vibrant debates about immigration today. They delved into the current social and political dialogue, asking, is America still a nation which embraces its history as a country built by immigrants?

3. Doing history is a way to develop skills for civic participation. Panels of “Our American Narrative Continues” hang prominently in the park. They serve to remind visitors about the influence of immigration, past and present. The murals also allow park staff to work with local communities in which immigration affects several generations.

4. The past reverberates in the present. Panels are historic, illustrating the immigrant identities of the early 20th century and today and reflecting on the American Dream in the 21st century. The young artists rely on this imagery and language to link their experiences with the memorialization of the immigrant story.

5. Our understanding of how people have shaped events changes over time. Youth artists came to understand how immigrants of all generations made choices. While not always easy, these decisions were meant to help immigrants establish a better life in a new country. At the same time, youth artists realized their role and power in creating a shared future.

6. Digital tools can share resources widely and tap new audiences. Though installed at Ellis Island the murals are available online for everyone to appreciate. See them here along with reflections from the young artists:

Back to the History Discover Events Gallery
Back to the Series: Best Practices for History Lessons and History Discovery Events.
Artist Danielle McDonald working with youth.
Artist Danielle McDonald working with youth.

Last updated: September 12, 2017