Nader supports mural
WINSTED — The Laurel City-based American Mural Project has received a boost from consumer advocate and Winsted native Ralph Nader, who visited the art project’s studios on Whiting Street Tuesday afternoon to hand over two checks and express his support for the undertaking, which he called “extraordinary.”The four-time presidential candidate visited the studios with his sister, Claire, to meet American Mural Project artist-founder Ellen Griesedieck of Sharon, who has been working on her 40-foot-tall, 120-foot-long art project — nicknamed the Wall of America — for the past 12 years. At this stage of development, the project still needs approximately $4.5 million in funding to complete renovations at two old mill buildings in order to house the completed structure, which will pay tribute to the American worker and will include contributions from students and laborers throughout the United States. Griesedieck said she believes the total cost of the project will be approximately $7 million.Having already raised millions of dollars to complete an environmental study and initial renovations at the old mill property, Griesedieck said she is now raising funds for phase two, which will include raising the roof of the main building to house the giant artwork. That building will be connected to another brick building behind it, via a glass arcade. Ramps and a balcony will be installed for viewing the installation and a visitors center will include a theater, classrooms and a café. Nearby offices are located in a house on Whiting Street, which has already been renovated with American Mural Project funds.Griesedieck acknowledged that the project’s scope has become exponentially more complicated as it has been exposed to new people and ideas.“If I had started out 12 years ago and said to myself, ‘I’m going to have all these people working on this project and the cleanup and everything to do,’ I would have said, ‘no way, forget it,’ ” she said. “Everything is way bigger than what I would have imagined. But if you have an idea and you believe in it, as things seem to become more impossible, the whole thing becomes more important. Every time I become discouraged I also think this is way bigger and more important than I thought.”Nader said he is impressed by the scope and mission of the project, and suggested a number of funding sources for Griesedieck to seek out. Presenting two checks for $1,000 each, he encouraged Winsted residents to also get in on the fundraising effort and show their support for a project that has local, regional and national significance.“This project is really for the whole region, not just Winsted,” Nader said. “It’s extraordinary. Any one of the major corporate foundations could fund this.”Nader noted, coincidentally, that a $4.5 million sum — about the amount Griesedieck needs to complete her project — was given to to the National Zoo by a philanthropist last month to maintain two giant pandas.Griesedieck said she has been in talks with the General Electric corporation regarding the possibility of a sponsorship, but Nader suggested that she not stop there, encouraging her to seek out specific foundations that are eager to fund artistic and educational endeavors. Nader and Griesedieck also noted that they have a number of mutual friends, including actress Jane Curtin, who lives in Sharon and was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” when Nader was the guest host on Jan. 15, 1977. Nader said he would be interested in getting together with Curtin for a private screening of the show, for old time’s sake, if it might help the American Mural Project.