PBS American Portrait is a national storytelling initiative that aims to inspire a new understanding of what it really means to be American today. It asks people all over the country to contribute stories by responding to one of a number of thought-provoking prompts. Whether it's joy or sorrow, triumph or hardship, family traditions followed for decades or just the chaos of morning breakfast, we want to put together a picture of life as it's really lived, today. It's a chance for people to give a glimpse into their life, and a chance for them to be heard.
First launched as a cross-platform website allowing users to contribute their own stories and explore those submitted by others, the initiative also includes a PBS broadcast series, an outreach ecosystem spanning social & paid media, street team reps & local artists, PBS learning integration, and plans for additional extensions.
This is a major opportunity to make history by creating a communal space where people can share, explore and listen. The more people we encourage to participate and the more stories we gather, the more we’ll see a real, complex, fascinating portrait of America.
American Portrait is now a book
American Portrait: The Story of Us, Told by Us, published by Harper Collins. order your copy now.
I was raised to believe you should live life with empathy and understanding.
American Stories. American Artists.
PBS American Portrait presents three groundbreaking public art projects. Inspired by stories shared on this site, as well as the unique individual and community narratives of the artists, each piece seeks to expand the reach of American Portrait, offering new perspectives on the journeys that brought us here and the paths that lie before us.
Swoon: The House Our Families Built Traveling around NYC, a 14 foot box truck has been transformed into a diorama-style outdoor sculpture that is a stage for both visual and performance art, inspired by domestic scenes and stories shared on this site.
Caledonia Curry whose work appears under the name Swoon, uses intricate cutaways, painting, and performance to build a world that blends reality and wonder. As a roving, mobile sculpture, The House Our Families Built, asks viewers to consider the legacy of ancestral histories - whether through traditions, trauma, or repeated narratives - and the ways in which they inform how we understand and talk about ourselves.
Carlos Ramirez: Altar to a Dream Nomadic laborers have sustained American agriculture for decades. In this colorful homage, a vintage car becomes a symbol of the arduous paths taken by these workers and their families, of what is left behind and what is carried forward.
Ramirez’s Altar to a Dream expresses the experience of migrant populations as a central focus. Using his signature bright colors, murals, readymade objects, and neon, he creates both an homage and a space of worship out of the artifacts common to this journey. While his memories are personal, they reflect the risky journey so many immigrants take to fulfill their dreams of a better life in America.
Rick Lowe: G.A.P. Van As Tulsa, Oklahoma, approaches the centennial of a dark moment in its history, the G.A.P. van is inspiring residents to commemorate and learn together - not only exhibiting art and sharing performances, but encouraging everyone to use art and creativity to foster mutual understanding and healing. Rick Lowe’s G.A.P. Van is a multi-use, collaborative mobile art exhibition, workshop space and crosstown poster project.
The name G.A.P means a lot to the Tulsa community. Most notably, it references 1980’s R&B group GAP BAND. The acronym stands for Greenwood/Archer and Pine, their home and boundary streets of historic Greenwood, popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” and the site of the most devastating massacre in the history of US race relations.
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