The flag of the United States occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of the American people. It is an extraordinary, transcendent national treasure and remains a powerful symbol of the American dream, reflecting the ideals, values and traditions that have defined our national experience. It is vital that this symbol of freedom, liberty and equality continues to be a source of inspiration for future generations. Our goal with this project is to inspire people of all ages – especially in our school communities and with veterans groups – to use our country’s flag as a way to develop a stronger appreciation for the meaning of patriotism.
I Pledge USA
The story of I PLEDGE USA began with a single piece of artwork developed in 2011 and entered in ARTPRIZE, the Grand Rapids, Michigan venue which has been called the world’s largest art competition (www.artprize.org). The piece, I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE, depicting the US Flag, was a crowd favorite, especially with younger school age children who immediately were drawn to the artwork’s familiar red, white and blue color scheme and among veterans who expressed their appreciation for the patriotic remembrances included on the various tiles used to create the work.
In 2012 we entered ARTPRIZE with another similarly-themed work entitled LIBERTY, representing the Statue of Liberty, using many of the images taken during the previous year’s event. The crowd response was even more enthusiastic with many viewers commenting on the beauty of the piece and inquiring about how the artwork was made, the source of inspiration, etc. Following this event, both pieces were displayed at Milwaukee’s Miller Park as part of the recognition celebration honoring veterans–Field of Honor: Salute to the Greatest Generation. Again, the reception was amazing!
Based on this positive feedback, a strategy was devised to take this project out to various school communities and veterans groups with the simple goal of promoting patriotism. Our basic mission is to assist schools and their students in the creation of customized artwork based on the US flag. As part of this effort, it was determined that if we could engage our target audience to participate in the creative process and deliver a great looking piece of artwork at no cost to the end consumer, we could touch many people who might otherwise not have a chance to experience the kind of patriotic spirit that we know can emanate from this type of project.
Thus far, we have completed engagements with three schools that have served as our “proof of concept” institutions. All have enthusiastically embraced the project, and we have delivered on schedule to each school their own customized I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE artwork created by their students. Currently, we are working with other schools, as well as having recently delivered a finished piece to a veteran’s group in Madison, Wisconsin. Looking ahead, we have ambitious plans to roll out this program to other schools and veterans groups based on the initial success and positive feedback experienced to date.
As part of our strategy, we recently received a favorable tax ruling from the IRS in connection with our application to operate as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. This has significant – and we hope positive – implications in terms of our ability to solicit funds needed to provide our artwork to schools and veterans groups on a subsidized basis
In the final analysis, there are two primary motivations behind this project. First, a major part of the motivation to develop this project is based on the fact that the difficult economy has forced many schools, in particular, to significantly cut back or eliminate altogether their arts programs. We believe that the creative arts are vital to the learning process and feel that as a no-cost offering, I PLEDGE USA can help play a meaningful role in bridging the funding gap.
Our second motivation is much more visceral. Essentially, we see a decline in the patriotic spirit which has afforded so much of what we have today: our individual freedom, equality under the law, the opportunity to pursue our passions and dreams in a free and open society. Veterans get it, but their ranks dwindle by the day. It is the younger generation and “those yet to come” that we worry about. Hopefully, this initiative will help in a small way to KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE! GO USA!