American Soviet Mural Project : Clay a Healing Way - CODAworx

American Soviet Mural Project : Clay a Healing Way

Submitted by Joel Pfeiffer

Client: Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport

Location: Milwaukee, WI, United States

Completion date: 1990

Artwork budget: $50,000

Project Team

Project Director

Joel Pfeiffer

Heartroots Studio

PBS Documentary Director

Bill Werner



“As we mix the clay, the clay mixes us,” a Russian friend stated. I had always dreamed of doing a clay project with the two most powerful adversaries at that time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. This dream came to fruition on June 11, 1989 when over 5,000 people came to the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee and mixed 8 tons of clay with their feet! We then created a mural 8ft. x 36ft. with carved images of peace and friendship. We took the mural to Leningrad, Russia. While there, we along with thousands of Russians, mixed clay and created a mural that now stands at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport as a testament of cooperation and respect for one another.


I have directed community based art projects the past forty years, using clay as a bridge of collaboration and communication. This was my first major undertaking in making this dream come true.


Before the mural could be created, there were incredible challenges to overcome in doing an international art project with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Hundreds of volunteers coordinated and assisted in making the “Clay Stomp” happen in Milwaukee. After five thousand people created the mural, it took hundreds of hours to prepare it for glazing and firing. In Leningrad it took more coordination to help our Russian friends create their mural to send back to the United States.

Additional Information

This project was a grass roots effort by many volunteers. Wisconsin Educators For Social Responsibility sponsored the project. Much of the $50,000 budget was provided by in kind donations and contributions.