New National Storytelling Project, PBS American Portrait, Exploring What it Really Means to be an American Today

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PASADENA, CA; JANUARY 10, 2020 – PBS today announced the launch of a new multiplatform experience that will allow people throughout the country to participate in a national conversation about what it really means to be an American today.

PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT, a national storytelling project aligned with PBS’s 50th anniversary celebration, is the organization’s most ambitious multiplatform project in its history. A digital-first initiative produced by RadicalMedia, AMERICAN PORTRAIT begins as a platform for user-generated content participation, and is envisioned to encompass publishing, short form content, classroom engagement, a web miniseries, public art installations, live events and, in January 2021, a nationally televised documentary series on PBS stations.

Leveraging the local reach of PBS through its member stations, AMERICAN PORTRAIT presents a mosaic of our country’s diversity, allowing people from all regions to appreciate what we have in common as well as the many differences that make up the American experience. AMERICAN PORTRAIT has immersive interactivity built into its DNA, featuring user-generated content captured through video, photo and text submissions shared directly from everyday people across the United States.

“PBS and ouAmerican Portrait ad bannerr member stations have a rich history of engaging people in their communities, classrooms and homes, so we are uniquely suited to offer this unprecedented opportunity for Americans to share with each other what we have in common and what differentiates us,” said Perry Simon, PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming. “Utilizing all our diverse resources, PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT will create a fully integrated portrait of American life and a window into who we are as a nation as we enter a new decade.”

This user-generated, multiplatform project will connect tens of thousands of people across the country, creating a communal voice through individual stories of joy, hardship, triumphs and sorrow. Participants will be able to tell and share their own stories, and see the stories shared by a wide panorama of Americans, united by a series of prompts that will serve as conversation starters, including: “I was raised to believe…,” “The tradition I carry on is…,” “What keeps me up at night is…,” “When I step outside my door…” and “Most days I feel…,” among others.

AMERICAN PORTRAIT will capture the state and spirit of our nation in an innovative new way that only PBS is positioned to do,” said Jon Kamen, CEO of RadicalMedia.  “AMERICAN PORTRAIT is a space for people to be heard through their own stories, words and images. We’re excited to see how the ever-evolving online experience will serve as a foundation for a documentary that will explore more formally who we are as a people.”

Target is a major funder and national promotional partner for PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT, expanding the reach of this initiative.

American Portrait ad bannerPeople can directly upload their content to, and AMERICAN PORTRAIT will capture the depth and breadth of the American experience, from all corners of the country.

Beyond the online submissions and digital portals, and the documentary series scheduled in early 2021, AMERICAN PORTRAIT will commission artists in several markets to further explore what it means to be an American through special collaborations, including installations, artist-curated story features and more.

PBS Digital Studios is launching an original digital miniseries that will explore AMERICAN PORTRAIT’s central question — “what does it really mean to be an American today?” Dr. Danielle Bainbridge, host of “Origin of Everything,” will travel across the country to understand the people, landmarks and stories that capture the modern American experience. On the road, Danielle will be joined by a diverse range of artists, scholars and some of YouTube’s biggest stars. The series will launch in the Spring of 2020 and publish across PBS Digital Studios’ 22 million YouTube subscribers, Facebook Watch and IGTV platforms.

PBS LearningMedia will provide resources designed to help educators and students participate in AMERICAN PORTRAIT, engage with digital storytelling, and build media literacy skills. The initiative will include professional learning activities for teachers to help them build their own media creation skills, as well as opportunities for middle and high school classrooms to engage with AMERICAN PORTRAIT by submitting their own stories and using the stories of others to examine topics in civics, history, English language arts, and the arts. In addition, the PBS KIDS for Parents website will feature AMERICAN PORTRAIT content curated for family audiences.

Visit the PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT website at and follow the conversation at #AmericanPortraitPBS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT was developed and created with RadicalMedia. For RadicalMedia, Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serve as Executive Producers, and Naomi Gilbert is the Senior Interactive Producer for the web platform. Craig D’Entrone is Executive Producing for RadicalMedia and is showrunner on the project. Bill Margol is the Executive in Charge for PBS.