Mural interprets the question “What are the basic rights and freedoms of the world community?”

In an effort to make all visitors feel welcome and become further embedded in the community, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library recently collaborated with young adults from AMP to create a public art mural inside the museum’s parking garage. The project was generously sponsored by Western Fraternal Life.

AMP (Achieving Maximum Potential) is a statewide group of foster and adoptive youth who are training to become advocates for themselves. Developing their voices by telling their stories, they are educating legislators, foster parents, the public, child welfare professionals and juvenile court representatives about foster care and adoption, from the youth perspective.

Led by NCSML staff Education Coordinator & Visitor Services Associate, Megan Creasey, and Family Programs Manager & Visitor Services Associate, Shanel Wermerskirchen, the students began meeting at the museum in January of 2016. Speaking to the project’s origins, Wermerskirchen says, “AMP is such an essential resource in the community, and we wanted to celebrate that, and find out how we could get involved.” The group met once per month under Creasey and Wermerskirchen’s guidance to plan the mural. During these planning meetings they spent time in the NCSML’s permanent exhibit, Faces of Freedom: The Czech & Slovak Journey. Additionally, the youth journaled about issues that were important to them. The mural is a reflection of this. Wermerskirchen recalls, however, that some of the best moments also included sitting in the museum classroom eating pizza and talking about their experiences with new friends. She states, “This has been one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had as an employee of NCSML.”

The AMP participants developed original designs answering the question: “What are the basic rights and freedoms of the world community?” Creasey also served as the lead artist on the project, eventually compiling the students’ visions into a comprehensive design. “Being able to serve as a listener and a liaison for others’ stories is such an essential piece of what museums do, so this project fit in perfectly,” says Creasey. “I loved watching this come together with the AMP members’ input from the very beginning. This project is an example of how our museum serves as a place for civic dialogue, where diverse perspectives can be represented and discussed.”

Self-Sufficiency Advocate and AMP Facilitator, Shelby Holsapple, explains, “One of the biggest aspects of the AMP organization is that it is youth-led.” The public art project encouraged further self-growth through artistic expression and storytelling. After all of their planning was complete, AMP members spent 5 evenings painting the mural in the garage between June 13 and 17. Holsapple continues, “All aspects of the mural were youth ideas. The idea of the old school scale is for the laws and justice that the youth fight for every year. There are people on the scale because everyone is different but still equal no matter what. The microphone on the top of the mural represents the voice of the youth.  At the bottom of the scale are different things that youth face in today’s society such as social media, and gender identity, and religious issues, and the arts. The border is all of the AMP chapters.”

Holsapple adds, “One of the greatest aspects of the project is that it will be available for viewing for years to come! It gives the youth a sense of ownership over something.” The NCSML has plans to continue beautifying the underground parking garage walls in the future by collaborating with other groups from the community. Says Creasey, “It’s a colorful welcome into the museum, and I’m excited to see the work expand over the years with more voices and perspectives throughout the garage walls.”

A reception for the official unveiling of the mural and sponsorship recognition will take place at the NCSML on August 23, 2016 at 5:00 pm. More information about AMP may be found at

Find out more about community art in the Cedar Rapids area, including the NCSML/AMP mural, in this recent article published in The Gazette

Thank you to Western Fraternal Life for generously sponsoring this project.

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