CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Celebration of the 1989 events that brought an end to communism in Central Europe continues on Saturday, April 27 with the opening of Revolution Starts in the Streets, a new public art installation on the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML) campus. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the United States, Ivan Korčok, and representatives from the Smithsonian will participate in the event.

Building of a replica Berlin wall on the NCSML campus
Building of a replica Berlin wall on the NCSML campus

The temporary art installation, a replica of the Berlin Wall, is the culmination of a year-long partnership of the NCSML, students from Metro STEAM Academy, Iowa BIG and Alburnett High School, and local businesses. To honor the role of street artists and the right to freedom of expression, this wall serves as a collaborative, public art space – and will be torn down on Nov. 9, 2019 to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years before.

According to Sarah Henderson, K-12 Education Specialist at the NCSML, who envisioned this immersive educational partnership nearly two years ago, a common theme in revolutions throughout history is the presence of art as a form of peaceful protest.

Revolution Starts in the Streets is an extension of our 1989 exhibit, which tells the story of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution,” explains Henderson. “The mission of the project is to promote a community conversation, started by students, about how what happened in 1989 connects to issues we find important today.”

Henderson led the partnership among the NCSML, students, educators and area businesses culminating in the April 27 opening. To promote the art installation, students from Iowa BIG developed a marketing plan centered on guerrilla tactics, featuring a street artist personality “Slon” (the word for “elephant” in both Czech and Slovak) inspired by internationally known artist Banksy and an iconic elephant mural on the Berlin Wall by Thierry Noir.

The marketing plan included Iowa BIG students pitching to local businesses for their participation. Meanwhile, Metro students focused on the physical construction of the wall, with the support of Neumann Monson Architects, M2B Structural Engineering, Carpenters’ Union Local 308, Dave Schmitt Construction, Terracon, North Liberty Transportation, and Atlas EPS.

Iowa BIG student and Prairie High School junior Angie Knies says the experience developing the marketing plan and pitching to local businesses helped her grow valuable presentation skills.

“The first pitch I delivered was to an individual business owner, who gave us great feedback,” says Knies. “I changed my pitch presentation quite a bit, and by the third pitch, I was presenting to a group of people and I felt much more confident.”

At the April 27 unveiling, Korčok will share his personal experience living under communism and witnessing the historical events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Representatives from the Smithsonian Institute will recognize the NCSML’s recent distinction as a Smithsonian Affiliate.

Program will be held in front of the replica Berlin Wall on NCSML’s South lawn, weather permitting. Reception in Rozek Grand Hall to follow. (Rain Location: Rozek Grand Hall)

The Revolution continues through this summer with a series of guest lectures and workshops from local, regional and international street artists.

Revolution Starts in the Streets is presented by Aegon Transamerica with contributing sponsorship by the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Program Fund.

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