WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - A lesson in civil rights history covers a wall along the Cedar River in Our Town Waterloo. The "Our Freedom Story" mural is a collaboration between 3rd graders from Lowell Elementary and Kingsley Elementary in Waterloo and the Youth Art Team. Together, they spent more than 2,000 hours on the project.
"The city asked Youth Art Team to tell the story of the civil rights movement in Waterloo and how art was involved in that. So through the Imagination Coalition, we conducted some preliminary interviews important members of society around the area, " says Ahmad Madlock, a 9th grade student at Peet Junior High.
During those interviews, the students heard the stories of the riots in Waterloo in the 1960's; the fires, the anger and the fight for equality.
"Civil Rights in Waterloo doesn't just mean in the 1960's there was segregation. Civil rights means now, we see the effects of that segregation; we see the aftermath of the riots," says Madlock.
"I realized what people what people have gone through and it's so different," says Viviana Lopez, a 6th grade student at Central Middle School. "People go through so many things than what you imagine."
After the interviews, 3rd graders put their feelings on paper. "And then how do you show that by the color that you choose, or how you draw your line or what shapes you put together," says Heidi Fuchtman, Director of the Youth Art Team.
With the help of the Youth Art Team, all of those drawings became one. Together, they painted the 3,000 square foot mural, called "Our Freedom Story" along the Cedar River outside the Waterloo Center for the Arts. "By doing that with all 150 kids, you start to see how beautifully they understand life in a way that sometimes us older people forget," says Fuchtman.
Months later, a ceremony in early June celebrated each story, each brush stroke and the accomplishments of many. "It's so beautiful and it's so meaningful to the civil rights movement," says Lopez. "I feel proud, so like, when I'm older, I can show my kids - I made that. I was a part of that."
"They've impacted our lives in ways that we really can't describe, so the fact that we were able to be a part of that is super amazing," adds Madlock.
The Youth Art Team has been creating public art projects since 2010. The team recently covered up graffiti with a mural on the Trolley Car Trail Bridge.