Global Voices, Local Actions: New museum series highlights human rights

Holocaust survivor Gideon Frieder
Holocaust survivor Gideon Frieder

Two November events at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library are the beginning of a new series at the museum.

“Global Voices, Local Actions” seeks to highlight global perspectives and pair them with responses in Eastern Iowa, said Nic Hartmann, the museum’s director of learning and civic engagement.

“Part of our strategic plan is focusing on promoting discussions of freedom and human dignity,” he said. “We’re not just about Czech and Slovak life, but about teaching people about themselves, too.”

The series will kick off Nov. 15 with a talk by Holocaust survivor Gideon Frieder, followed by a panel discussion. Held in collaboration with the Thaler Foundation, the University of Iowa’s Humanities Iowa program and Coe College, the panel will include Stephen Gaies, director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, Wahutu Siguru, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who is studying media representations of the Rwandan genocide and Caleb Gates, a refugee resettlement officer with Catholic Charities.

The second event, Nov. 29, is an Art of Community summit with Amy Skillman and Laura Marcus Green, experts in refugee arts initiatives. The summit will bring together members of the arts, human services and immigrant communities to create strategies for promoting art and culture initiatives in refugee and immigrant communities in Cedar Rapids.

Hartmann said discussing refugee and immigration-related issues fits well with the museum’s broader mission.

“We are a cultural institution here, a museum that focuses on immigration. We had Czech refugees who fled to the United States in the 1960s and during the second World War,” he said. “We thought, well, now it’s our turn — what can we do? It’s a way to pay it forward.”

He said the series and the museum’s strategic plan are also a response to Cedar Rapids changing demographics. The Czech and Slovak population is smaller than it used to be, while other communities have grown.

“We have to respond to current issues and make a Czech and Slovak Museum relevant to people who aren’t Czech and Slovak,” he said. “We’re reaching out to the broader community.”

The Global Voices, Local Actions series will continue in 2017 with speaker Simon Panek, the co-founder of the humanitarian organization People in Need and former student activist during the Czech Republic’s Velvet Revolution of 1989.

l What: Global Voices, Local Actions: Confronting Genocide and Cultural Differences

l When: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15

l What: Global Voices, Local Actions: Art of Community Spirit

l When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29

l All events at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids

l All Global Voices events free; RSVP at



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