With sparkling cider in glass champagne flutes, Dale Robertson, President of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, led the room in a toast to celebrate The Mosaic Film Experience and the Westside Collaborative, each “creating a unique West Michigan museum exhibit experience.”

The long-awaited community interviews project, directed and filmed through the extensive efforts of our summer camp students, is now on display in the museum’s Changing America exhibit. The project originated because of the exhibit and the opportunity to gather stories locally about the Civil Rights movement to today.

This video contributes the voices of real Grand Rapids residents to the greater conversation about social equity. The participants discussed their reactions to the exhibit, stories about growing up amidst the civil rights movement, and how their community has changed over the years. Guided by our education leads, Mallory Patterson and Randy Strobl, the students arranged lighting, audio recording, and wrote the questions for each interview, as part of a summer camp at the museum. DB Studios, working with local film professionals and Wrinkle creative, edited the final stories together, after the camp.

“The students worked together to come up with their interview questions and initiate the conversation to fill in the gaps,” Mallory said. “They focused on how members of the African American community viewed civil rights locally and how things have changed over time.”

Founder and President of the Mosaic Film Experience, Skot Welch of Global Bridgebuilders, speaks in the video about the importance of addressing issues of social inequities, through a community’s marketing and methods of inclusion.

“The soul of a city is shown in the equity in its marketplace,” Welch said. “We have to be mindful of the gaps in our conversations as a community. There is sometimes a glass wall between the community and those who feel isolated; you can see through it, but cannot move through it.”

A community grows stronger when it works together to overcome barriers, whether physical or invisible. Giving people opportunities to use their voices contributes to the overall health and wellness of a community.

We are so excited and proud of our summer camp students and members of the community, whose efforts brought together this partnership to create such an incredible final product. Together, we’re using our collective skills of digital media and storytelling to carry on traditions, talk about enacting positive change, and finding ways to connect with others.

Listen to these stories in the Changing America exhibit, open at the Grand Rapids Public Museum until October 13. After its time in the exhibit, these community conversations will live on as a part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Read more about our student’s experiences conducting community interviews and the final video currently featured in the Changing America exhibit at the museum.