National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
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2012 Grand Opening


Applause, Cheers, Celebration-- Grand Opening 2012

“We are back!” exclaimed Gail Naughton, president/CEO, amid applause and cheers at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library’s Grand Opening.

After four years of moving between interim locations, the Museum and Library is now open in its original and now expanded home at1400 Inspiration Place SW. With a facility three times larger than pre-Flood, staff offices, galleries, the library and event spaces are all united under one red roof with room to grow.

One festive weekend began on Saturday, July 14, 2012 with a parade from New Bohemia to Czech Village. Eighteen states showed their support in the Parade of States Pageant, with additional parade floats and entries including Czech and Slovak dignitaries and Alphonse Mucha's grandson. Czech and Slovak pageant royalty tossed candy to the crowds lining 16th Avenue.

Crowds shifted to the recently named Inspiration Place to watch the opening ceremony. Speakers praised the accomplishments of Cedar Rapids and wished the Museum and Library the best of luck. Two queens presented the customary bread and salt to welcome the dignitaries. Scissors snipped the red and blue ribbons.

Gail lead the way into the relocated and expanded building. Within the first fifteen minutes more than 5,000 curious and eager guests flowed into Rozek Grand Hall, marveling at the new Museum and Library.

Visitors from all over Iowa and across the nation lined up for tickets to the exhibitions. Hemphill Theater, featuring films about the Monumental Move and Alphonse Mucha's life and works, was standing-room-only. WFLA/ZCBJ Heritage Hall was packed for all five Lecture Series presentations.

Outside, more people gathered for food and fun. Smiles spread across the spectators watching Czech and Slovak folk dancers swirling in their kroje (folk costumes) to traditional folk music. A concert stage stood atop the former location of the Museum and Library, where several musicians serenaded listeners. A light show that covered the face of the building topped off the evening.

Eager for more, crowds returned Sunday. Beginning with a beautiful Building Blessing, the day held activities for all ages. Inside, children and parents gathered to create art in the Alliant Energy classroom and listen to folk tales in the Skala Bartizal Library. Audiences assembled for the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre from New York City. Two sold-out performances of The White Doe captivated crowds.

Outside, tents buzzed with laughs, conversation and camera clicks. Face painters, a balloon artist, a caricaturist and the Brass Barn Polka Band entertained the young and the young-at-heart.

Inside, fingers pointed to the crystal chandelier in Rozek Grand Hall. Eyes explored the brick arch that marked the gateway into the building addition. Minds still fathoming the life and work of Alphonse Mucha left the Jiruska Gallery amazed. Ears listened to library staff informing them of ways to discover hidden heritage. Hands covered gasps inside the Hemphill Theater as viewers watched footage of a flooded Czech Village, piles of debris and the muck-covered treasures. Those who witnessed the devastation of the 2008 flood firsthand, and some seeing it for the first time, watched a Museum and Library truly rise above the heartbreak.

Grand Opening weekend was much more than a fun, action-packed weekend. July 14 and 15, 2012 commenced something greater: the renewal of a purpose reaching across the globe; the promise that the preservation of Czech and Slovak history and culture will not be dampened by any amount of water or cost. The promise that the same strength and freedom encapsulated by the very Czechs and Slovaks we represent and celebrate will be here to inspire people of all backgrounds.

--By Trisha Spence, from an article published in MOST, Fall 2012