Freedom Riders Exhibit at FWMoA

By Rachel Martin

November 18, 2012 Updated Nov 18, 2012 at 11:03 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Eighty-three new paintings adorn the walls of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art—but it's not just art, it's history, as the faces of those who stood up for our civil rights are showcased.

"Threads Of A Story" is the newest exhibit at Fort Wayne's Museum of Art showcasing the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement. Artist Charlotta Janssen says she was inspired by the 2008 election.

"After Obama's election, I felt Black History Month from within...and there was this incredible mood that I wanted to capture, this joy. So I really wanted to thank those who have helped us on this way and maybe didn't make it here. And I felt the Civil Rights Movement, especially the Freedom Rides and bus boycotts, are very powerful--it's non-violent direct action in action,” said Janssen.

Each painting is a mug shot with newspaper clippings telling the story of each individual Freedom Rider, including Janet Braun Reinitz, who was a Freedom Rider from Brooklyn in 1961, and was arrested in Little Rock, Ark.

"Look at the many faces. Look at the collaboration of people who went into making the Freedom Rides what they were,” Reinitz said. “It’s a moment in time…it’s one of those moments for everyone who is portrayed here that’s marked on a path of who they are and what their activism is. I think no one should look at these portraits and think this is all that any of these people have ever done.”

The Freedom Riders rode interstate buses into the South in an effort to end segregation. Riders were attacked and thrown in a jail, moments in history Janssen wanted to capture.

“If you’re not going to cry at the end of this then I can’t help you…but I think it’s celebrating a great piece of history and a great lesson,” said Janssen. "You can read it all you want in a history book, but I think it's also important to feel a time, to feel a history, to feel a message like this.”

The message Janssen is referring to, "Civil Rights doesn't just encompass the Black movement. It's the women's movement, it's all of the human rights movement,” said Reinitz.

The exhibit "Threads Of A Story" will be on display until Jan. 27.

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