Special Relationship Mosaic of 4,000 Paintings Kicks Off Churchill Museum’s 50th 

America’s National Churchill Museum kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration with an incredible exhibition inspired by the words of Churchill’s immortal “Iron Curtain” speech which was unveiled on the very day Churchill delivered the speech at Westminster College 73 years ago.  

A ribbon cutting ceremony took place at 10 a.m., March 5, at the Museum to open an exhibit of 4,000 small pieces of art painted by local Callaway County students and a group of Westminster faculty, staff, and students, who all participated in this Special Relationship Project.  

Approximately 100 students who participated in the project, and their parents were in attendance at the ceremony.  Other local members of the Mid-Missouri Friends of the Museum, civic leaders, Chamber of Commerce members, and local citizens joined them to pack the exhibition space.

“The phrase ‘Special Relationship’ was coined by Churchill in his 1946 speech at Westminster to describe the alliance between Great Britain and the United States,” says Timothy Riley, the Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of the Museum.  “We used that concept to engage Mid-Missouri schoolchildren in our 50th anniversary celebration in a contemporary way by asking them to send us their individual artistic interpretation of what constitutes a special relationship.”  

The official launch of the Special Relationship Project was during last year’s Hancock Symposium where approximately 40 Westminster students attended a break out session to learn about the project and create artwork.  

Then the Museum sent out 4,000 6-by-6-inch canvases for local K-12 schoolchildren to paint, collected the completed paintings, and have now installed them in a massive mosaic on the walls of the Museum.  

Schoolchildren from the school districts of Fulton, North and South Callaway, New Bloomfield, and Holts Summit as well as home schooled students, St. Peter’s Catholic School, and those from the Missouri School for the Deaf have participated in the project.  

“Some of the children chose to explore their relationship with a parent, and other popular subjects were their pets, neighbors, churches, or schools,” says Riley.  “As Churchill would phrase it, all of these relationships are sinews that bind us together as a society and make us stronger.”  

Along with the drawings and paintings, the students included brief artist statements.  Those statements have been placed on the Special Relation Project website accompanied by their artwork.  

Now that the exhibit is open, these students and their families will be able to come to the Museum on nights designated specifically for their school from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. to view the exhibit and the rest of the Museum’s treasures free of charge.  

Tyler Oberlag, Director of Guest Services and Operations at the Museum; Susan Whitmarthe Robert and Doris DeFer Intern at the Museum; and a large group of volunteers have spent the past nine months, planning and coordinating with 20 schools in eight different school districts.  

After the drawings and paintings were returned to the Museum, they had to be documented and ultimately installed.  

“People, and particularly families, should come and witness this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit that can only be seen in its totality at America’s National Churchill Museum,” says Oberlag.  “As much as the students learned from Churchill, visitors will learn from our community’s youngest citizens about the importance of alliances of all kinds.”  

In addition to the exhibit opening, the Museum celebrated the completion of a $35,000 fundraising campaign by the Mid-Missouri Friends of Churchill on behalf of preservation of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, where the Museum is located.  

Participating students in the project will be able to get their paintings back when the exhibit, located in the back gallery of the Museum, is dismantled later in the year.  

“We want to thank all the school officials, teachers, and volunteers who made this spectacular exhibit possible,” says Riley.  “No two paintings are alike in the exhibit, but their commonality is the project.  That is the relationship that empowers us and makes us, as Churchill would have said, a better world.  

The final day to view this special exhibition is September 22. 

Those interested can find more information about the Special Relationships Project and look at individual paintings from the 4,000 canvas exhibit here.

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