Mount Mercy art students create work inspired by White Elephant building

Mount Mercy students in Professor of Art Jane Gilmor's "New Genres" class undertook a unique project that examined the historic White Elephant thrift store in Cedar Rapids. The result is five student-created installations that draw from inspiration from the building and aspects of the past.

The installations will be showcased during a special open house on October 5, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the White Elephant, 1010 Third Street SE, Cedar Rapids. Free and open to the public, viewers will have the opportunity to discover the creations of students who designed environments out of historic characteristics.

Gilmor challenged her students to thoroughly research the White Elephant, its neighborhood, former occupants, and architectural structure. From those discoveries, each student adopted one room of the house in which to create an installation, or "environment," that references one aspect of the building's past.

Students participating in the project include seniors Jonathan Berger, Lehia Erger, Wai Wing Chan, Sarah Ekwall and Jakub Kuchar.

This is the 10th year the Mount Mercy class has chosen a building in the New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids, which is near Gilmor's art studio in the Cherry Building.

White Elephant house installationThe open house is sponsored by Mount Mercy University and by Lijun, Robert and David Chadima through the Thorland Company. Contributions of materials were generously donated from ReStore and Habitat for Humanity.

The former White Elephant thrift store in Cedar Rapids was a refuge for unwanted items for almost 75 years, after two Cedar Rapids school teachers opened the shop in 1934, where it remained until the devastating flood of 2008 left the building severely damaged.

Thorland Company has owned the building for over twenty years and repaired what it could after the flood. For the second year in a row, Thorland President Lijun Chadima has invited Mount Mercy University art students to create original environments in various rooms of the now empty building 

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