Collaborative art wall pays homage to MLK Jr.’s legacy; Aaron Liepman's "Walk to Freedom" LEGO mosaic is a focal point of the display

Aaron Liepman stands by the "Walk to Freedom" art wall at the Honors College.

YPSILANTI — The ‘Walk to Freedom’ Exhibit, originally displayed at the EMU Student Center Gallery, has been moved to its permanent residency at the EMU Honors College. The immersive display features a Lego mosaic and photo boards depicting the historic 1963 Walk to Freedom event in Detroit.

Biology professor Dr. Aaron Liepman created his fourth civil rights-themed LEGO mosaic for the ‘Walk to Freedom’ exhibit. Liepman was inspired to learn more about the civil rights movement after the protests that occurred after George Floyd’s murder in 2021. 

“While researching the movement, I found many visually arresting images depicting civil rights trailblazers peacefully protesting. These images inspired me to try to render some of them as LEGO art,” replied Liepman. “One of my goals was to spread awareness about civil rights through my artwork.” 

Liepman decided to use LEGO pieces to construct the mosaic because of LEGO’s visual appeal for people of all ages. He hopes that using LEGOs as the material for the mosaic will spark deeper conversations about civil rights among young people and their caregivers. The LEGO mosaic consists of 30,000 hand-painted LEGO bricks and measures 8 feet by 5 feet. The piece proved to be challenging for Liepman because it was his largest mosaic to date. Liepman faced multiple obstacles in realizing his vision, including design and logistical hurdles, safely securing the heavy piece, and figuring out how to transport the mosaic.

Kevin Williams, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at EMU and a member of the MLK Planning Committee, spearheaded the research to identify photos to complement the mosaic. Williams delved into the Walter Reuther Library archives at Wayne State University to find images that would tell the full story of the walk from Dr. King's landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to the local chapter of the NAACP’s commemorative march during the summer of 2023. 

“From the very beginning, this was a labor of love for me. I'm a proud native Detroiter, and the Detroit Walk to Freedom was a pivotal time in the city's history, as it was the largest civil rights event before the March on Washington D.C.,” stated Williams. “I love history, so combing through the historic photos was an absolute treat for me.” 

Upon entering the Honors College building, individuals can view the mosaic and photo boards. 

"We're delighted to showcase the LEGO mosaic surrounded by photos from the Detroit march," said Dean Ann Eisenberg. “We invite all members of the EMU community to stop by to view the exhibit."

Visit the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website to learn more.


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

June 12, 2024

Written by:
Brooke Whittaker

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher