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Iowa artist raising funds to paint mural honoring Grant, Carney and Lincoln.

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An Iowa artist famous for paying tribute to veterans through his artwork is setting his eyes on a new project. Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, is hoping to raise the necessary funds to paint a large mural honoring former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and the first African American soldier to win the Medal of Honor, William Carney.

The inspiration for the project came from the destruction of historical monuments across the nation due to the uprising surrounding the death of George Floyd. Sorensen believes in peaceful protests but finds vandalizing tributes to great historical leaders confusing.     

“I find it puzzling, that any movement hoping to achieve positive change in their country would destroy pieces of art commemorating; Grant, Carney (and the 54th Massachusetts) and of course the Great Emancipator… Abraham Lincoln,” Sorensen tweeted.

Sorensen made a name for himself as the man behind Iowa’s famous Freedom Rocks, large boulders painted with tributes to local veterans. Sorensen plans to paint a Freedom Rock in all of Iowa’s 99 counties and has so far completed 85.

The original Freedom Rock in Adair County, Iowa is the only rock that is repainted each year. Sorensen has been repainting it for the past 22 years with a special theme each year. This year the artist paid tribute to the Marines that raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima as well as gave a nod to the heroes of today with the USNS Comfort pulling into New York harbor to care for coronavirus patients.

Sorensen, who is not a veteran, has always believed that his artwork is his way of giving back to those who have served. He’s struggled to see the violence that nationwide protests have brought and hopes to turn the attention back to creation rather than destruction.

“After watching monuments to incredible men like Ulysses Grant, William Carney and Abraham Lincoln face vandalism and being torn down, I thought let’s see if folks around the country would like to see some creation, rather than all the destruction,” Sorensen said.
 
The artist, whose Freedom Rocks bring history to life in Iowa, says he hopes this mural will help tell the story of the three leaders. He acknowledges that none were perfect men, but says they all have earned their place in history. Lincoln and Grant led the nation through the Civil War and Carney served in the 54th Massachusetts regiment, an all African American unit that fought for the Union.

Sorensen has started a GoFundMe page to raise the necessary $3,500 to create the mural. A location has not yet been selected but Sorensen says he believes it would be a great addition to one of the three leaders’ hometowns.

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