It developed through an initiative called PROJECT 8, a yearlong strategy for increasing youth voice and leadership through the arts in 2018 that called upon eight, eighth-grade artists to envision the Youth Art Team’s next phase and become equipped to lead it.
After eighth grade, PROJECT 8 artists renamed themselves the Imagination Coalition The group is now comprised of the Youth Art Team’s six oldest artists, all freshman in high school. Their leadership is already adding depth to the learning experiences that the Youth Art Team is providing for 150 young artists through the River Wall Mural project.
The Imagination Coalition conducted preliminary interviews with people who grew up or lived in Waterloo during the 50s, 60s, and 70s to provide a basis for understanding the community in the time surrounding the civil rights movement. Then they helped summarize the stories they heard in order to successfully introduce each interviewee to younger artists on the Youth Art Team and collaborating third-grade artists at Lowell and Kingsley Elementary Schools. These preliminary interviews by the Imagination Coalition made it possible for the young artists to read about each person ahead of time and to brainstorm questions to ask when each individual came to meet them in person.
Some members of the Imagination Coalition visited third graders at Lowell and Kingsley while they worked on the mural project in their art classrooms. They also inspired Kingsley students to create promotional videos for the project during media class.
While Imagination Coalition artists make their voices heard by speaking at Waterloo City Council meetings and giving interviews to local and state media, their ideas are also being heard by the Youth Art Team board of directors. A new youth board member position was added in January 2019, and the Imagination Coalition will spend time developing this position and a structure for adding new artists to the coalition as younger artists continue to develop in experience and leadership with the Youth Art Team.