It’s our largest mural yet… and you’re invited!

Nearly 200 people ages 7-70+ spent more than 2000 hours preparing to paint this new mural along the Cedar River at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

Measuring 3,000 square feet, the Youth Art Team’s largest public mural to date commemorates Waterloo’s civil rights history.

We’re having a party… and you’re invited!

River Wall Mural | Artists Celebration
Tue. June 4 @ 4:30-6:00 p.m.

RiverLoop Amphitheatre
FREE! Open to the public & kid friendly.
Event co-hosted by the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
More details on Facebook.

Wait, 2000 hours?! 

YES.
BEFORE
we started painting.

Here’s how we invested our time:

1 – The Lead Team went to St. Louis in January.

Photo © 2019 Janea

“I learned more about St. Louis’s history which helped me understand our home’s history better.”

– Artist, seventh grade

This group of artists takes on extra responsibilities, tackles project tasks first, and provides leadership to all teams that participate in Youth Art Team projects. They explored St. Louis together for three days. Their experiences prepared them to take on the enormous new river wall mural project. See photos from our trip in our Facebook album.

2 – Teams of young artists conducted interviews.

Dr. Gwendolyn Simpson Johnson being interviewed by the Lead Team.

“I learned that discussions about race matter as much now as ever. Young students of color need a place for their stories to be heard. And young white students need safe spaces to hear about other people’s experience in our community. I was reminded of this as I watched students’ faces and listened to their questions as they interviewed me.”

– Alice Shirey, interviewee

The Imagination Coalition (formerly PROJECT 8) artists conducted preliminary interviews with local people who were growing up or living in Waterloo during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They helped summarize each person’s story so that younger artists could read about the person they would interview, prepare their questions ahead of time, and hold a conversation in person during a large group interview.

And yes, we are painting an amazing mural… but these interviews were the most important, honest, and beautiful part of the entire mural project experience.

3 – Then 150 artists asked themselves, “How do we tell this story with our art?”

Youth Art Team artists answering these questions through their art.

“I hope that everybody feels important in some way. That either they are great or someone they are related to helped participate in this, and they have some of that courage and determination in them, too. I want people all over the world to see this mural and know the history of Waterloo and that it is important.

– Artist, third grade

The young artists were encouraged to put themselves in the situations of the person they interviewed and the stories they told so the artists could try to imagine: What words represent how the person would have felt? What words represent what they would have had to summon up inside of themselves in order to act and try to create a better community for us?

Then they tried to figure out what colors could represent those words. How could they draw lines and shapes with those colors to show this time in Waterloo’s history in a way that people could relate to?

The full team on this Youth Art Team project was comprised of three groups: Youth Art Team artists ages 6-15 (director Heidi Fuchtman), Lowell Elementary third grade artists (teacher Amelia Smith), and Kingsley Elementary third grade artists (teacher Jennifer Hirschman).

The final design concept:

It’s impossible to share the full story of what happened during those 2000+ hours. This video – showing how their artwork came together – gives a pretty good feel.

You can be a part of all this!

Three ways to support:

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Anonymous donors

“We need to assure that Youth Art Team survives, thrives, and grows to reach more students. That can only happen with financial support.”

These two discovered the Youth Art Team through a chance meeting that developed into volunteer, financial, and soul-felt support. Read more…

You know, donors like these helped make all of this happen. Thank you! If you donated to the Youth Art Team this year, your financial contribution brought healing and beauty to our community through this project.

There’s still so much to do!

Youth Art Team raises its own funding so we can work with our cities, schools, and local art centers to make these community-based, public art projects possible. We need local donors like you to keep young artists learning, connecting, and creating.

And don’t miss this party!

River Wall Mural | Artists Celebration
Tue. June 4 @ 4:30-6:00 p.m.

RiverLoop Amphitheatre
FREE! Open to the public & kid friendly.
Event co-hosted by the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
More details on Facebook.

#loveispower #goyouthartteam

The River Wall Mural is one of three Mural Year projects that the Youth Art Team has accomplished over the past year. The Youth Art Team Mural Year project is supported, in part, by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts. A Teen Trust grant, awarded to Friends of the Art Center, provided funds for River Wall Mural paint.

Meet the Imagination Coalition

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.

Artists interviewing Dr. Gwendolyn Simpson Johnson

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.

Artists interviewing Alice Dutton Shirey

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.

St. Louis Trip

The Youth Art Team St. Louis Trip kicked off a brand new collaborative mural project. We can’t wait to share it with you! The team has big dreams and is looking for supporters. To become one: youthartteam.com/donate.

The Youth Art Team's lead team at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

The Youth Art Team got up *early* in the morning on Friday. We met at Headquarters and hit the road for St. Louis, Missouri! We arrived safely at Urban Mission Inn and checked out our digs for the next two nights. After a quick team meeting, we headed out to see the Gateway Arch before heading back for bed.

Two artist checking out their bunkbeds.

The Youth Art Team headed to the Saint Louis Art Museum first thing on Saturday morning to view an exhibition of Kehinde Wiley portraits. Wiley chose historical works of art from the museum’s collection, and he visited north St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri to find people who would pose for him in those classical positions.

Six Youth Art Team artists viewing large Kehinde Wiley portraits in a gallery.

These everyday people became the stunning subjects in 11 oversized paintings by Wiley, who is also the first African-American artist to paint an official presidential portrait.

One Youth Art Team artist standing with her hands on her hips while viewing a large Kehinde Wiley portrait of woman standing with her hand on her hip.
One Youth Art Team artist standing in front of a large Kehinde Wiley portrait of man.

The team explored the rest of the museum as well, discovering paintings by Pablo Picasso, sculpture by George Segal, ancient sculptures from the Middle East, Greek and Roman coins, Egyptian mummies, and more.

Five Youth Art Team artists standing together while looking at the heads from two ancient Middle Eastern sculptures.
One Youth Art Team artists looking at ancient Greek and Roman coins under a magnifying glass.

Some of the best memories in St. Louis were made when sharing meals or just hanging out together.

Three Youth Art Team artists playing pool.

Everyone loved Fitz’s where we could see them bottling their own sodas while indulging in enormous root beer floats. The Mexican food at Mi Ranchito was among the most delicious. And the breakfast-all-day with “romantic” music at Rooster was a treat.

Two Youth Art Team artists enjoying large root beer floats.

Back at Urban Mission Inn we played games, told each other about our days, noodled around on the piano, tried to catch a nap, and did a little drawing and thank you writing.

One Youth Art Team artists noodling around on the piano.

City Museum was a trip highlight – a place to explore and play, created with a wide range of repurposed architectural and industrial objects. The group made many trips down the 2-story, 5-story, and 10-story slides.

Seven Youth Art Team artists sitting on a bench at City Museum.

While some were at City Museum, others were checking out the city. They saw the St. Louis Wall of Fame mural on Manchester Ave. and portraits painted of St. Louis residents that were installed on housing along Page Blvd. (blurry pics taken from the vehicle as we drove by!). They also saw the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott v. Sanford case was tried. Slave auctions were once held on these steps.

Six Youth Art Team artists posing in front of the St. Louis Wall of Fame mural that depicts 18 prominent African American people from St. Louis.
Vacant apartment building with painted portraits of community leaders attached to the windows.
The Old Courthouse at night with two Youth Art Team members in front by a sculpture of Dred and Harriet Scott.

Our trip ended with a surprise addition to our itinerary: a night with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. All 27 of us listened to Beethoven and Schumann, conducted by Karina Canellakis, at Powell Symphony Hall in Grand Center. The St. Louis Symphony is the second-oldest professional symphony orchestra in the United States.

Large group of Youth Art Team artists walking into Powell Symphony Hall, home to the Saint Louis Symphony.

Musicians on our team saw and heard their instruments masterfully played. (Artists on the team play bass, bass clarinet, cello, clarinet, oboe, trombone, tuba, and violin.) Season ticket holders – whose own grandchildren struggle to sit through a performance – were nervous at first to see *19 kids* sit down next to them. By the end the Youth Art Team made an impression on them by their appreciation of the music throughout performance.

Youth Art Team artists and chaperones seated and ready to take in the performance.

Youth Art Team, your hometowns would be proud of how you represented Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Reinbeck to the people of St. Louis. We’re so excited to see the new ideas you bring back home after this trip!