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.


The eight artists of PROJECT 8 in a group photo.

The eight oldest artists were all in eighth grade. They spent 2018, the eighth year of Youth Art Team, envisioning the team’s next phase together.

The artists discussed the Youth Art Team’s accomplishments, their dreams for the group, and what they would do differently. They also helped lead several projects this year.

“We go from pencil and paper to painting on a wall – that’s so cool. I can do things that are bigger without limitations.”

– Project 8 artist

PROJECT 8 artists sent the lead team out to five locations and asked them to brainstorm ideas for new public art projects. Younger students were challenged by PROJECT 8 to design new team shirts. Two elementary-age artists transferred the design to computer using Adobe Illustrator. Three PROJECT 8 artists became Summer Camp Student Assistants, guiding younger artists who painted murals for the Fourth Street Bridge. PROJECT 8 called upon young artists to help create and sell buttons!

What is PROJECT 8 saying?

One young artist expressed a key Youth Art Team principle: “It’s important to include all of the team – especially the younger kids so they don’t feel left out.”

“Youth Art Team sees through race and ethnicity,” another PROJECT 8 artist said. “It recognizes that we’re all different, but that doesn’t matter because we’re all one team. People come together to make one amazing art work and that’s universal for all of us.

Some of the PROJECT 8 students joined Youth Art Team’s core team when they were in kindergarten. “We’ve gotten to know each other so well over eight years,” noted Youth Art Team director and artist Heidi Fuchtman. “We know that relationships and quality matter.”

This is awesome. What can I do?!

PROJECT 8 expressed a desire for the Youth Art Team to become a community where young people with creative dreams can come and learn how to translate their ideas into action.

We need your help to build this kind of opportunity for more young people in our area!

Support developing leaders!

PROJECT 8 was funded in part by the Waterloo Community Foundation.