More 'unsung heroes' announced for Youth Art Team Urban Gallery project

More 'unsung heroes' announced for Youth Art Team Urban Gallery project

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WATERLOO — Community leaders with big-hearted connections to education, athletics, congregations, health care, families and neighbors comprise the second set of 13 unsung heroes to be honored in the Urban Gallery Installation project.

Lowell Elementary School fifth-grade students and University of Northern Iowa art students are partnering with the Youth Art Team on this final project phase. The fifth-graders chose 13 people to recognize out of 44 nominations from area individuals, organizations, businesses and churches.

Youth Art Team director Heidi Fuchtman said they received many inspiring stories that all reflect a community of people who choose to live their lives for others. The students are now busy learning about the honorees they selected, painting the wooden silhouettes and writing pieces that share how the honorees make the community great.

UNI students are collaborating with the Lowell artists to develop stop motion films representing each unsung hero.

Silhouettes and their accompanying stories will be featured for a week each in the Waterloo Center for the Arts Urban Gallery space at East Fourth and Sycamore streets starting in April.

Honorees chosen last fall are now being featured in the gallery space, and a short film was recently released. It can be viewed online at

The Youth Art Team Urban Gallery Installation 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; the R.J. McElroy Trust; the Waterloo Community Schools Foundation; Omega Cabinetry; and First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo.

Following are brief profiles of those selected:

  • Maggie Andjelic inspires others to be bold, including her daughter who nominated her. Andjelic will always play with her daughter or take her on walks. She encourages people to stand their ground for what they believe in.
  • Charnell Breitbach, a teacher at Expo Alternative Learning Center, spends extra time with her students to help them succeed. She created a warm, friendly learning space in her classroom with a coffeehouse vibe.
  • Belinda Creighton-Smith wears many hats, from UNI instructor to pastor of Faith Temple Baptist Church to civil rights activist. She invites organizations to engage UNI students in projects where they work toward a more equal and just society.
  • Liz Crowley, first principal at Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, died last March while serving as principal at Lou Henry Elementary. She was a mentor to many, known for her inspiring spirit and willingness to try innovative ideas.
  • Karena Donohue volunteers with the Dunkerton Ambulance Service and teaches CPR classes. That includes training co-workers at Christensen & Freeseman Orthodontics each year, which helped them save the life of one of their own staff members.
  • Tom Eachus, director of UnityPoint’s Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Center, speaks out for people who are not getting the mental illness treatment they need and deserve. His outreach has led to hiring those who have recovered as peer supporters.
  • Michele Feltes is a friend and mentor to young people in her neighborhood and the area around ReaLife Church. She is developing One City, a new nonprofit that will connect people and include Arts to End Violence and Made New Industries.
  • Amanda Freet teaches athletes the power of positivity, teamwork and responsibility through TNT Cheer. She goes from her full-time job to managing a full-time gym and knows each athlete by name.
  • Julianne Gassman advocates for community engagement at UNI as executive director of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. She matches students with local organizations, creating partnerships that bring about positive change.
  • Roxy Kincaid is the heartbeat of the West High School library. Students say she is special because she is kind-hearted, offers advice and sympathy and helps students stay on the right track.
  • Gale Quirk, who died in February 2017, was on the Waterloo Human Rights Commission and believed all people deserve the same opportunities for success. She helped start Cedar Valley Hospice and Family and Children’s Council.
  • Maggie Smith works at Friendship Village and spends much of her time helping people in nursing homes, supporting her grandchildren and encouraging her friends. She doesn’t give up and encourages people to stand their ground for what they believe in.
  • Angela Vanarsdale is the bright welcome that greets visitors to UnityPoint’s Allen Hospital. Her actions go far beyond the expectations as she treats each person with compassion and grace.

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