Dream Cube art installation calls on Greater Des Moines to respond to youth homelessness

October 27, 2020

A collaborative structure made by artist Kub Stevens and youth who’ve experienced homelessness seeks to inform Greater Des Moines that young people have the ability to dream of better futures for themselves—only if they have a safe place to dream. The Dream Cube will be stationed in downtown Des Moines October 29-31 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. for anyone to experience and learn how they can support young people in having a safe place to live. 

“The contrast of the soft pillow on a concrete street jars the viewer into recognizing we have a problem in our community,” said Stevens. “How can you dream of a better future when you don’t have a soft place to lay your head at night? This project is meant to bring those who have experienced homelessness and those who have not together to have a conversation about how we can make our community better for everyone who lives here.” 

“I hopped on because I wanted to put inspiration into this project, because I’ve been through it,” said DaVossi Wisdom, a member of the Youth Action Council, a group of young people who’ve experienced homelessness and have guided the project. “Pillows always make me feel comfortable, so the form of the pillows represents a safe spot.” 

Bravo Greater Des Moines and Mid-Iowa Health Foundation partnered with Group Creative Services to bring to life this pilot project as a demonstration of how art can align with regional priorities to drive change. They selected the issue of youth homelessness because of efforts underway to address it. In 2019, the city of Des Moines received a nearly $2 million HUD grant that has allowed the Youth Action Council and more than 40 organization to develop a strategic plan that is now being implemented this month with initial grants awarded over the summer.  

“Art enables us to see complex issues through new lenses, and with this project, we wanted to give our youth a platform to be heard,” said Sally Dix, executive director of Bravo Greater Des Moines. “We hope this will be the first of many projects that align the power of art to accelerate progress toward our civic goals and to create social benefit in our region.”

“If our youth don’t have a safe home to dream at night, we are failing them as a community,” said Suzanne Mineck, president of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. “Central Iowa is at a tipping point in addressing this issue as youth and many organizations have come together to plan for how we can change our systems to better meet youths’ needs. This project is about having our youth tell us what they need to thrive.”

The cube features a story, illustrated by graphic artist Taylor Carlson, highlighting three aspects of the experience of youth homelessness. Through the development of the project, young people were given a platform to not just be seen, but to be heard. The cube engages individuals in how they can lead changes to address the complex challenges homeless youth experience. 

The structures will be outdoors at these locations: 

  • Wellmark YMCA, 501 Grand Ave. – October 29
  • DART Central Station, 620 Cherry St. – October 30
  • Cowles Commons, 221 Walnut St. – October 31

Several organizations have supported the direction of this project and are featured below. Supporting investors for this project are the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Iowa Arts Council, and Capital Crossroads. 

To learn more about this project and how to get involved in responding to youth homelessness visit www.polkcares.org. View a promotional video of the project here. The artist and youth who’ve experienced homelessness will be available to discuss the project on Thursday, October 29, at 2:30 p.m. at the Wellmark YMCA. 


About The Partners

The Youth Action Council

The Youth Action Council is comprised of youth who are homeless or have experienced homelessness with the goal of identifying and advocating for changes that can prevent homelessness for youth in Greater Des Moines. The Youth Action Council plays a vital role in the city’s collaborative planning efforts to end homelessness.

The Artists

A student of community and regional planning at Iowa State University and a community activist, Kub Stevens’ proposal won over several proposals developed by internationally acclaimed artists. Kub is a poet, recording artist, and placemaker who focuses on the communal properties of art as tools to fight local social injustices, utilizing projects to bring people together and strengthen interdependent ties. Never homeless himself, Kub has witnessed the difficulties of living without home and security firsthand through the experiences of loved ones and near relatives.

Taylor Carlson is an illustrator and professor living in Ames, Iowa. Her area of interest lies in children and teen graphic novels and comic books, “wanting children to feel equipped to face the dragons in their lives, no matter what shape those dragons take, and no matter whose faces they wear.”

Bravo Greater Des Moines

Bravo Greater Des Moines leverages community resources to maximize impact of arts, culture, and heritage to advance regional priorities. Using funds contributed by local government partners, Bravo invests strategically in arts, culture, and heritage organizations and projects that contribute to and enhance economic development and quality of life in Greater Des Moines for residents and visitors.

Mid-Iowa Health Foundation

Mid-Iowa Health Foundation has provided leadership and funding in bringing homeless youth and stakeholders together to address barriers and provide greater supports for homeless youth in central Iowa. The organization collaborates with community partners and invests in ideas—and the people who drive them— to reimagine how systems can surround children and youth with nurturing relationships, safe and stable environments, and supportive communities.

Group Creative Services

Group Creative Services creates solutions that drive innovation, discover cost efficiencies, integrate with infrastructure, and build community. With thoughtful, actionable planning and facilitation of public art projects, we connect you with proven artists to create projects of distinction and advance goals ranging from civic discourse to environments that embody your mission and ensure top of mind recognizability.

Polk County Continuum of Care

The Polk County Continuum of Care is an independent nonprofit organization that facilitates the community's response to homelessness. The Des Moines-based organization coordinates resources and services, identifies needs, and disseminates best practices related to homelessness. The organization works to create a comprehensive network of support so that one day everyone in Polk County has a safe place to call home.

Iowa Homeless Youth Centers

Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC), a part of YSS, works to eliminate homelessness among children, youth, and young families in central Iowa. Through case management and advocacy, staff work with young individuals to become self-sufficient and plan for a healthy and successful future.

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