21c Museum Hotels and Humana recognized at Americans for the Arts BCA 10

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21c Museum Hotels and Humana recognized at Americans for the Arts BCA 10

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Cover photo: Fit For Life mural series depicting Natchez "Health Heroes" created through a collaboration between IDEAS xLab artists and Humana Inc. Illustrations used to create the murals by Koren Shadmi through support of a NEA Our Town grant.

On October 11, 2017 - the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) honored ten companies for their exemplary partnerships with the arts at the 13th Annual BCA 10 held at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City. Greater Louisville boasts two recipients, 21c Museum Hotels and Humana Inc., recognized for transforming their workplaces and community through the arts.


“We’re showing the rest of the country what’s possible through the arts,” said Christen Boone, Fund for the Arts President & CEO. “Greater Louisville’s world-class arts and culture community are only as successful as the creative companies that grow and innovate here. Fund for the Arts is incredibly grateful for the vision and support of both 21c Museum Hotels and Humana as they help drive a stronger, more competitive community through the arts.” 

In addition to recognizing the ten organizations, the gala shined a spotlight on the overall economic impact the arts have on the national economy. The arts and culture industry generated 4.6 million jobs with $27.5 billion in revenue from local, state, and federal government according to the 2017 Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study. The annual gala also celebrated the life of the late David Rockefeller who founded the BCA in 1966 with the belief that the arts are essential to free enterprise and human achievement.

21c Museum Hotels leverages the arts and historic preservation to drive commerce and transform communities. Today, the company operates seven museum hotels and eight restaurants with more than 70,000 square feet of museum space with works from more than 2,500 established and emerging artists. In 2016 alone, the organization hosted more than 1,500 community arts and culture events from public art tours to yoga and theatrical performances. Fund for the Arts nominated 21c Museum Hotels. 

“Laura Lee and I believe in the transformative power of contemporary art,” said Steve Wilson, Co-Founder and Chairman of 21c Museum Hotels. “We are so proud to have built a business using contemporary art as the foundation, and we’re humbled to be honored at the 2017 BCA 10. As we continue to grow 21c Museum Hotels, we remain committed to collecting, commissioning, and sharing the work of contemporary artists from around the world in our communities.”

Humana has been a stalwart supporter of the Greater Louisville arts community since 1975 through its volunteerism and financial support. In that time, Humana has contributed more than $40 million to the arts in Louisville and around the country while maintaining the longest partnership between a corporation and arts organization in the United States. The Humana Festival of New American Plays is a world-renowned event that draws an annual estimated 34,000 patrons. Humana engages in groundbreaking arts and health research by enlisting the support of creative economy producers as resources for advancing Humana’s Bold Goal initiative, which aims to achieve a 20 percent improvement in public health outcomes for Louisville and other cities by 2020. In 2016, a group of Humana Digital Experience Center volunteers created the Louisville Arts Link, a mobile app that serves as a central arts calendar for the region. IDEAS xLab and Fund for the Arts jointly nominated Humana.

“Humana and our thousands of employees are proud of our long tradition of supporting the arts, in our hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and throughout the country,” said Bruce D. Broussard, Humana Inc. President and CEO. “We believe the arts play a vital role in making our communities active magnets for talent, as well as contributing meaningfully to quality of life and economic growth.”
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"Both as artists and social innovators, IDEAS xLab has worked closely with Humana on several groundbreaking health initiatives from New Orleans and Natchez, to right here at home in Kentucky,” said Theo Edmonds, co-founder of IDEAS xLab. “As co-chair of the Culture/Social Impact committee that is helping to guide their Bold Goal work in Louisville, I can attest to the compassionate, creative thinking that they bring to collaborations as we work together to support communities in achieving their best health possible."


About Fund for The Arts

Fund for the Arts is a regional nonprofit with the mission to maximize the arts to drive economic development, education, and quality of life in our community. The Fund conducts one of the oldest united arts campaigns in the country and supports world-class institutions, community organizations and arts in education. Fund for the Arts leads collective action across the arts and cultural sector to deliver greater impact in our community. For more information, visit www.fundforthearts.org.

About IDEAS xLab
IDEAS xLab is an artist innovation group with a single driving philosophy: Health is culturally created. Over the past 5 years, IDEAS xLab has created over 80 artist residency projects with artists from more than 8 states and 6 countries. IDEAS xLab uses culture as a catalyst for building healthier communities and inclusive economies where everyone has chance to thrive based on their abilities. Visit ideasxlab.com.

Much more than just a place to spend the night, each 21c Museum Hotel is an inventive union of genuine hospitality, thoughtful design and culinary creativity — all anchored by a multi-venue contemporary art museum with rotating, curated exhibitions, interactive site-specific art installations and a full roster of cultural programming.  Conceived by founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson as a place where the art of today provokes thought, engages conversation and inspires action, 21c Museum Hotels, founded in 2007, has grown from a single community revitalization project in Louisville, Kentucky, into a hospitality brand, management and group operating seven hotels and eight restaurants in six states with others under development. Now with more than 75,000 square feet of exhibition space, the multi-venue 21c Museum is North America’s only collecting museum dedicated solely to the art of the 21st century. Follow on social for the latest updates on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. For a full roster of hotels, restaurants and current exhibitions, visit 21cMuseumHotels.com.

About Humana
Humana Inc. is committed to helping our millions of medical and specialty members achieve their best health. Our successful history in care delivery and health plan administration is helping us create a new kind of integrated care with the power to improve health and well-being and lower costs. Our efforts are leading to a better quality of life for people with Medicare, families, individuals, military service personnel, and communities at large.

To accomplish that, we support physicians and other health care professionals as they work to deliver the right care in the right place for their patients, our members. Our range of clinical capabilities, resources and tools – such as in-home care, behavioral health, pharmacy services, data analytics and wellness solutions – combine to produce a simplified experience that makes health care easier to navigate and more effective.

More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company’s web site at www.humana.com, including copies of:

  • Annual reports to stockholders
  • Securities and Exchange Commission filings
  • Most recent investor conference presentations
  • Quarterly earnings news releases and conference calls
  • Calendar of events
  • Corporate Governance information

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HIA on Project HEAL to be released October 5, 2017

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HIA on Project HEAL to be released October 5, 2017

Media Contacts:

Josh Miller

Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
Kathy Turner

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Kevin Sajdak

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco partners with IDEAS xLab to release Health Impact Assessment on Project HEAL October 5, 2017

Louisville, KY -- A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) has been conducted on IDEAS xLab's Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning) - the HIA is the first-of-its-kind conducted on an arts and culture focused population health program in the U.S. 

The Health Impact Assessment was authored by the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, IDEAS xLab, and the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, with additional support from the Health Impact Project - a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

As part of the HIA release, The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is partnering with IDEAS xLab to co-host a roundtable on October 5 in Louisville, KY. The roundtable will bring together thought leaders and funders to reimagine investment strategies for arts and culture initiatives - like Project HEAL - with social impact outcomes.

The Project HEAL HIA roundtable is invite only. For media inquiries and to request an embargoed copy of the HIA Framing and Executive Summary before its release email josh@ideasxlab.com.

Subscribe for HIA updates here.

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“The Project HEAL Health Impact Assessment is an important step toward bringing a rigorous, evidence-informed approach to Project HEAL’s design and evaluation,” said IDEAS xLab Chief Imaginator Theo Edmonds. "This is a breakthrough opportunity for artists and cultural producers who are interested in having real impact on policies that may positively influence the health and wellbeing of communities."

“Health impact assessments are a tool to help us assess the potential health effects of a program, policy or project on a population,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and Chief Health Strategist for Louisville. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with IDEAS xLab and the Smoketown community on Project Heal to assess how arts and culture initiatives can improve well-being.”


About IDEAS xLab and Project HEAL

IDEAS xLab is an artist innovation group with a single driving philosophy: Health is culturally created. Over the past 5 years, IDEAS xLab has created over 80 artist residency projects with artists from more than 8 states and 6 countries. IDEAS xLab uses culture as a catalyst for building healthier communities and inclusive economies where everyone has chance to thrive based on their abilities.

Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.) is IDEAS xLab's signature program - a cultural blueprint for creative, just, healthy communities and a model that could potentially be replicated across America. After prototyping Project HEAL in Louisville (KY) and Natchez (MS), IDEAS xLab, its network of partners and the Center for Art + Health Innovation (CAHI) -- a research partnership between IDEAS xLab and the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky at the University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences -- are now raising funds to expand Project HEAL into a groundbreaking, 7-site pilot at the intersection of arts, community development and health.

About the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (SF Fed) promotes low inflation, full employment and financial stability and serves the Twelfth Federal Reserve District, which includes the nine western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington—plus American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The SF Fed’s community development team works with a wide range of organizations to create economic opportunity for lower income Americans by developing and connecting best practices and emerging ideas with organizations positioned to make meaningful change in communities. For more on the SF Fed, go to www.frbsf.org and follow us on Twitter at @sffed. 

About Health Impact Project
Health Impact Project is a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national initiative designed to reduce health inequities and improve the health of all people by ensuring that health is a valued and routine consideration in decisions affecting them. More information can be found at www.healthimpactproject.org

About Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
Our vision is for a healthy Louisville where everyone and every community can thrive. We promote health and wellness; prevent disease, illness and injury; and protect the health and safety of Louisville's residents and visitors.  Learn more at https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness.


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September Launch: Project HEAL Natchez

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September Launch: Project HEAL Natchez

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Project HEAL Natchez – Art Exhibit and Performance Series Launches September 14 in Natchez, MS with a focus on cultural heritage and the African American struggle from slavery to freedom. 

After a yearlong collaboration between Louisville, KY-based IDEAS xLab, the City of Natchez and over 10 community artists and organizations, Project HEAL Natchez launches with an art exhibit and performance series featuring art pieces, photographs, food, music, and stories lifting up cultural heritage in Natchez, MS.

Project HEAL Natchez is supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant, with additional support from Humana Inc., the MS Humanities Council, and the We Shall Overcome Fund.

Since fall 2016, IDEAS xLab’s artists and curator have worked alongside the Natchez Art Association, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter, Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez Heritage School of Cooking, Visit Natchez, and Natchez artists and entrepreneurs, along with Brazilian artist Cadu to create a series of visual and sculptural art pieces and performances that lift up the often untold stories of Africans Americans throughout Natchez’s 300-year history.

Button Soap

Proceeds from the sales of Button Soap will support the renovation and programming at the historic Angelety House, which houses the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter and programming for the “Girls’n Pearls” (girls ages 8 to 18 mentored by the Chapter).


Project HEAL Natchez focuses on St. Catherine Street, which embodies the African American struggle from slavery to freedom and extends from Forks of the Road - the site of the second largest slave market in the Deep South (c. 1830-1861) – to the "MLK Triangle," the hub of the Natchez Civil Rights Movement on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Project HEAL Natchez Exhibit and Performance series will launch September 14 from 6-8pm with a free, open to the public event at the historic Angelety House, hosted by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter.

The exhibit includes over 750 lbs. of Natchez-made magnolia scented soap for the Equity Platform, hand-carved buttons made of magnolia wood, cast soap hand sculptures housing a single pearl and metal plate, photographs and narratives.  The exhibit will be activated by a performance of the 12 “Girls’n Pearls” (girls ages 8 to 18 mentored by the Chapter) entitled "We'll Rise Up." A full description of each art piece and a list of participating artists is available at the end of the release.

On September 16, join Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours and Natchez Heritage School of Cooking for an immersive evening featuring a performance of “Narrative of a Natchez Slave,” a heritage food tasting, and artistic collaboration “Smoketown Meets the Blues Trail of Natchez” – which brings together spoken word artist Hannah Drake of Smoketown (Louisville, KY) and Blues Legend Mr. Y Z Ealey (Natchez, MS). 

"Project HEAL Natchez has been transformative in its approach to engaging arts, culture, and heritage in Natchez," said Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell. "It has been amazing to witness the collaboration between so many different organizations and individuals throughout the community. Black and white. Young and old. All brought together by artists to lift up the cultural heritage narrative of the African American community while seeking to expand economic opportunities, especially as it relates to tourism."
Photos of the historic Angelety House and Forks of the Road historical marker on St. Catherine St. Photographs by Nicole Hester, provided by Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours.

Photos of the historic Angelety House and Forks of the Road historical marker on St. Catherine St. Photographs by Nicole Hester, provided by Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours.

Participants of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter’s “Girls’N Pearls” practice for We’ll Rise Up performance. Photo by Leon Hollins III.

Participants of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter’s “Girls’N Pearls” practice for We’ll Rise Up performance. Photo by Leon Hollins III.

"It has truly been a pleasure working with the artists and leaders of Project HEAL," said Dr. Brenda Moore, President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter. "The energy, excitement, and knowledge that they have shared with the NCBW Southwest Mississippi Chapter and the Girls’n Pearls has been immeasurable. We are thankful Project HEAL embraced our organization, engaging the Girls’n Pearls in expressive pursuits –art, music, dance, and storytelling to better understand their history."

"The Historic Natchez Foundation is very excited about participating with IDEAS xLab in a project that unites multiple organizations and many disciplines--including art, music, food ways, nutrition, health, history, and historic preservation--to create visual and sculptural art pieces and performances that focus on building community and telling under-represented stories of African Americans," said Mimi Miller of Historic Natchez Foundation.

"The project and concept arose from the rich interaction with numerous members of the city of Natchez," said Brazilian artist Cadu, who spent a month in Natchez as part of Project HEAL. "Teachers, historians, health and nutrition workers, tour guides, local artists, small business owners, individuals and activists engaged in the community. All have served not only as guides but as true co-authors. Without them we would not have reached the level of poetic metaphor we have achieved by engaging effective economic, historical and social justice aspects, so important to our work. “

Participating Artists and Entrepreneurs for Project HEAL Natchez include:

  • Brazilian artist Cadu conceptualized and co-created the Equity Platform, Girls’n Pearls Soap Sculpture, and Button Soap.
  • Louisville, KY artist, author and spoken word artist, Hannah L. Drake designed "We’ll Rise Up".
  • Cultural Liaison for Project HEAL was Natchez artist Leon Hollins III.
  • Natchez artist and entrepreneur Ann Grennell of Scent From Natchez produced the magnolia soap.
  • Natchez artists Johnnie and Loraine Griffin created the soap molds for the platform and individual hand sculptures.
  • Natchez artist Johnnie Griffin and his grandson Daniel J. Hartwell carved the wood buttons.
  • Natchez artist and entrepreneur Jeremy Houston, in collaboration with the Natchez Historic Foundation, wrote the text of the Button Soap Story.
  • Natchez cultural producer Jarita Frazier-King of Natchez Heritage School of Cooking
  • Mack James, Natchez photographer, worked with 12 girls mentored by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women to develop PhotoVoice: Girls 'n Pearls Explore Their Natchez.
  • Mark LaFrancis, Natchez author and filmmaker, worked with 9 local high school students from 3 different schools to develop PhotoVoice:  My World, My View, My Natchez.

Visit misslouheritagegroup.com for more information or email josh@ideasxlab.com with questions or media requests.

In collaboration with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Southwest Mississippi Chapter, their 12 “Girls’n Pearls” (girls ages 8 to 18 mentored by the Chapter), and Natchez-based artists and small business owners – Brazilian artist Cadu created the Equity Platform, Girls’n Pearls Soap Sculpture, and Button Soap.

Equity Platform rendering by Cadu. The platform will be made out of magnolia scented soap created by Ann Grennell of Scent From Natchez.

Equity Platform rendering by Cadu. The platform will be made out of magnolia scented soap created by Ann Grennell of Scent From Natchez.

Equity Platform uses slabs of magnolia scented, hand-made soap produced in Natchez, MS, which is stacked so the members of “Girls’n Pearls” – who range in height from 4'11" to 5'7" – are all 5'8" when standing on their slab of the Equity Platform. The magnolia is the state flower of Mississippi and symbolizes dignity, joy and nobility.

Throughout opening night on September 14 at the Angelety House, the “Girls’n Pearls” will perform We’ll Rise Up - a narrative of how Black healing is a communal art, not an individualistic act, rooted in Black history and storytelling. The artistic showcase combines traditional step dancing, singing, poetry and liturgical dance - and takes the audience on a journey from Africa to Natchez with an emphasis on liberation and equality. It challenges the audience to decide where they stand when it comes to injustice, speaks to the solidarity of a community and how knowledge of history can impact social justice. Performances on September 14 will be held at 6:30, 7:15 and 7:45 p.m.

Girls’n Pearls Hand Soap is a series of 12 individual sculptures embodying the name “Girls’n Pearls” – with pearls as a symbol for the rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Again, magnolia soap was used, this time filling molds capturing the negative space within each girls’ hands cupped together as if they are holding something precious. Encased in each soap sculpture will be a single pearl along with a metal plate inscribed with words each girl wrote to describe her future self.  The cast soap sculptures encompass themes including the passage of time, femininity, and self-image. Participants will keep their individual sculpture at the end of the Angelety House exhibition.

Daniel J. Hartwell carves wood buttons out of magnolia branches to be inserted into bars of Button Soap. Photo provided by Johnnie and Loraine Griffin.

Daniel J. Hartwell carves wood buttons out of magnolia branches to be inserted into bars of Button Soap. Photo provided by Johnnie and Loraine Griffin.

Button Soap is inspired by “Forks of the Road,” which sits only a few blocks down St. Catherine Street from the Angelety House. Some of the only archaeological artifacts found on the site following its destruction were buttons from slave’s clothing. Soap from the Equity Platform will be cut into individual bars and a single wooden button, hand- carved from magnolia branches will be inserted. Each bar will be accompanied by the story of the "Forks of the Road."

“After using the soap, the button can be extracted and attached to a piece of clothing, restoring its utilitarian use but also identifying a camaraderie of consciousness,” says artist Cadu.

100 bars of Button Soap will be available for sale during the exhibit at the Angelety House and online – visit misslouheritagegroup.com for more information. After the exhibit, the Equity Platform will be cut into more than 5,000 bars of Button Soap and proceeds from the sales will support the renovation and programming of the Angelety House.

Equity Platform, Girls’n Pearls Hand Soap sculpture, and Button Soap will be on display for 6 weeks: September 14-Oct 21, 2017 at the Angelety House.  See schedule below for exhibit dates and time.

Project HEAL Natchez also features two Photovoice projects.

·       PhotoVoice Exhibit I: Girls'n Pearls Explore Their Natchez

o   Natchez photographer Mack James, along with Leon Hollins, worked with the “Girls’N Pearls” to identify, visualize, and enhance their community experience through newly learned photographic techniques. The Girls took a series of photos that feature both the positive and negative in their environment, utilizing photography as a way to attach imagery to their lived experiences and offer insight based in their own social world.

·       Photovoice Exhibit II: My World, My View, My Natchez

o   My World, My View, My Natchez engaged nine middle and high-school students from Cathedral High School, Fallin Career and Technology Center, and Natchez High School, providing them with the technical knowledge and personal freedom to create photographic stories of their experiences and environment. Photographers G. Mark LaFrancis and Leon Hollins organized the project, exploring “place” through the eyes of the young photographers; looking at their community in a new and different way.

Project HEAL Natchez was made possible by support from the National Endowment for Arts (Our Town Grant), Mississippi Humanities Council, We Shall Overcome Fund from Highland Research Center and Education (New Market, TN), and Humana, Inc.

Schedule for September 14, 16, 17, 2017:

September 14, 2017:
6-8pm Angelety House, 180 St. Catherine St., Natchez, MS
Free, Accessible, and Open to the Public

  • PhotoVoice Exhibit: Girls'n Pearls Explore Their Natchez
  • Girls’n Pearls Hand Soap Sculpture Exhibit
  • Equity Platform
  • "We’ll Rise Up" Performance by Girls’n Pearls (Opening night only)
  • Button Soap

September 16, 2017:
5-7p  Exhibition Open at Angelety House, 180 St. Catherine St., Natchez, MS
Free, Accessible, Open to the Public

7-9p Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, 199 St. Catherine St., Natchez MS
Event: St. Catherine St. – Where Heritage Comes Alive   
Event tickets at door $10, Open to the Public, Accessible.

  • "Narrative of a Slave" by Jeremy Houston
  • Heritage Food Tasting by Jarita Frazier-King, Natchez Heritage School of Cooking
  • "Smoketown Meets the Blues Trail of Natchez" – Collaboration between spoken word artist Hannah Drake and Blues Legend Mr. Y Z Ealey
  • Cash bar

September 17, 2017:  
2-4p ArtsNatchez Gallery, 425 Main Street, Natchez, MS
Free, Accessible, Open to the public
PhotoVoice Exhibit:  My World, My View, My Natchez

6-week schedule of events:

  • September 14 Thursday |  Angelety House Exhibition and Performance Opening | 6p-8p
  • September 16 Saturday  |  Angelety House Exhibition Open 5-7p /                     
    • Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Performances 7-9p         
  • September 17 Sunday | ArtsNatchez Gallery, Opening 2-4p, 425 Main St.,
    • NatchezPhotoVoice II Exhibition: My World, My View, My Natchez      
  • September 23 Saturday | Angelety House, Exhibitions Open 11a – 1p
    • Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Event Topic:  PRIDE  7p-9p                                     
  • September 30 Saturday | Angelety House, Exhibitions Open 11a – 1p
    • Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Event Topic:  PATRIOTISM 7p-9p
  • October 7 Saturday | Angelety House, Exhibitions Open 11a-1p                   
    • Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Event Topic: PIONEERS 7-9p                 
  • October 14 Saturday | Angelety House, Exhibitions Open 11a – 1p
    • MIss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Event Topic:  POLICY 7p-9p                                   
  • October 21 Saturday | Angelety House, Exhibitions Open 11a –1pm
    • Miss Lou Heritage Group & Tours, Event Topic:  POETRY 7p-9p

About IDEAS xLab: 
IDEAS xLab uses culture as a catalyst for building healthier communities and resilient economies where everyone has a chance to thrive based on their abilities. Our community development approach centers around the arts -- a signature driver of culture. We believe that health is foundational. In connecting culture to health and wellbeing we drive change that inspires a new perspective on how to be healthy in the places where we live, work and learn. 

Selected artist bios:
Cadu (Eduardo Felix Costa) is a Brazilian artist with a Post PHD in Art and Philosophy and a professor at PUC-Rio and the School of Visual Arts at Parque Lage.  He has exhibited extensively and is represented by Galeria Vermelho. Cadu was selected as a fellow by the International Fellowship Program supported by the Arts Council of England and won the prestigious 2013 Pipa Award. He participated in the New York Residency Unlimited program and was the winner of the 2015 Radio Krakow Prize in Poland for the show “It’s Gonna Rain.” Between 2014 and 2017, he participated as an artist in residence in the InSite Foundation (Mexico) called Casa Gallina where he developed the project "Soy Mandala", a performance film linked to the feminine traditions of dance and embroidery, with a group of elderly ladies from the neighborhood of Santa Maria la Ribeira. The project is to be presented simultaneously at the Jumex Museum (Mexico City) and at the 35th Panorama of Brazilian Art at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in 2017. The recurrent issues in his works focus on discipline, catastrophe and love, using the environment and the landscape as active actors. Since childhood, Cadu always liked to create mechanisms of inventions between man and nature as another form of language.

Hannah Drake is a Spoken Word artist –advocate with an inspirational message. Frequently asked to speak throughout the country, she brings message of hope and deliverance believing that poetry can ignite true transformation. Hannah is a veteran performer whose credits include the legendary Showtime at the Apollo in Harlem. Before joining IDEAS xLab, Hannah spent many years as Pastoral Administrative Assistant to Dr. F. Bruce Williams at Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Smoketown. (Louisville, KY) In her role with IDEAS xLab, Hannah acts as a lead artist for Project HEAL and other community-related initiatives.

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2nd round of Project HEAL billboards highlight food justice in Smoketown

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2nd round of Project HEAL billboards highlight food justice in Smoketown

Building on the momentum of Project HEAL's One Poem At A Time, which launched April 1, 2017 with a series of billboards lifting up the voices of community members in Smoketown, a second round of billboards will be on display for two months starting the week of June 19, 2017.

Created through a partnership between IDEAS xLab and the Louisville Metro Department for Public Health and Wellness Diabetes Prevention Program, the new series of billboards highlights food justice, culinary heritage and planting seeds early to cultivate a healthy generation.

“For this series of billboards, I photographed community members who live, work, learn and play in Smoketown,” said IDEAS xLab co-founder and artist Josh Miller. “We wanted to highlight the positive benefits of eating together, urban farming and healthy activities. Rather than showcasing the negative aspects of living in a food desert, we’re spotlighting the ways that community members are combating negative health like growing their own produce in the backyard and eating meals together.”

“Too often health messaging is all about what you shouldn’t do,“ said Dr. Sarah Moyer, medical director for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. “We are excited to partner with IDEAS xLab on this project because they have put a beautiful and positive spin on the healthy actions necessary to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.”

The series of seven billboards are being launched in conjunction with Project HEAL’s Summer of Justice program, which is being offered every Tuesday and Thursday in Smoketown for middle and high-school students. The Summer of Justice was developed by artist Hannah Drake of IDEAS xLab, and will be led by the Project HEAL Community Health Champion, ShawnNika Queen.

"Summer of Justice is a program that all around focuses on justice using the five senses," said Queen. "The hope is to educate, strengthen and empower young people to acknowledge and voice issues they face today and create change for their future."

The program will explore through arts and culture what justice tastes, smells, looks, feels and sounds like, and is supported by Louisville Metro Office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods, Health Impact Project, KentuckyOne Health and Fund for the Arts.

Learn more about the Project HEAL billboards, Smoketown's Summer of Justice, and explore the Try Health resource page including Diabetes Prevention Program information by visiting SmoketownVoice.com.

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Artist visualizes air quality through data-driven dress

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Artist visualizes air quality through data-driven dress

Photo of artist Dominique Paul working with students at Meyzeek Middle school. 

Photo of artist Dominique Paul working with students at Meyzeek Middle school. 

Dominique Paul, a multi-site artist in residence, will lead an Air Walk on June 12 in downtown Louisville, using wearable art and an Air Beam monitor to illustrate changes in air quality from block to block. When the Air Beam monitor indicates changes in particulate matter, lights that make up the wearable garment change color. Particulate matter is one of the five air pollutants tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency and has been linked to many health problems, including asthma, heart attacks, and cancer. In Louisville, everyone is affected by particulate matter-  in the 2017 American Lung Association State of the Air Report, Louisville received a C grade resulting from days with unhealthy levels of particulate matter in the air.

During the one-hour walk along major downtown streets, we will stop at the Kentucky International Convention Center construction site, Fourth Street Live and bus stops. Participants will hear from Meyzeek Middle School students, who will share personal stories about asthma and air quality in their neighborhoods. The Air Walk marks Paul’s second visit to Louisville. In April, Paul, along with Christopher Rasheed, a teacher at Meyzeek Middle School, and students used art to discuss air quality and its effects on human health.

“It was amazing to see how my students responded to Paul’s wearable art,” said Christopher Rasheed, sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Meyzeek Middle School. “When she first entered the classroom, some of them asked if Lady Gaga had just entered the building! Her presence immediately engaged the students in dialogue about the correlation between air quality and asthma related issues. They were able to visualize the data prior to conducting the analysis. This past school year, I have had several guest speakers, presenters and musicians collaborate with me to enhance the pedagogy. What made Paul’s presentation unique was her talent for blending art with science. A lot of work went into conducting the research, analyzing and juxtaposing data, identifying commonalities, sharing stories, writing papers, brainstorming and creating art pieces to reflect the learning outcomes. As a result, a year-long series of artist residencies have been inspired that will explore healthy air, water, and soil with Meyzeek students.”

Photo of artist Dominique Paul working with students at Meyzeek Middle school by Josh Miller.

Photo of artist Dominique Paul working with students at Meyzeek Middle school by Josh Miller.

Veronica Combs, Executive Director of the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil, is excited to have Paul’s artistic talent bring attention to the issue of air quality.

“Air pollution is literally an invisible problem in Louisville – particulate matter is much smaller than a human hair,” Combs said. “Dominique and her dress will change the conversation about the state of our air and how we can clean it up to protect human health.”

The walk is organized by IDEAS xLab and the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil. IDEAS xLab is hosting Paul during a four-week residency in Louisville sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Based in Montreal, Paul has lead awareness walks in other cities including New York City. Most recently she programmed her dress with income data. As she walked from neighborhood to neighborhood, the lights on her dress reflected the average income of the residents. In low income neighborhoods, one or two rings of light lit up. In richer neighborhoods, her entire dress lit up. She interviewed people during the walk to explain her dress and discuss changing places.  NYC walk video The public is invited to join the walk. We will meet at 11:45am on the steps of Metro Hall. The walk will begin at 12pm (Noon) and will last approximately 60 minutes.

After the Air Walk, a FREE lunch will be provided for 25 people at Metro Hall, and will include stories by Meyzeek students related to air quality and asthma, and conversation facilitated by Paul and Rasheed. To RSVP for lunch, please click here.

Air Walk + Walk Details:
Date: June 12, 2017
Time: Gather at 11:45am, Walk begin at 12pm (Noon), Lunch provided at 1pm for the first 25 people who RSVP.
Address: Metro Hall - 527 W Jefferson St, Louisville, KY 40202

Dominique Paul

Dominique Paul (b. 1967) lives and works in New York (USA) and Montreal (Canada) where she received a Doctorate in the Study and Practice of Arts from the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada (2009). Since 2002, she has presented more than 20 solo exhibitions in North America and Europe. In 2012, Paul was awarded an artist in residence with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) on Governors Island. In 2015, she had a residency with Residency Unlimited, New York and made a special performance at the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C. In 2017, she has a residency with IDEAS xLab thanks to The Canada Council for the Arts. Paul has received generous support from Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Conseil des Arts de Longueuil, Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles du Québec, and the Québec Government Office in New York.         

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.    

The Institute for Healthy Air Water & Soil

The Institute was founded in March 2014 with the goal of making it easier for people to understand how our natural environment shapes our health. The Institute wants to bring about the kind of change that will help people live healthier lives, such as helping people understand how to clean up our natural environment as well as why we need to do it. The Institute is leading the nation in creating new ways to empower "citizen scientists" to reveal the connections between environmental health and human health, starting with air quality and asthma.


Since 2012 artist innovation group IDEAS xLab (IDEAS), has been designing creative approaches to improve health with a singular philosophy: Health is culturally created.  As pioneers of social innovation IDEAS transforms how people use the creative process. Through a distinct development model which offers a unique artist training program, IDEAS enters into partnerships with universities and health sector professionals to connect arts and humanities-based programming to population health outcomes through science.

The driving purpose behind IDEAS is to shift culture, advocate for policy change and find new ways for communities to H.E.A.L.

·      Health: Understanding it as a cultural and political expression. 

·      Equity: Encouraging civic engagement to create a more open, inclusive society.

·      Art: Conceiving and advancing new narratives through a humanities-based lens.

·      Learning: Designing intergenerational, experiential approaches to ignite hope and action in a new generation of creative, passionate civic and health sector leaders.

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Role of Arts in Health Policy


Role of Arts in Health Policy

Today in America... your zip code has more to do with your life expectancy than does your genetic code. In my own Louisville, KY neighborhood of Smoketown, the nearly 2,000 residents live 9 years less than the average Louisvillian. Collectively, this means residents of Smoketown have around 6,500,00 less days to live, work, worship, learn and play than the average Louisville neighborhood of the same size.

Earlier this year, I was part of a team asked to pen an article for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation outlining ways that artists can help heal communities. One of my most powerful personal reflections from writing the article is the impact of time poverty.

Time Poverty is a result of historical and contemporary policies that shape today’s realities of both urban and rural poor. Just a couple weeks ago, an article from The Atlantic, “Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong”, reinforced this thinking.

Time is not on our side in America. We must accelerate change if we are going to right the ship. We need new ways of building community agency -- social, political and economic capital.  We need to find new ways to lift largely unheard voices into equitable policymaking that can do the most good for the most people. We must do better at connecting the grass roots to the grass tops.

Organizations like Bridging Health & Community are bringing social innovation to the effort of overcoming the disconnect between the health sector and communities by tapping into the power of communities to shape the future of their own health. When such an approach is combined with the energy and creative power of arts and culture, a new transdiscplinary field emerges at the intersection of arts, humanities and population health. One that is geared toward social innovation in policy change.

In the 21st century, US policy leaders in health and education have increasingly acknowledged the need for interventions to address “the whole person.” This prompted the quest for a more integrated approach to policy development that can affect Americans at various life stages, across generations, and in multiple learning contexts. An arts and humanities approach provides an opportunity to accelerate the impact of the traditional levers of change like education, urban planning and workforce or economic development. 

An abundance of literature supports the positive health impacts of arts and culture engagement. We know well the evidence that shows the basic biometric benefits experienced by individuals through art and music therapy. Recent years have brought a deeper understanding of the intentional role that arts and culture can play in community development. This is largely understood in the context of national creative placemaking programs championed by the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America.

Simultaneously, organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have expanded our understanding of the primary and interconnected nature of the social determinants and physical environment on community health. Philanthropy, in general, is beginning to understand new models for shaping policy where equity, social justice and evolved forms of community organizing must play a central and intentional role. 

What is missing is a replicable, population level process for synthesizing all of these approaches into one that simultaneously activates all levels of the social ecological model. 

This is why IDEAS xLab, Creative Agents of Change and The Center for Art + Health Innovation have created Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.)

Project HEAL uses arts and culture as accelerating factors within traditional levers of change—such as schools, workforce development and community organizing. This approach shows promise for: 

  • creating a new bridge between the “grass roots” with the “grass tops”,
  • bridging the “trust barriers” which exist between local communities and external professionals in the health sector, 
  • producing better “language” for talking about health in communities, and 
  • developing new transdisciplinary opportunities for advancing health protective policies with as specific focus on the arts as accelerating factors for impacting the social determinants.

By training artists to harness the unrealized potential of a community’s social networks (live, work, worship, learn, play), Project HEAL has a triple aim impact:

1.     Catalyzing Community: transforming communities by building social, political and economic power through arts and culture interventions.

2.     Moving Policy: using arts and culture as a form of language and as an experiential learning tool for building community capacity for self-advocacy around proven health policies, both public and private.

3.     Shifting Culture: developing a new health sector narrative that shifts it from a “sick-care provider” to a sector whose mission is “to support people’s dreams and to enable hope.” This is a massive transformational purpose that arts and culture are uniquely suited for.

Over the next week my colleague, Nicolle Bennett will be attending the Bridging Health & Community annual convening. Simultaneously, I will be participating as a researcher in the ArtPlace America annual convening. ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical, and economic fabric of communities.

Nicolle and I will be collaborating on a series of blog posts exploring how transdisciplinary work at the intersection of arts, culture, population health and policymaking are being incorporated, discussed and understood in different ways by Bridging Health & Community and ArtPlace America. 

It is my hope that we will be able to offer new transdisciplinary insights that can catalyze further investment in this nascent field that shows promise for developing artists and other cultural producers, organizers and workers as an allied population health work force.

Theo Edmonds is Chief Imaginator and co-founder of IDEAS xLab & Creative Agents of Change. An artist and former healthcare executive, he serves as Vice-Chair of the National Private Sector Council of Americans for the Arts. IDEAS xLab & Creative Agents of Change - which trains artists to find innovative ways to create equitable places and nurture healthy communities - was co-founded by colleagues, Josh Miller, Chris Radtke and Ayelet Aldouby.




Nominate an Ambassador for Health in All Policies

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Nominate an Ambassador for Health in All Policies

Louisville won the Culture of Health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2016. This award recognized the work that people are doing all around our city to make Louisville a healthier place.
The next step in this journey is to recruit more people to the cause. The Health Ambassadors program is looking for people who are changing neighborhoods and workplaces to make these places healthier. This work covers everything from planting gardens to starting walking clubs to teaching conflict resolution skills.

Do you know an individual who would make a good Ambassador? This award is not one to collect dust on a shelf. We’re looking for people who are creative, active and engaged in the community. Do you know a good candidate?
Use this form to nominate yourself or another person. It’s a simple process:

  1. Select the type of Health Ambassador – student, community, or corporate
  2. Answer 3 questions
  3. Share contact information

The program is free. The time commitment is 2 – 3 hours per year. The main responsibility of an Ambassador is to spread the word about the good work he or she is doing in our city. The first class of Ambassadors will be announced in April. We’ll announce a second group later this year at the Health Ambassadors Summit. At this gathering, the Ambassadors will share their own work with the group and take new ideas back to their workplaces, families and community groups. The most important task for these Ambassadors is to help make Louisville a healthier and happier place by taking action and changing the traditional idea of health. It’s free to participate.

The Institute and our community partners review the nominations and announce the first class in April. All nominees and contact information will be kept confidential until the class is announced.

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One Poem At A Time launches April 1


One Poem At A Time launches April 1

One of eleven One Poem At A Time billboards throughout Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood.

One of eleven One Poem At A Time billboards throughout Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood.

One Poem At A Time - a new public health policy initiative of IDEAS xLab and Creative Agents of Change Foundation - replaces negative and predatory advertising and billboards in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood with positive photographs and poetry depicting Smoketown community members and lifting up their voices.   

“Walking through Smoketown, I was overwhelmed with the signs that filled the community," said poet Hannah Drake, a Cultural Producer & Strategist with IDEAS xLab. "Signs encouraging people to sell their homes for cash, signs encouraging those with diabetes to sell their test strips, billboards for a multitude of lawyers, drug sniffing dogs, among many others.”  

Informed by the community-based participatory nature of Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.), One Poem At A Time was developed by Drake with inspiration, feedback and input from Smoketown residents and community members through arts and culture events, meetings and surveys in 2016 and early 2017. 

"Through Project HEAL, arts and cultural production become a 'language' with which communities define, develop, and champion their own sustainable strategies for improved well-being," explained IDEAS xLab CEO and co-founder Theo Edmonds on how artists are becoming catalysts to spark collective action via Project HEAL.   

The launch of One Poem At A Time, which is FREE and open to community members on April 1, 2017 includes a guided Smoketown Poetry Walk past many of the new billboards, The Smoketown Monologues, and a conversation focused on bringing together residents, community stakeholders and policy-makers to explore policy and ordinance changes that could restrict negative/predatory advertising in low-income communities like Smoketown.   
State Representative Attica Scott, Councilperson Barbara Sexton Smith and Director of Metro Louisville's Office for Health & Safety Neighborhoods Rashaad Abdur-Rahman will facilitate the discussion that will further fuel the communities drive toward policy change.  

"If we are to heal our communities across Kentucky -- from rural to urban -- we must focus on health, equity and justice at the grassroots," said State Representative Attica Scott (D-41). "I know that blight exists across our state and Smoketown, just like every other neighborhood, is worthy of policies that respect neighborhood beautification and economic development."  

"It is our responsibility to help create a safe, healthy environment for ALL our neighbors. Positive messaging reinforces positive choices,” said Barbara Sexton Smith, Fourth District Metro Councilwoman of One Poem At A Time. “When children are encouraged to love themselves they are more likely to be compassionate toward others." 

“The Smoketown Neighborhood Association supports One Poem At A Time’s community-based, participatory approach to the development of a positive neighborhood identity with Smoketown residents,” shared Randall Weber, President of the Smoketown Neighborhood Association.  

For more information on the launch of One Poem At A Time visit SmoketownVoice.com  

One Poem At A Time Launch Details:  

Location: Smoketown Unity Monument   
(Boxing Gloves) at Hancock/Lampton St.  
10am - 3:30pm  
Mammogram screenings provided by the Kentucky Cancer Program, to schedule an appointment call, 852-6318. 
12:30pm - 1pm  
Historical Poetry Walk highlighting landmarks in the Smoketown community while exploring the new billboards.  
Smoketown Monologues featuring stories of challenge and triumph created with and inspired by community members.  
2pm – 3pm  
Community conversation with policy makers about predatory advertising in our community.  

Vivian Lasley-Bibbs, Branch Manager and Epidemiologist for the Kentucky Department for Public Health Office of Health Equity presents proclamation from the Governor of Kentucky declaring April as Minority Health Month in the commonwealth.     

Festivities also include screen printing with Steam Exchange, snacks + water station, health resources and screenings.  
Supporters of Project HEAL and One Poem At A Time include:  
Health Impact Project Implementation Grant from Pew Charitable Trust and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  
The Educational Foundation of America  
Sutherland Foundation  
KentuckyOne Health  
Owsley Brown III  
Jim and Libby Voyles  
Fund for the Arts   
New Directions Housing Corporation  
Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil  
Private donations through Creative Agents of Change Foundation, Inc.


Four Ways Artists Can Help Heal Communities

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Four Ways Artists Can Help Heal Communities

Cover photo of Smoketown Women's Mural by Steam Exchange.

Originally posted by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on March 2, 2017. Authored by IDEAS xLab co-founders Theo Edmonds and Josh Miller. 

Leaders from Louisville—one of seven winners of the 2016 Culture of Health Prize—share how artists can play a role in creating healthier, more equitable communities.

Andrew Cozzens' Smoketown Life|Line Project. 

Andrew Cozzens' Smoketown Life|Line Project. 

Our Louisville, Kentucky, neighborhood of Smoketown sits across the street from the largest concentration of health care services in our state. Yet people here live 9 years less than the typical Louisville resident. Poverty, racism, unemployment and other social determinants of health have created this gap between residents of Smoketown and those from more affluent parts of the city.

An artist’s creativity has helped make that disparity concrete. Andrew Cozzens’ Smoketown Life Line Project documents the impact of trauma on many aspects of people’s lives and health, as revealed through interviews with more than 20 local residents.

You see the impact in metal rods of different lengths—each representing the length of one community member’s life. Crimps in the rods marked with bands of color represent adverse experiences—violence (red), addiction (white), incarceration (black), trauma (blue)—showing how lives have, in effect, been shortened.

Cozzens created the project as part of Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.), a three-year framework through which trained artists can help communities identify their health priorities and unearth complex issues through sometimes tough conversations. Ultimately, Project HEAL uses the arts to enable communities to work toward health equity, hand-in-hand with policymakers, health care institutions, nonprofits, and others.

Read the full article via RWJF here.

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TEDMED 2016 Recap 2


TEDMED 2016 Recap 2

Kristen Augspurger of Humana’s Innovation team and Theo Edmonds of IDEAS xLab shared their TEDMED learnings as part of the Digital Center of Excellence’s (DCoE’s) recurring lunch and learn series.

After Kristen recapped the key themes of this year’s meeting (Click here for article 1), Theo shared how those themes are already being applied in communities across the country thanks to Humana’s Bold Goal efforts and the work of Louisville’s IDEAS xLab.

Photo by Tyrone Turner, courtesy of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Photo by Tyrone Turner, courtesy of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

What if?

Given “What if?” was the theme of this year’s meeting, Theo posed the question: “What if we understood health and well-being as culturally created, not professionally prescribed?”

He talked about the need to create flexible vs. prescriptive models – so people do the things they naturally want to do versus the things we need them to do.

“We like to pretend there’s a monolith out there and that we can create change by treating everyone the same, but that’s not the case,” says Edmonds. “People don’t wake up wanting to be healthy as a goal. They want to do the things that are meaningful for them. And that’s different for everyone.”

This is why organizations like IDEAS xLab and Humana have partnered with local communities to address issues that are important to them.

“We know that health happens locally, which is why we are convening physicians, non-profit and government leaders across seven communities, each with their own unique set of chronic conditions and barriers to health,” says Pattie Dale Tye, segment vice president of Humana’s Bold Goal team. “By addressing barriers to health like food insecurity, loneliness, transportation, and access to quality care with our community partners, we are hoping to solve some of today’s toughest health problems.” 

Approaching Community Health from a New Angle

Louisville-based IDEAS xLab is exploring problems like these from a new angle. They provide a framework for art and health innovation that brings together corporations, communities and artist innovators. They’ve spent the last four years training and placing artists inside corporations and communities – bringing the creative process into problem solving.

“Our belief is that innovation is not solely a technological or design issue, it also has to factor in human behavior; things that can positively or negatively impact health aren’t always intuitively associated with it,” says Edmonds.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that health care access and quality account for just 20% of health outcomes while physical environment and socioeconomic factors contribute half.

Much like Humana’s Bold Goal team, Edmonds and team are exploring culture-based solutions for addressing health inequities – differences in health affected by social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Specific to Louisville, Edmonds and Humana are part of several Health Advisory Boards (HAB) throughout the southeast. Born from a series of Clinical Town Halls Humana convened in 2015 and 2016, the boards are comprised of community stakeholders invited to discuss barriers to health in their respective cities. Louisville’s HAB has been working to address issues like asthma and behavioral health. In November of last year, they convened their first Suicide Summit. 

Project HEAL America

Additionally, IDEAS xLab has partnered with the University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Science’s to establish the Center for Art + Health Innovation (CAHI) and its flagship program: Project HEAL America.

“It’s a 3-year, community-based, participatory action research model using arts and culture as a tool of activation and catalyzation to increase social cohesion and community capacity to effect change,” says Edmonds. “Our theory is that health is culturally created.”

Project Heal responds to 3 trends: health disparities that inhibit economic growth, shifting population demographics and lack of jobs in the arts sector and decreased arts funding.

CAHI plans to deploy the research model in five regions of the U.S. to promote community discussion about health, collect and analyze community data, and facilitate development and implementation of a health action plan.

“We anticipate that making health a shared community value, fostering place-based collaboration, and pioneering new relationships between communities and health systems will result in a new funding model between the arts and health sectors,” said Edmonds. “We’re not creating anything new, just framing it differently; turning aspirational arts programming into operational public health strategies.”

Making Progress in Smoketown

Edmonds referenced the Smoketown community in Louisville – where the life expectancy of residents is 9 years less than the Louisville average (despite bordering the downtown campus’ of all the city’s major health systems) – as an example for where opportunity exists.  

The first step though, according to Edmonds is learning about the community from its members; asking where they want to start, what’s important to them.

“People, especially seniors, want to talk about their knowledge, not their health,” says Edmonds. “They know more about the neighborhood than you’ll get from any data set. It’s valuable, qualitative data, if you choose to treat it that way.”

For instance, IDEAS xLab’s Health Equity Strategist, poet Hannah Drake, has been working for the past year with people in Smoketown to understand why many didn’t want to go out and walk more in the neighborhood. What she learned, was that the community was surrounded with billboards and signs for gun shows, cheap attorneys, or how to sell your diabetic testing strips for cash.

“This kind of messaging creates toxic stress in the community,” Edmonds says. “So we started with community beautification and safety. Now, Hannah is creating a program where negative billboards will be replaced by positive messages from local poets, created with members of the Smoketown neighborhood.”

Simultaneously, IDEAS xLab and its partners are working on a policy change initiative that will mitigate the negative health impact of predatory advertising in low income communities. 

This is just one example of how artists and cultural workers can help a community prioritize issues related to the social determinants and catalyze a culture of health in neighborhoods.

Measuring Success

The success of Project HEAL will be measured by:

·      Increased community capacity to address the social determinants of health

·      Improved community health through long-term chronic disease reduction resulting in decreased healthcare costs

·      Improved, sustainable funding streams for community arts/culture production

·      Increased economic resilience of the business sector through improved workforce productivity

“We think that the places where people live, work, worship and learn can be activated as networks that prompt organic change,” says Edmonds. “We want to rally people around causes that they choose and want to work on. IDEAS xLab and our partners provide the evidence, research and tools to support real systems change thinking.”

It’s easy to see the parallels between Project HEAL and Humana’s Bold Goal efforts. In Bold Goal communities, impact is being measured by “Healthy Days” – a tool used by the CDC for decades that looks at a person’s physical and mental health over a 30-day period.

Changing people’s behaviors takes a collective impact and Humana and IDEAS xLab are helping to lead the way,” says Dr. Andrew Renda, director on the Bold Goal team. “Through our work, we know that there is a direct correlation between a person’s physical and mental health and where they live, work, and play. It takes all parts: art, business, government, the community, and the individual to invest in better health outcomes, which is why this work is so exciting and complex.”


TEDMED 2016 Recap 1


TEDMED 2016 Recap 1

Kristen Augspurger of Humana’s Innovation team and Theo Edmonds of IDEAS xLab shared their TEDMED learnings as part of the Digital Center of Excellence’s (DCoE’s) recurring lunch and learn series.

They also shared how many of these principles are already being applied in real life thanks to Humana’s Bold Goal efforts and the work of Louisville’s IDEAS xLab.

At this year’s event, Theo Edmonds accepted the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health prize for Louisville on behalf of IDEAS xLab, Greater Louisville Project, Community Foundation of Louisville and KentuckyOne Health. Humana, YMCA, Louisville Urban League, Louisville Metro Government Center for Health Equity, University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences, YouthBuild Louisville and others played important roles in supporting Louisville’s efforts during the year-long application process.

Louisville was selected from nearly 200 communities across the country for the prestigious prize which recognizes commitment to health equity, data-driven decision making, collective impact models, violence prevention efforts and for IDEAS xLab’s innovation in engaging artists to improve health. Learn more

Recap 1 features an overview by Kristen on the 7 talk tracks from TEDMED:

·      Invisible health (What if we could expose and confront invisible threats to health?) “This session was about aspects that often go unaddressed and can be hard to track or measure – environmental toxins, poverty, suicide,” said Kristen. “How do we get in front of these things before they have a detrimental impact?“

·      Audacious (What if visionaries ruled the world?) – “TEDMED has a group called The Hive that presented – innovators who are driving start-ups. They are focused on a lot of the same things our innovation team is here at Humana,” said Kristen. “People from digital, biomedical and life sciences spoke about their vision for improving health in new and different ways.”

·      New Models (What if we re-examine the way we frame health challenges?) – “Robotic vision, homelessness (how do we remove it altogether), and there was a lot on mental illness – how do we identify different ways to track it, diagnose it, address it before it has a debilitating impact on people’s health and people’s lives,” said Kristen.

“There was also a great speaker from Duke who talked about how medical marijuana is dispensed as a model for mainstream healthcare,” said Kristen. “He wrote a whole book about their flexibility with prescribing, how they educate people really purposefully, how they’re bringing the patient to the forefront.

·      Endgame (What if we possess the knowledge to be the architects of our aging and (eventual) deaths?) – “This was everything from how do we redefine how we plan our funerals to really embracing death as a part of what we do – not as a negative, but as positive thing,” said Kristen.

·      Fringe (What if the outer edges of human experience could provide solutions to everyday health challenges?) – “How do we venture out to unexpected areas of the way we live – thinking about things like art and adventure – to address health?’” recalled Kristen. “One of the presenters had travelled the globe and spoke about extreme altruism. How can we take the thoughts and insights of people way outside of health and apply them to our work?”

·      Social Scene (What if we could create a stronger culture of health by addressing its social and environmental factors?) – “We learned just how much where you live, your community and where you were born impacts health,” said Kristen. “There’s a lot still being discovered in this realm – particularly with regard to isolation.”

·      Truth and Beauty (What if we found beauty while confronting difficult truths?) – “I really loved this one – because it was about being really honest,” said Kristen. I thought it applied so much to our work with chronic conditions – being able to acknowledge a difficult diagnosis and how we can share. It resonated a lot as we think about our member populations.”

She then went on to share the top 4 topics that applied most directly to the work underway at Humana:

·      “Mindfulness came to forefront – how it really impacts so much of our health. From how a medicine is going to work, to how accepting you are of a diagnosis, to facing the reality of dying. It can really influence things. Acceptance and the research on mindfulness were recurring themes.”

·      Mental health – “One of the most powerful talks was the mother of the student responsible for the mass shooting at Columbine,” said Kristen. “She’s become a huge advocate for mental health and spoke about how we diagnose and track mental illness – much like we track steps today. Her own personal journey and the radical healing she’s undergone was powerful.”

·      End of life – “There’s a lot of focus on this already at Humana, but there was so much discussion on how to help people choose the experiences they want,” said Kristen. “We do all this planning around finances – we save money, we buy life insurance – but we don’t plan for dying. There’s a clear opportunity to help our members do that and make it a positive, not a negative, thing.”

·      Research – “There’s a lot of disruption happening with research, from who’s driving it to how it’s getting funded. There’s data that’s enabling medication to be made faster or determining what medication works best for you before you even take it. We should be driving some of that with our data. We need to be there disrupting instead of being disrupted.”

The theme of TEDMED 2016 was “What if?” – asking aspirational questions to imagine new possibilities.

To end the meeting, Kristen and Theo shared some of their own “What if?” questions and encouraged attendees to do the same. Below are the ones that were gathered.

Be sure to add your own “What if?” to the comments on this article!

What if…

·      … changing the way we treat others (i.e. being respectful and kind) could be seen as improving health?

·      … we could overcome TRUST issues with consumers?

·      … we used Google Glass to help diabetics make good decisions daily (including computations, food choices, etc.)?

·      … Humana could help with opioid crisis in the U.S.?

·      … all Humana associates were connected to the members and communities we serve (i.e. not just those in consumer-facing roles or on the Bold Goal team)?

·      … we were open with our members about the economics of healthcare?  If you are healthier, Humana makes more money—but you are healthier!

·      … every bill in Congress carried a community health rating (like calorie counts on menus)?

·      … we lived in a world where healthcare wasn’t the primary news headline each night?

·      … we could be truly connected as one with Providers and Consumers?

·      … we could truly put the consumer in the middle and give them access to all of their health info?


NEA Our Town 2016 - Natchez, MS


NEA Our Town 2016 - Natchez, MS

IDEAS xLab, City of Natchez, MS and Natchez Art Association one of 64 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town projects selected nationwide

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 64 awards totaling $4.3 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA's Our Town program.  IDEAS xLab is one of the recommended organizations for an award of $50,000 to support the creation and implementation of an art + health initiative called "Cultural Blueprint for Health", in partnership with the City of Natchez, Natchez Art Association, Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture & Museum, Alcorn State University Farmers Market, and Humana.

The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. The NEA received 240 applications for Our Town this year and will make awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

"For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Projects such as the one led by IDEAS xLab and its Natchez partners will help to find new ways to engage the arts to spark health and vitality in the community."

The Cultural Blueprint for Health (CBH) is a collaboration between artists, community members, municipal leaders, local business owners and health professionals and informed by Humana's collaborative efforts to improve the health of the residents in Natchez-Adams County. CBH seeks to demonstrate the economic viability and cultural value of a new model for integrating artists into the health sector through the identification and engagement of select artists as "cultural innovators for health" within the Natchez community. A specific focus will be given to issues of health equity among disproportionately affected low-income communities of color who make up 51% of the total population of Natchez

"Including artists is an integral part of our community's drive to better health outcomes, especially as we celebrate our Tricentennial year," said Larry "Butch" Brown, Sr. Mayor of the City of Natchez.

"The Cultural Blueprint for Health is guided by a theory of change that acknowledges community traditions, cultural heritage, collective action among residents and intentional engagement between the arts and business communities as necessary components for improving health outcomes and increasing health equity," said Theo Edmonds, co-founder of IDEAS xLab. "We look forward to working with our Natchez partners in their Tricentennial year."

The Cultural Blueprint for Health project is also designed to build capacity in the Natchez-based arts and culture partners to help them support their community's drive to better health. Natchez partners will become part of IDEAS xLab's growing network of artists and culture producers and public health professionals developing best practices toward a national movement for putting artists to work as social entrepreneurs advocating for health equity in public policy, developing culturally-aware health systems design and advancing health as a key component of community development strategies.

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. The NEA's online resource, Exploring Our Town (http://arts.gov/exploring-our-town/), features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.

About City of Natchez, MS:
Natchez, Mississippi is federally designated as a Preserve America Community. Located in Adams County; it is the oldest town on the Mississippi River. This year, Natchez celebrates its 300th anniversary with a year of festivities to showcase and connect people to their roots and heritage while setting a path for expanded opportunities in the future for Natchez residents and visitors. natchezms300.com

About IDEAS xLab:
IDEAS xLab is a catalytic artist-innovation company supporting equitable places and healthy people. Through parallel engagement with corporations, communities and governments, IDEAS xLab's framework for artist-led innovation empowers artists to extend their reach, deepen their impact, and fundamentally improve society. ideasxlab.com

About Natchez Art Association:
The Natchez Art Association (NAA) is a group of volunteers dedicated to growing the visual arts in the area through art education and practice of art making. Primary activities include: community outreach programs, workshops and exhibits. NAA is inclusive of all races, classes and backgrounds and strives to use art as a tool of democratization. natchezartassociation.org

About Humana:
As part of its 2020 Bold Goal - to improve the health of the people and communities it serves 20 percent by 2020 - Humana, one of Mississippi's leading health benefits companies, kicked off a collaborative effort in 2015 to improve the health of the residents in Natchez-Adams County, Mississippi. The multi-year initiative has been working with people in and around Natchez, Miss. to remove barriers to well-being and improve the health of all Mississippians.  In March 2016, the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana, provided a one-year, $250,000 charitable grant to the City of Natchez to implement the Adams County Diabetes and Heart Disease Intervention Program. For more on Humana's 2020 goal, visit www.humana.com/boldgoal.


Health Justice, Time Poverty and A Way Forward.


Health Justice, Time Poverty and A Way Forward.

IDEAS xLab co-founder, Theo Edmonds, on the front porch of his grandparents' country store in rural Appalachia. Circa 1979.

IDEAS xLab co-founder, Theo Edmonds, on the front porch of his grandparents' country store in rural Appalachia. Circa 1979.

This is the first in a series of editorial essays by IDEAS xLab's team exploring the roots of why each of us, as individuals, have come to do the work that we do.  First in the series is IDEAS xLab co-founder and Kentucky artist, Theo Edmonds. 


My granny is 97 this year. Papaw died more than a decade ago. For 50+ years, they ran a little country store in rural Appalachia where most everyone was poor. The store was next door to a school, built not long after the civil war. It's where granny went (1st-12th grade). Education was a value. The entire community took part in making sure it happened for young people. Granny was postmistress and mentor to generations of kids who came to her for help with almost everything. If she didn't know the answer, she would work with them to figure it out.

Papaw would regularly take people in our community the 15 or so miles back and forth to town for doctor's appointments. He would haul coal to help people stay warm in winter. I never saw Papaw say no to anyone who needed help. Papaw himself had been raised by his grandmother in Alabama. His mother died in childbirth and his father was not around much. In part, I am convinced this is where his deep humanity came from.

In this little mountain community, it was understood that we were all in this life together. If one family needed help, it wasn't just their problem. Everyone had a role to play in helping to solve it. This is how granny and papaw lived their lives.

They were part of an informal community support network who worked together - farmers, teachers, preachers, artisans and the like - to reduce poverty, improve health, and increase education and access to information. 

This integrated social network helped everyone to have more TIME to accomplish things in life that were meaningful because the work to be done was distributed.

As a result, generations of families in our poor Appalachian community were able to go on to college and pursue dreams of every shape and size. And, everyone has dreams. Dreams are not a one size that fits all thing.


For all of our discussions about the effects of poverty, "time poverty" is one of the things that I believe we are not yet talking about in a meaningful way.

In a recent article from The Atlantic, Derek Thompson writes:

"The world has its thesis on wealth inequality. But it lacks a comprehensive way to talk about something larger - the myriad forces that exacerbate inequality that have nothing to do with "capital."

Let's call it Total Inequality.

Total Inequality is not merely income inequality (although it matters) nor merely wealth inequality (although that matters, too). Total Inequality would refer to the sum of the financial, psychological, and cultural disadvantages that come with poverty. Researchers cannot easily count up these disadvantages, and journalists cannot easily graph them. But they might be the most important stories about why poverty persists across time and generations.

It's expensive to be poor - in ways that are often quantitatively invisible. 

Research on the psychology of poverty suggests that not having enough money changes the way that people think about time. 

It's hard to prepare for the next decade when you're worried about making it to next Monday.”


We all have 24 hours a day.

In poor communities, making the healthy choice the easy choice may be a luxury if a person is working two jobs. 

Time poverty is further compounded in many communities of color. 

Due to the structural racism in governmental policies that resulted in the mass incarceration of generations of African-American men, there are high rates of single parent households headed by women. Then, when you add in sexism, which causes women to earn less than their male counterparts in the workplace, it becomes easier to understand the systems at play.

The cumulative effects of the "isms" in general (Racism, Sexism, Classism, Ableism, Ageism, Heterosexism, etc.) are literally killing us.

We all have a limited number of years in a lifetime.

In communities of color, like Louisville's Smoketown, it is a statistical fact that the average life expectancy is about 9 years less than the average for the city of Louisville. There are roughly 2700 people who live in Smoketown. Just doing some basic math, this means that cumulatively, the families that live here have 24,000 less years than other communities. 

24,000 less years to live, work, worship, learn and play.

Circumstances are cumulative. Parents are caught in a whirlpool of poverty which prevents them from escaping to the middle class when they grow up.  Thus, catching children in the same cycle.

The silver lining is that the logic of Total Inequality suggests that interventions should be cumulative, as well. For example, when a person has the family and social support systems in place to help them finish college, they triple the chances that their child will finish college. Those with higher educational attainment also have a longer life expectancy. 

Family and Social Support. Educational Attainment. Place-based jobs. These have been proven to increase both life expectancy and quality of life.  


Over the past couple of years, IDEAS xLab focused on innovative arts projects that helped us understand health in a new way.

This work resulted in a different kind of framework for deploying artists to support increased social connectivity, educational attainment and place-based job creation as the core elements of a new kind of health justice initiative called My Healthy Days.

Being healthy is not a "goal" for most people. So, the healthcare industry needs to stop treating it that way.

The goal for most of us is doing things in life that have meaning. Health helps us do the things we care about or holds us back. Different things are meaningful to different people. One size does not fit all.

Health, when combined with creativity and empowerment, transforms what a person can't do into what a person (or community) can do. 

This is why health justice is also good business. 

Healthy, creative, empowered communities can more fully participate in the economy. When all communities are able to fully participate, it creates a more diversified workforce. Diversity is the fuel of innovation and the cornerstone of resilient, integrated economies. 


Led by groups like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there is currently a national movement to build a culture of health in America. It is driven by the belief that true progress is made when we work together toward a shared goal which is valued and advanced by collaborators from all sectors. My Healthy Days© introduces a critical ally in the movement to establish a new culture - artists.

This coming Saturday, April 9, marks an important next step in IDEAS xLab's process. Together with a wide range of cross sector partners, we will begin a 6 month community organizing process in Smoketown. Our goal over the next six months is simple. Organize people and resources in order to Create Human-Centered Community Health Development Plan With Arts/Culture as the Unifying Strategy.



National Planning Grant to Increase Health Equity

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National Planning Grant to Increase Health Equity

The Creative Innovation Zone, a partnership between YouthBuild Louisville and IDEAS xLab originally funded by ArtPlace America, together with The Special Project, announced today that it received $45,000 planning grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The grant provides funding and other support for a health impact assessment process to develop a "Cultural Blueprint for Health" -- an evidence-based action plan for integrating artist innovation into community health in order to address disparities in health outcomes with the goal of increasing family and social support and community safety. 

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It's not about one thing... It's about everything!


It's not about one thing... It's about everything!

The healthcare industry is routinely criticized from almost every direction. 

  • Nearly $3 trillion dollars is spent annually on healthcare in the US.
  • Productivity losses related to personal & family health problems cost US employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.
  • Annually, Starbucks spends more on employee health benefits than on coffee.
  • Annually, GM spends more on employee health than on steel.

Most people can agree that our health system is overwhelmed. Within the next 10 years, if current trends continue, 1 in 2 American's will have undiagnosed prediabetes or diabetes.

Most people can agree that mental health issues still carry stigma and therefore, go untreated.

Most people can agree that those who can afford more healthcare, get more healthcare.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Despite what big-pharma may say, there is no magic pill that will "fix" our healthcare system.  Health is created not just in the clinical setting, health is created in the day to day way we live our lives.  According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the circumstances into which we are born and the places in which we live have more impact on our life expectancy than most any other thing.

Many of us have old recipe cards in our kitchens. Some cards were written by grandmothers who are no longer with us. Some are recipes for dishes that have been served as staples at church dinners since anyone can remember. On these cards are written family histories and cultural touchstones. These smells, tastes and memories are part of us. When we cook old family recipes, many of which are unhealthy, we are connecting to our very identities. Especially in the southern states, these are deeply embedded aspects of who we are... the good, the bad and the ugly. 

When it comes to health, a familiar refrain is to "pick ourselves up by the boot straps" and get healthy. That is a statement that must be unpacked in terms of home economics and cultural identity. But we normally don't think about health in this way. This is why, I think, the healthcare system is struggling.  Health is not just about one thing... it's about everything. 

Where do we start? First, we have to break down the barriers that are holding people back from better health.

  • Cheap fast food, liquor stores and lack of opportunity in urban neighborhoods,
  • Increasing burdens on the working poor who are being left behind economically,
  • Burdens on any person whose lived daily experience daily feels disconnected from educational and economic opportunities because of racism, sexism, or discrimination against the LGBT community.

If we are going to become healthier as a city, we must collaborate across sectors in an effort to root out all of these barriers. This is what IDEAS xLab is training artists to do. We are also training artists to work within the healthcare industry. This is an industry filled with caring people and resources who can and will be allies with communities in solving some of Louisville's most pressing health challenges.

Together with a broad coalition of the caring, IDEAS xLab is working to create a new breed of artists who can become effective community advocates in deconstructing the current conversation around health in order to create a new model that doesn't look at poor health as a personal failure.  As a city, we must break the cycle of personal shame related to poor health and recognize that we all have a stake in finding solutions, together.

Health equity is good for individuals.
Healthy individuals create a healthy family.
Healthy families create a healthy community.
Healthy communities create a healthy workforce.
A healthy workforce creates a thriving, diverse and resilient economy.

Want to learn more about IDEAS xLab's Healthy Days?  Click here.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em.



Two words I certainly love to hear after a morning of hard work at IDEAS xLab. On the menu was Jimmy John’s. Thinking about their sandwiches and how quickly they deliver, my mouth already begin to water. The uniformed driver came in swiftly and I was ready to dine. I was handed my sandwich and unwrapped it slowly. I was met with lettuce, ham, cheese, hot peppers.  There was something missing. I unwrapped the paper a bit more thinking, surely there must have been some mix-up. Where was the 12-inch, white, toasty bread that was supposed to be encasing my sandwich? There must be something wrong. But as I looked at Josh, a partner at IDEAS xLab, he was standing at his desk simply enjoying his sandwich or as I learned, his “unwich”- a sandwich made with all the trappings minus the bread. “Well,” I thought. “If you can’t beat em, join em!”

From that point on I made a habit to watch Josh. Every hour or so he was refilling his 24-ounce cup of water when I had barely managed to get down one cup. He packed his lunch most days and he periodically ate throughout the day, huge salads and spaghetti made with spaghetti squash. Outside of his meals, I watched him stand at his desk the entire time he worked. Surely he must be tired. So I asked him. Without a second thought he said, “Oh no I have been doing this for so long I’m just used to it.” I wondered why I had never thought just to stand up at my desk? Quite frankly, observing Josh made me think about so many things regarding my fitness and sadly where I was lacking.

It was not like I had not worked out before. I knew what to do as most people do. I knew what to eat and not to eat. Although I am not a nutritionist, most people know an apple has more health befits than eating a chocolate chip cookie.  I exercised faithfully and then life happened or better yet, excuses happened. One day out of the gym turned to one week, to one month to rolling into a new year. I was tired of that routine. Starting and stopping only to start again.  Watching Josh, I saw a daily example of how health was made easy along with six great reminders to get my fitness back on track.

1.     Be responsible.  Fitness is your responsibility. Pack your lunch daily (or as often as you can) making sure to include healthy selections ensuring that grabbing unhealthy fast food is not the easiest choice. That means you will have to be responsible for prepping your food. That may mean making a huge pot of soup, baked chicken and vegetables, etc. Carry a refillable cup for your water. It is good for your health and it is good for the environment. If you know you won’t go to the gym or workout after work if you need to go home and change first, pack your clothes in the car that morning. Look for any barriers that are keeping you from making yourself responsible and make a decision to be responsible for yourself.

2.   Find a partner or group for encouragement and accountability. Last weekend, during Smoketown Strength, IDEAS xLab Smoketown Running Group, I was so discouraged because not only was it cold, but I was also the only walker/jogger. By the time I even got into a good stride, I knew more than likely they would already be back at the YMCA waiting for me. A member of the group, Mitzi, who teaches Zumba for Twice Da Hype, quickly spoke up and said, “I am walking and jogging with you.” My heart smiled. I know her level of fitness because I took her Zumba class, that she did not need to walk or jog. She could have run the 5k easily. Instead she made a choice to walk with me. During our walk, she would say, “Hannah, let’s run to the mailbox, the fire hydrant, the white car.” She continued to name landmarks and I would run to them. When I needed to stop and walk, she supported me but when she knew I could do more she pushed me.

3.     Still have fun. A glass of wine or a cookie is fine. So is a hamburger and fries. However, eat these items in moderation or learn how to cook them differently.  I discovered that I did not have to stop eating all the things I enjoyed. I simply had to find a way to make them differently or eat them on occasion. I come from a family that loves greens—collard, turnip, mustard. Traditionally these were made cooked down in water swimming in the fat and juices from ham hocks. And I loved it! A little dash of Franks RedHot Sauce and I was in business! But I learned that I can have those same things just made differently. I still enjoy my collard greens only now when I cook them I add smoked turkey to them instead of ham hocks. If I want a cookie, I have a cookie. Not the entire roll of thin mints that have been chilling in the freezer. J

4.     Do something where you stand. Meaning do something where you can. Perhaps you can stand at your desk for ten minutes, walk in place for 15 minutes, do 10 squats while you are on a long conference call, etc. Wherever you are, find a way to get in some form of exercise. Every little bit helps!  

5.     Take the time. Do not make the time to exercise, take the time to exercise. Take ownership of your time. If you know you need 30 minutes in the morning to work out, take that time. That means you must be confident in owning your time and owning your fitness and health. It means establishing personal boundaries. It means learning to say no when something impedes on the time that you have chosen to take to improve your health.

6.     No excuses. We can think of any excuse not to exercise. It is just a very easy thing to do. Stubbed your toe, can’t find matching socks and the ever famous, ‘I’m going to start tomorrow’. That dear place tomorrow where every great and wonderful thing we ever wanted to do with our lives resides.  In joining Smoketown Strength, I was determined not to offer any excuses when it came to our workouts. Then last Saturday came. The forecast for the weather was about twenty degrees.  There was just no way! None! I couldn’t imagine walking to the mailbox in twenty-degree weather let alone doing a 5k. And then Josh said a sentence I will never forget, “Put socks on your hands if you don’t have gloves.” Socks? At that moment I knew no excuse would do. We are a team and as team members not only would they hold me accountable, I did not want to let the team down. More importantly, I didn’t want to let myself down. I went that day and finished the 5k. And I was proud.

Although this list of fitness reminders are not all inclusive for ways to get in shape, by doing these six steps I can already see an improvement in my health. I am looking forward to the next three months and what will happen in all the lives of the ten people in the group. If you would like to come out and join Smoketown Fitness, we welcome you! We meet each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Please send me an email at hannah@ideasxlab.com so that you can find out our location. This Saturday, February 20, 2016 we will meet at the corner of Brook and Market in preparation for the first leg of the Triple Crown which will be held, Saturday, February 27, 2016. We have all levels of fitness in the group from running to walking. Our goal is one thing, to simply finish the course! Remember, if you can’t beat us, join us! We are waiting for you! 


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Ushering in 2016


Ushering in 2016

I was happy to usher in the New Year at IDEAS xLab as the Community Health Advocate. Just three weeks into my new position, it made me think about my former position at Bates Memorial Baptist Church. I was blessed to work at Bates Memorial Baptist Church for 16 years. During that time, I was able to work with Dr. Williams as his administrative assistant and an amazing staff made up entirely of African-Americans.  I know it is a common thought that for some races, they can go an entire day maybe even a week without seeing someone of a different race. The same could be said for me.

There were many days that I could go throughout my life and never see anyone or have interactions with someone that looked differently than I.  When I started my new position I realized that my life was somewhat insulated. When I shaved all my hair off and decided to “go natural,” I never gave it a second thought. Rocking my fight the power earrings and Black Lives Matter hoodie on a Friday was common. I remember we rejoiced when President Obama took office. We let out a collective sigh as we heard the George Zimmerman verdict. We stood with our hands up in solidarity with those in Ferguson. It was just the way it was.  We were united, and the one thread that bound us, beyond our faith, was our race.

When I started my new position, it was the first time I paused and thought about these things. Quite frankly, the first week I felt like a fish out of the water. I was now aware of my race, my hair, my attire that often was a t-shirt with a slogan intended to challenge those that read it, my slang. I was aware of my blackness in all its glory. Something I never really thought about for 16 years.  I was now back in the “real world” and I wondered how I was going to fit in? I embraced the changes with optimism. I had a voice. I had something to offer. I was happy to share my views as well as hear views from others.  I realized being insulated is not good for the soul. There is something beautiful that comes from learning about other people, your community, where you live. I walked the streets of NuLu, admiring the unique shops and I wondered why I never took the time to do that before? I ate an amazing burger at Garage Bar, I people watched as people hurried about their day.  I laughed with Miguel, a painter in the office that always seems to be in a wonderful mood. I listened to classical music as we discussed health disparities. I listened to an NPR interview about a freed slave who wrote his life story in a time when writing by slaves was punishable by death. I heard stories of those that have lived in Smoketown for decades. I learned about Louisville and its implementation of plans to make the city one that thrives.  I attended meetings with people that cared about the health of their community. These people were just ordinary people trying to make a difference in their small part of the world.  All of the people I met and all of the experiences thus far have challenged me to think differently on some issues, to expand my experiences so that I can have a whole life, not an insulated life because a life of insulation is truly not living.

I wondered how much richer and fuller our lives would be if we stepped outside of our safe space? If we stepped outside of our familiar? If we made it a point to truly know those in our community and then step beyond our community to meet people that do not look like us? People that challenge us to think differently, to go just a little bit deeper. How much better would our lives be if we lived in such a way that we welcomed interactions with others? If we valued their thoughts and opinions? If we embraced their challenges wondering how we could make a difference? If we used what we learn from other to grow individually and collectively?

I have seen an entirely different side of Louisville since the start of the New Year. Our city does have its challenges, but I now see them as opportunities for me to help in my small corner of the world. There is beauty all around us in Louisville; we simply have to open our eyes and discover it.  I look forward to working with IDEAS xLab and growing as a poet, artist and advocate for the Smoketown Community. And I will still be rocking my fight the power earrings while I do it!






From Generosity to Justice


From Generosity to Justice

Louisville is a generous and compassionate city. And, for this, we are all thankful. As we move into 2016, IDEAS xLab would like to challenge Louisville to consider a shift in our thinking. It is time for us to move from "generosity" to "justice".