Hero+Shero Journeys (JOURNEYS) is an artist residency program designed by IDEAS xLab to raise student awareness of environmental justice health issues by leveraging arts and culture strategies to investigate science, technology, engineering and math while creating an opportunity for students to design their own Hero+Shero journey toward environmental policy change. 

Through JOURNEYS, four artists will explore the potential for combining the power of community with art, data science, mythology and storytelling to engage sixth graders, at Smoketown's Meyzeek Middle School, in co-creating projects and policies with neighborhood leaders that can positively impact environmental health. 

The in-class residency project is led by spoken-word artist Christopher Rasheed, a sixth-grade creative writing teacher at Meyzeek Middle School. In addition, Meyzeek math teachers Matthew Cramton, science teacher Bradley Fowler, LA/Reading teacher Kelly Lamaster, and social studies teacher Cynthia Herbig are partnering with the artists to incorporate and teach varying aspects of JOURNEYS in their classrooms.  

Ultimately, the project seeks to demonstrate the potential for turning middle schools across the United States into cultural hubs for civic innovation in health policy while increasing students’ roles in policy making through the arts.    

This project is influenced by the book that inspired the movie series “Star Wars.” The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a work of comparative mythology by American mythologist Joseph Campbell.    

The University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences will work with IDEAS xLab and Meyzeek Middle School students to measure qualitative outcomes of student understanding of the civic engagement process as a result of the four residencies in air, soil, water, and environmental justice. 


Canadian Artist Dominique Paul created the Air Quality Dress using an AirBeam (air quality monitor) to visualize surrounding air quality through LED lights worn as part of her handmade wearable art piece.  

Over two weeks, Paul utilized the Air Quality Dress to engage Meyzeek Middle School students in discussions and research about air quality and the impact of unhealthy air on asthma and other breathing illnesses. In partnership with teacher Christopher Rasheed, creative writing, research essays, drawings, poster presentations and a short play were all developed exploring the many facets of air quality and asthma.   

In June 2017, Paul worked with the Institute for Health Air Water & Soil to lead an air quality walk in downtown Louisville with Meyzeek students, their families, and other members of the community.  The walk was free to the public and an active demonstration of the Air Quality Dress, concluding with a community discussion at Metro Hall about Louisville’s air quality.


Louisville artist, environmentalist, tree climber, and teacher Todd Smith’s soil residency project Diverse Ground was created under advisement by Louisville's Kurt Mason, Lead District Conservationist with the National Resources Conservation Service for USDA.  

Through Diverse Ground, Meyzeek students will learn to collect and analyze soil samples from their school property and a nearby neighborhood urban farm. After making soil milkshakes with the samples, paint chips will be utilized to create a large color-coded soil map of the settled soil. Using arts and culture strategies, the students will analyze the soil and explore the connection of soil to community health through poetry and rap.  

The final class session will be a Poetry Jam in which each student will present the poems they have written which will be incorporated into the soil map. 


Independent filmmaker, Louisville artist, and teacher Andrew Thuita worked with advisor Gordon Garner, past Executive Director of MSD, president of KY Waterways Alliance and Board Member of the Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil to design a water residency for Meyzeek students.  Classes will explore Beargrass Creek on the eastern edge of the Smoketown neighborhood and test the water to learn why people should neither drink the water, swim in the creek, nor eat the fish. 

Andrew Thuita will use his filmmaking skills to teach students how to make one-minute videos addressing the challenges of the creek's ecosystem and the human decisions that have rendered the water unsafe. The final class session will be a student led One-Minute Film Festival featuring each group's videos.  Students will submit their best videos to the KY Waterways Alliance for possible selection to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival which will be held in Louisville in March, 2018.


Brianna Harlan is a social practice artist, photographer, engagement coordinator with the Center for Neighborhoods, writer, blogger, businesswoman, and an alum of Meyzeek Middle School. Working with team members of IDEAS xLab, Brianna will introduce students to the process of civic engagement as they work together to create a Super Hero+Shero comic book focused on a student identified environmental justice issue regarding the health of Smoketown's air, water or soil.