About Project HEAL Pilot Site

Project HEAL Pilot Lead: Hannah Drake - National Artist & IDEAS xLab Community Health Equity Strategist  

Pilot Site Location - Louisville, KY

Project HEAL is currently taking place in the Louisville, KY community of Smoketown - the oldest African-American neighborhood in the city and directly adjacent to the highest concentration of health, hospital and physician services in the state of Kentucky.  Despite Smoketown's proximity to clinical services, average life expectancy (69yo) of Smoketown residents is 9 years less than Louisville's average on the whole. During the past 3 years the neighborhood has experienced rapid change when Sheppard Square, the 4 square block public housing complex, was demolished. Over 200 families were relocated to other neighborhoods while new low-income housing is being completed using a federal Hope VI grant. 

Pilot Social Network Artists for Project HEAL include: 

  • Greg Acker - conducting five pop up drumming stations within various areas of Smoketown to gather stories, facilitate deeper communication within the community, and will use drumming as a tool to introduce personal healing into community health.  

  • Cynthia Brown – using dance and movement as a therapeutic art form in the Smoketown community. 

  • Shelton McElroy - developing and implementing a community assessment tool that is aimed at gathering information about community needs, identifying target populations and areas within the community that may be at increased risks and assessing the larger community environment and how it can play a role in addressing the needs of individuals in the community.  

  • Caitlin Kannepell & Rachael Mauser (Steam Exchange) - using art expression with the youth in the Smoketown Community to foster youth led community leadership. 

Pilot Agents of Health Artists for Project HEAL include: 

  • Bobbi Buchanan  - explores neighborhood narratives identifying grief caused by trauma and strategies for coping. 
  • Andrew Cozzens - investigates the measurement and impact trauma-induced "time poverty" of the Smoketown community and their families.
  • Emily Stewart - probes the role of stress in police relations within the community  

Click here for full artist bios and project descriptions.

The artist residency program is made possible through the support of the Creative Agents of Change Foundation (CAC).  CAC believes that artists can become a unique force of social entrepreneurs and innovators who creatively use arts+culture tools to promote wellness, to increase positive self-image and to increase understanding of how the health sector can impact health outcomes in communities. 

Other,  Louisville-based partners of Project HEAL include:

In addition to Creative Agents of Change Foundation, supporters of Project H.E.A.L. include Health Impact Project (Pew Charitable Trust, RWJF) and Fund for the Arts.



A lifelong resident of Louisville's West End, Cynthia started dancing at the age of 6. She has danced with Louisville Ballet Civic Company and trained at the School of American ballet in New York. Cynthia and has worked with many local organizations dancing and teaching, and doing community work in victim’s advocacy and community impact. Cynthia holds an AAS in Commercial Art, BA in communications, and has done graduate studies in sociology. 

Currently Cynthia is an artist with Roots & Wings, freelances graphics & marketing under PenPoint Designs and works for a nonprofit agency doing marketing and micro-enterprise development in the Smoketown neighborhood. 





Shelton T. McElroy has a Master’s Degree in Education and Human Development from Lindsey Wilson School of Professional Counseling. He is the Parent Engagement Manager with the Metro United Way of Louisville, Kentucky, where he aids numerous families in developing a pipeline from aspiration, to education, to occupation. Shelton became a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels in 2010. This organization, founded in 1813, provides financial support to Kentucky charitable and educational institutions and organizations. He has been a featured speaker at numerous conferences and events, and is the recipient of the Kentucky Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (KACRAO) Plenary Speaker Award. Shelton was recently honored by Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY), founder of Fathers for Fathers, a grassroots organization advocating healthy fatherhood. In addition, he is a Parent Advocate with the Department of Community-Based Services where he assists parents who have come into contact with the child welfare system by advocating and walking them through the reunification process. Shelton’s passion and focus is on overcoming obstacles and reunifying families.


Shelton McElroy will help develop and implement a community assessment tool  aimed at (1) gathering information about community needs, (2) identifying target populations/areas within the community  at increased risks and (3) assessing the larger community environment and how it can play a role in addressing the needs of individuals.

Gregory Acker

Greg Acker is a 25-year Smoketown resident and Community Artist from Louisville, Kentucky. He provides community-building world music workshops and related arts activities for groups of all ages and abilities. As a musician, instrument-builder, and arts educator, he works with VSA Arts Kentucky (arts for students with disabilities), the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Center for the Arts (Arts in Healing and Arts Education), and numerous churches, community groups, and youth treatment centers.  He has worked in the field of world arts for recent immigrants and refugees through the Americana Community Center, Arcadia Community Center, and with Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

As a performer and composer, Mr. Acker coordinates the Pati Kele Drum Ensemble (traditional West African music), and works with Ut Gret (pan-idiomatic world music improvisation ensemble), and also with the Afrophysicists (Afrobeat and Highlife).

Mr. Acker holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and is a former Peace Corps volunteer in two countries in Africa, with extended study experience in India and Indonesia. He has taught world music courses for the University of Louisville, Indiana University Southeast and Jefferson Community College. He has received grants from the NEA, Southern Arts Federation, Greater Louisville Fund for the Arts, the City of Louisville, and was selected by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation as “one of America’s most skilled and experienced community artists.” He is a 2006 APPEX fellow (Asia-Pacific Performance Exchange, UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance). Mr. Acker currently serves as coordinator and Artist-in-Residence for Sound Community—a world music, dance, and related arts space in the Highlands Community Campus, Louisville, KY. 

PROJECT H.E.A.L. FOCUS - S.A.C.R.E.D. (Smoketown Arts + Culture Recreational and Educational Drumming)

Greg will offer participatory world music and related art forms with a focus on introducing stress management, stress reduction and social connectivity.  He plans to conduct five pop up drumming stations within various areas of Smoketown to gather stories, facilitate deeper communication within the community, and will use drumming as a tool to introduce personal healing into community health.

Regional Artists

Bobbi Buchanan 

Bobbi Buchanan is the author of TINY LITTLE BEAUTY and LISTEN: ESSAYS ON LIVING THE GOOD LIFE, and is coauthor of HIGHER LOVE, the true story of Paul Campion and Randy Johnson, who were plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Bobbi's work has been published in The New York Times, The Louisville Review, Sojourners, Brain Child Magazine, and other publications. She is co-founder of the Homegrown Art, Music & Spoken Word Show, an open-mic and arts exhibition series held bimonthly in Shepherdsville, Ky., and presented in partnership with Color Your City, a substance abuse prevention and recovery charity working to provide local residents the tools they need to create art and outlets for sharing their work. Bobbi teaches creative writing at the Bullitt County Detention Center as part of Color Your City’s Art for Inmates in Recovery Program, which focus on using the arts as a means of rehabilitating substance-abuse offenders—to educate them on the power of art as a mechanism for healing and stress reduction.

Andrew Cozzens is a visual artist who researches time subjectivity and its effect on human experience and aging. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally at Georgian in Ontario, Canada; the Arenes du Lutece in Paris, France; SCOPE at Art Basel in Miami Beach, FL; Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO; and the Siena Art Institute in Siena, Italy.  In 2010 he was the recipient of the Milliken Travel Grant and the Cite’ Internationale Des Arts Residency in Paris, France.

Recently Andrew has curated multiple exhibitions and his essay Simultaneity and the Parallax in Art: The Fallacy of Absolutes was published in the International Journal of Zizek Studies. Andrew has taught Art History, Sculpture, Environmental Art, 3D Design, Art Appreciation, and Drawing courses on the collegiate level. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the Kentucky College of Art and Design at Spalding University and lives in Louisville, KY. MFA- Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St. Louis, BFA- Murray State University.

Emily Pike Stewart is a theatrical artist inspired by the power of creative collaboration and its potential as a tool for social change. She holds a BFA in Drama from New York University and has performed in New York City and regionally. She has taught young actors at Walden Theatre (Louisville, KY) and Idyllwild Arts (Idyllwild, CA) and worked with Hand in Hand Ministries on their theatrical arts immersion program in Managua, Nicaragua. Emily is a narrator for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and has done post-production on hundreds of commercial audio books, including multiple Audie Award-winners and 2011 Grammy Award-winner Earth: The Audio Book by Jon Stewart.