Leveraging the power of arts, culture, and the creative industries to frame, seed, and scale innovation in health and wellbeing.
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Artist Projects

Artists: Creators of HOPE

Our health surrounds us every day like a bubble. When we feel healthy we are HOPEFUL, happy, and readily embrace everything important to us. Our family, friends, work, and neighbors bring joy, support, and meaning that guide us to living a fulfilling life.

By integrating unique creative approaches, artists are bringing people together to drive change and improve health.

We work with artists who have the lived-experience of our partner communities, and train them to think about impacting health, cultivating hope, justice, sustainability, and celebrating culture and identity.


Our Emotional Wellbeing (2019-2020)

Our Emotional Wellbeing (OEW) is a program focused on creating arts-based experiences with young people to impact hope and emotional wellbeing. We believe our students and young people have the power to impact lives. Their life, the lives of family and friends, lives around the globe.  

By working with local artists, young people can harness their power to create hope, building on their values as young leaders. Imagine creating a set of projects, activities and experiences with artists that could be used by other groups of young people to impact hope – which can impact academic achievement, and your health!  

The 2-year initiative (2019-2020) will involve young people from the Louisville Youth Group, Meyzeek Middle School Justice League and Bates Kingdom Academy. Each group will identify priorities and select an artist (visual artist, poet, writer, photographer, musician, etc.) to work with. 

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Hero + Shero Journeys (2017-2018)

Site: HEAL Community Smoketown

Artists: Dominique Paul, Todd Smith, Andrew Thuita, Brianna Harlan, Chris Radtke

Hero+Shero Journeys is a series of artist residencies that combine the power of community with art, data science, mythology and storytelling to engage over 150 sixth graders at Smoketown's Meyzeek Middle School in Louisville, KY, to learn about civic engagement and policy-making that can positively impact environmental health. Through artist residencies focused on air, water, and soil, students develop a super Hero+Shero comic book outlining environmental issues and recommended policy solutions - tackled by leveraging their collective superpowers to improve the environment.

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Smoketown Life|Line Project (Ongoing)

Site: HEAL Community Smoketown

Artist: Andrew Cozzens

The Smoketown Life|Line sculpture uses vertical metal rods to represent the “lifelines” of residents in Louisville, Kentucky’s Smoketown neighborhood. The height of the rod represents the age of each individual, and were sized, bent, and banded with different colors as Andrew engaged with Smoketown stakeholders to indicate timelines and the types of trauma individuals have experienced throughout their lives: things like incarceration, addiction, and mental illness. Individually, each rod tells a unique story about one person’s growth through numerous obstacles. Collectively, the rods paint a picture of the health landscape in Smoketown today: multidimensional and unequal, but malleable.


Our Breathitt (2017-2020)

Our Breathitt is a community arts and health experience that launched in fall 2017, and brings together multiple programmatic elements and artist-led engagements (poetry and writing, music, dance, visual, film, performance, gardening, cooking) at various sites throughout Jackson (Breathitt Co.), Kentucky.  

Our Breathitt takes a different approach to acknowledging and celebrating the community’s history, heritage, and future than in NY Times' Best Seller, Hillbilly Elegy, or other writing that exploits the stereotypes and not the beautiful humanity of such an amazing community. 

Our Breathitt is led by artists, who are coordinating with local businesses, healthcare organizations, municipal government, local school systems and universities through IDEAS xLab’s HEAL Community Approach, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.  

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One Poem At A Time (2017-2018)

Site: HEAL Community Smoketown

Artists: Hannah Drake (Lead), Josh Miller

To date, One Poem At A Time has replaced 19 billboards in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood with positive historical and contemporary images of people and places, paired with one-line poems written with community members. We came to understand that just as lead puts an environmental toxin into an environment, negative and predatory messages can put a social toxin into the environment, so our goal, through One Poem At A Time, is to help people envision what implementing a policy that restricts predatory advertising in communities that are in the process of reviving and rebuilding could look like.

Equity Platform, Button Soap and Girls'n Pearls Hand Soap (2017)

Site: HEAL Community Natchez

Artists: CADU (Lead), Ann Grennell, Hannah Drake, Johnnie and Loraine Griffin

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 PlatformGirls’n Pearls Soap Sculpture, and Button Soap.

Over 750 pounds of hand-made Magnolia scented soap were used to build the Equity Platform, which was then cut into 2,000+ bars of Button Soap.

Directed by Hannah Drake, We’ll Rise Up - a narrative of how Black healing is a communal art, not an individualistic act, rooted in Black history and storytelling – was performed by the “Girls’n Pearls” atop the Equity Platform during the exhibit opening.

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@Worthy of Everything (Ongoing)

Site: HEAL Community Smoketown

Artists: Josh Miller, Hannah Drake

The Worthy of Everything campaign (Instagram @WorthyofEverything and Facebook features images of people who live, work, worship, learn and play in Smoketown, and beyond. The images are paired with quotes by the individuals depicted lifting up what the community is worthy of. 

Share your #WorthyofEverything moment and tag us on IG.

The initial series of images were taken by Josh Miller. Our hope is that community members will begin to contribute their own photos as awareness grows!

Photovoice (2017)

Sites: HEAL Community Smoketown and HEAL Community Natchez 

Artists: Shelton McElroy, G. Mark LaFrancis, Mack James, Leon Hollins.

In two of our Project HEAL sites, Photovoice has been used as an engagement tool and way to facilitate a conversation around quality of life and policy change. Local photographers worked with community members or groups of students to explore aspects of their personal experiences and environment. The Photovoice projects were then presented during community events.

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Kentucky Lab (Ongoing)

Site: HEAL Community Smoketown and HEAL Community Jackson

Artist: Mackenzie Berry

Policy is an imagining of the future. This is one of the core domains of all artists and an activity that is fundamentally cultural. To be sustainable, health and community development policies must find ways to become embedded in local cultures. Project HEAL: Kentucky Lab includes the Word To Wellness, a podcast created by a poet exploring the rural-urban dynamic of health access in Kentucky

Roots and Wings. Dakar, Senegal

Roots and Wings. Dakar, Senegal

Roots & Wings (2015-2017)

Sites: Louisville, KY + Senegal (West Africa)

Artists: Multiple Artists.  Project Concluded.

Created by IDEAS xLab and Bridge Kids International in partnership with The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Roots and Wings was a game changer in Louisville's cultural scene from 2015-2016. The project helped to support the Mayor’s Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods efforts to reduce violence and increase educational attainment among young African Americans. Roots and Wings was a collective of Louisville-based artists who lead immersive public workshops blending traditional West African and Appalachian arts with contemporary urban performance techniques. The groups work was focused on decreasing youth violence and  increasing in youth participation in community development efforts alongside municipal investments and strategies.

Project was funded by a grant from ArtPlace America. Though now over, the members of the group have gone on to create powerful change across Louisville and beyond. 


Urban Green (Ongoing)

Site: Smoketown (Louisville, KY) + Versailles FR

Artist: Multiple (France  & U.S.)  

2018 will be the 5th year for Urban Green: The King’s Garden Exchange -- a collaboration between IDEAS xLab, YouthBuild Louisville, NYC-based Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery, Antoine Jacobsohn (Director-Potager du Roi, Versailles, FR), and Isabelle Leroy-Jay Lemaistre (Retired Conservateur Général du Patrimoine Honoraire- Musée de Louvre, Paris, FR). The project — part of YouthBuild and IDEAS’ greater UrbanGreen initiative — aims to transform fallow urban land into a productive and engaging greenspace fueling local entrepreneurship through the training and employment of opportunity youth

Image by Kelsey Page of heARTstory participant Marquita "Pinky" Busby.

Image by Kelsey Page of heARTstory participant Marquita "Pinky" Busby.

heARTstory (2016)

Site: Louisville, KY

Artists: Anna Olivia Blake, Hannah Drake, Shae Goodlett, Robin G, Kelsey Page, Theresa Carpenter Beames, Tytianna Wells Smith, Cheyenne Mize, Nina Rodahaffer, Scout Kay.

heARTstory was a 4-month artist residency organized by IDEAS xLab in partnership with American Heart Association Open Your Heart committee, and featured an interdisciplinary group of artists, including photographers, poets and an illustrator, who created a body of work that highlights the impact of heart disease on women through a contemporary lens. Showing that, whether you are 13 years old or 63 years old, heart disease can drastically impact your health, and being educated about the symptoms, and your own health, can be life saving. 


Summary of Select Projects 2014 - 2016