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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 The NEA's online resource, 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.

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.

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.

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