IDEAS xLab
Leveraging the power of arts, culture, and the creative industries to frame, seed, and scale innovation in health and wellbeing.
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Our Breathitt

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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. 

We’re a group of artists 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.  


Our Breathitt Poetry, Essays and Plays

Artist-led writing workshops based on Appalachian heritage and traditions took place in 2018 and 2019, and were used as forums for health promotion and education with a focus on Heritage and Hope. Starting in August 2019, five collaborating writers, each with their own perspectives and ties to the county, began offering weekly columns in the Breathitt Advocate and Jackson Times-Voice informed by the workshops.

Call 859-397-1317 and leave us a voicemail to join the conversation with your response to the questions we raise at the end of each Our Breathitt piece! You may hear your responses incorporated into future posts and narratives! You can also email your response to ourbreathitt@gmail.com


The lives, stories, and heritage of people in Breathitt Co. are inspiring new music from a series of musician-led workshops in the community. Coordinated by musician & music therapist Cheyenne Mize, including musicians and community members Scott Allen, Jonathan Chapman, The Handshake Deals (depicted above), and Kate Driskill - who led workshops with community partners including Nim Henson’s Geriatric Center, The Sapling Center- Jackson, Breathitt County High School, Breathitt County Public Library, and Breathitt County Senior Citizens Center to inspire new and original music. This new body of work will be recorded with the talents of additional Breathitt County musicians, interwoven with written narratives, and performed at the Our Breathitt Summit on October 11-12, 2019.

The lives, stories, and heritage of people in Breathitt Co. are inspiring new music from a series of musician-led workshops in the community. Coordinated by musician & music therapist Cheyenne Mize, including musicians and community members Scott Allen, Jonathan Chapman, The Handshake Deals (depicted above), and Kate Driskill - who led workshops with community partners including Nim Henson’s Geriatric Center, The Sapling Center- Jackson, Breathitt County High School, Breathitt County Public Library, and Breathitt County Senior Citizens Center to inspire new and original music. This new body of work will be recorded with the talents of additional Breathitt County musicians, interwoven with written narratives, and performed at the Our Breathitt Summit on October 11-12, 2019.

Graduation Embellishments : To recognize the achievements of the students of Breathitt County while celebrating the beauty surrounding the school, we created an embellishment for their graduation outfits - where each graduate could wear a section of the quilt. Quilter Shaina Naillieux, along with her mother Patricia Caudill, worked in collaboration with high school students from Breathitt County, and members of the Breathitt Homemakers Association to create the 30-foot quilt that was assembled piece by piece as graduates crossed the stage at Breathitt High School. This began a new tradition, that will continue year after year.

Graduation Embellishments: To recognize the achievements of the students of Breathitt County while celebrating the beauty surrounding the school, we created an embellishment for their graduation outfits - where each graduate could wear a section of the quilt. Quilter Shaina Naillieux, along with her mother Patricia Caudill, worked in collaboration with high school students from Breathitt County, and members of the Breathitt Homemakers Association to create the 30-foot quilt that was assembled piece by piece as graduates crossed the stage at Breathitt High School. This began a new tradition, that will continue year after year.

Our Breathitt partnered with University of Kentucky Extension Service Office along with community members including Kenneth Combs, and the UK Landscape Architecture Program to design and install artistically considered raised garden beds as part of the installation of a new parking lot that was already underway. The raised garden beds will feature “ Cancer Prevention Cooking Garden ” that will launch in Spring 2020. These beds will be utilized to grow food for the community to use in their gardening and cooking/canning classes, and would contribute to the dialog surrounding cancer prevention through cooking with and eating whole foods. Displaying these gardens on Main Street is a visual reminder to all who live there of the history of farming in the region and its relationship to the community sentiment, “food is love”.

Our Breathitt partnered with University of Kentucky Extension Service Office along with community members including Kenneth Combs, and the UK Landscape Architecture Program to design and install artistically considered raised garden beds as part of the installation of a new parking lot that was already underway. The raised garden beds will feature “Cancer Prevention Cooking Garden” that will launch in Spring 2020. These beds will be utilized to grow food for the community to use in their gardening and cooking/canning classes, and would contribute to the dialog surrounding cancer prevention through cooking with and eating whole foods. Displaying these gardens on Main Street is a visual reminder to all who live there of the history of farming in the region and its relationship to the community sentiment, “food is love”.

Our Breathitt Collaborators and Partners:

  • Breathitt County Schools

  • Jackson City Independent Schools

  • Breathitt County Academic Boosters

  • Riverside Christian School

  • Breathitt County UK Extension Office, Kayla Watts, Reed Graham and their amazing staff

  • Robinson Experiment Station

  • Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC), Lees College Campus

  • Ruschelle Hamilton

  • Willie Griffith

  • Arch Sebastian

  • Laura Thomas, Mayor

  • Angie Raleigh

  • Steven Bowling, Director of Breathitt Co. Public Library

  • Clara Gabbard

  • Shaun and Crystal Thatcher

  • Jenny and Teddy Edmonds

  • Breathitt Advocate

  • Jackson Times-Voice

Our Breathitt Artists:

Our Breathitt includes artists living in Breathitt County, artists with roots in Breathitt County and now living in the region, and artists from the region who have all come together to collaborate.


Background:

IDEAS xLab was co-founded by Theo ‘Alan’ Edmonds, who has eight generations of family history in Breathitt Co. and is excited to be working with community members in the place he calls home. Theo is now an assistant professor with University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences and the Director of the Center for Creative Placehealing. Co-founder and IDEAS xLab CEO Josh Miller has spent extensive time in Breathitt Co. with the Edmonds family and working with artists and community members through Our Breathitt. The lead artist of Our Breathitt is Rae Goodwin, faculty in the School of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky. In her travels she has met amazing people from Breathitt Co and is thrilled to be a part of such a great place. She has fallen in love with the community of generosity and kindness there. 

Building on the energy and engagement from Spring 2018 with the Breathitt Co. Academic Boosters, and as part of Breathitt County School’s Literacy & Heritage Day on August 31, Our Breathitt brought together five artists to lead writing workshops with k-12 students, who were engaged to write poetry, a short film script, song lyrics and more — all rooted in hope and heritage — taught by artists including Pauletta Hansel, Theo “Alan” Edmonds, Rae Goodwin, Scott Allen, and Jay McCoy. 

Engagements included Hansel working with students at Breathitt Co. High School to write their own poems, while Edmonds had students imagine and author movie-scene scenarios at LBJ Elementary School, and Allen incorporated music and singing into his lesson at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary. You can read more about the day here.