Through our artist-led work at IDEAS xLab, we focus on leveraging the power of community creativity and culture to transform people's lives in support of a more healthy, just, and hopeful society.
You can imagine our engagement with communities like a transportation roundabout. We know each community is in a unique place in their health journey. As a facilitator, capacity builder, and strategic partner, IDEAS xLab can enter at different points along the route to support them through our HEAL Community Approach, using arts and culture interventions to identify priorities and goals for the future, and an action plan for positive change.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen that young people become hopeful when they are part of the solution. Artists and students at Meyzeek Middle School explored how they could make a difference in environmental health and created a Hero+Shero Journeys comic book. Through artist-led after school programming, students had a demonstrated change from 6.3 to 9 on a 10-point scale in their ability to advocate for themselves and for others after their first year of the Justice League.
Out in the community, Smoketown stakeholders came together through arts-based engagements, building on existing data, identifying priorities including a laundromat and place-based jobs. The Smoketown Hopebox is being co-developed out of these priorities on the site of an old liquor store – and has the ten-year goal of bringing the neighborhood up to the Louisville-average when it comes to things like income and education. That could mean $8.6 million more in annual income for residents.
And that’s just the beginning. We’re embarking on a two-year co-creation project with artists and young people from Louisville Youth Group, Justice League, and Bates Kingdom Academy to measurably cultivate hope and positively impact emotional wellbeing through a research partnership with UofL’s Center for Creative Placehealing.
Our team at IDEAS xLab is currently working with HEAL Community sites in Louisville, KY; Natchez, MS; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, KY; Asheville, NC.
As a queer photographer and storyteller, I’m honored to have shared the pride and stories of our community through publications including The Advocate Magazine and LEO Weekly.
Click to view photos from Denver Pride 2018 via The Advocate.
Click to view photos from Kentuckiana Pride 2018 via The Advocate.
Click here to read “A culture shift : where misgendering isn’t the norm, but the exception” via Leo Weekly
Click here to read + see “Pride 2018 — LGBTQ+ Louisville… more than you think” via LEO Weekly
Billboards for drug sniffing dogs, cheap lawyers, gun shows, pay cash for your house.
These are just a few of the messages often found on billboards in low-income census tracks with high-levels of health disparity. This is the case for Smoketown, Louisville’s oldest African-American neighborhood, where our team at IDEAS xLab has been working for over four years.
Since April 2017, we have replaced 24 billboards in Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood through our HEAL Community Approach with designs featuring community member photographs and quotes.
Poet and IDEAS xLab Cultural Strategist Hannah Drake led the creation of the first campaign, which launched during national poetry month. We have been able to partner with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness to produce two additional campaigns.
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.
We launched the Worthy of Everything campaign as part of IDEAS xLab's HEAL Smoketown — which features images of people who live, work, worship, learn and play in Smoketown and beyond, along with quotes lifting up what our communities are worthy of!
This is an ongoing series of portraits (started January 2018) in front of the “Smoketown is Worthy of Everything” mural created by Often Seen Rarely Spoken at the corner of Lampton / Clay in Louisville.
Over two weeks in July 2016, my partner Theo and I were honored to go with Roots & Wings - a group of Black artists and cultural organizers -from Louisville on a global cultural heritage and social justice exchange, exploring the linkage between West African arts and culture and Kentucky (yes, there are many of them).
The journey was life changing and profound.
15 of us made the trek to Senegal for an experience that melded history, culture and community. We left Senegal as a family, as members of a tribe that had forged a new bond through shared experiences we will never forget.
The Shawnee Series features young people and leaders from the Shawnee Arts and Cultural Center, and was exhibited as part of a 2014 cultural event SpreadLoveLou, that Theo and I co-organized with artist Lance Newman.