Newswise — Solving complex social and health issues through arts and culture is the goal of a collaboration between University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK) and IDEAS xLab.

The two entities are working together to design, create and implement a Center for Art + Health Innovation (CAHI) within the CIK to help Louisville become a national thought leader and training site for the improvement of community health through art.

"One of the greatest challenges in public health is authentically connecting with communities, as well as communicating effectively,” said Monica Wendel, Dr.P.H., M.A., director of the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky and associate dean for Public Health Practice at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences. “Our best science is relatively useless if we can't make it accessible and actionable for people. Arts and culture provide us with the language necessary to foster mutual understanding.”

“We believe artists are a catalytic force who shape and influence our cultural, political and economic environments,” said Theo Edmonds, co-founder of IDEAS xLab. “They have the ability to make new options visible, and with the right training and support, can (re)introduce humanity into policy discussions and shift how community members define and advocate for their health and well-being.”

Project HEAL (Health Equity Art Learning) is IDEAS xLab’s signature project, and uses arts and cultural engagement to help communities discover creative ways to identify their health priorities and develop a health equity action plan for sustainable impact. Edmonds says although data suggests that arts and culture influence population health, an evidence-based model is needed, and CIK researchers will be important collaborators in the process.

Last year, the CIK and IDEAS xLab partnered to launch a photovoice exhibit at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage. The project featured photographs and written observations of West Louisville residents, and set the stage for community conversations on ways to reduce violence in their neighborhoods. CIK and IDEAS xLab hope to bring more of these initiatives to life under the Center for Art + Health Innovation.

“CIK and IDEAS xLab have our eyes on the same goal--social justice and health equity. We are bringing our unique skill sets together to advance that goal in a creative way," Wendel said.

CIK is part of the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences with a mission of informing policy and practice that will improve the health of populations in Kentucky and beyond. IDEAS xLab is a Louisville-based artist innovation company that trains artists as social entrepreneurs to help create equitable places and nurture healthy communities.

Find this press release on the UofL News website.