Three Louisville-based artists selected for IDEAS xLab’s Our Emotional Wellbeing initiative

Our Emotional Wellbeing is a two-year initiative organized by IDEAS xLab, an artist-led nonprofit based in Louisville, KY.  This initiative is designed to measurably impact hope and belonging of young people 12 – 20 years old through an arts-based co-creation process.   

In partnership with Louisville Youth Group (LGBTQ+ young people under 21), and two after-school programs at Meyzeek Middle School, including Justice League and Kingdom Academy, IDEAS xLab identified Louisville-based artists to introduce to the participating students and young people. Each group of young people selected two artists to collaborate with in the coming year as they design and implement arts-based activities together. This will include creating artifacts for the JCPS Backpack for Success and supporting youth leadership development.    

“It was important to us that the young people meet the artists who were interested in being a part of this initiative, and to have the opportunity to build trust together through an artist-led activity designed by our team, before artists were selected for the collaboration,” shared artist Josh Miller, co-founder + CEO of IDEAS xLab. “To measure the impact of this process, we are working with University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing to see how participation impacts hope and belonging.”  

The artists selected for Our Emotional Wellbeing are Talesha Wilson, Jasmine “Jazzy J” Reed, and Shawn Wade.  

Jasmine “Jazzy J” Reed is a poet, writer, and youth advocate. Following her undergraduate career as a Psychology major at Eastern Kentucky University, Jazzy worked with the youth in social services for seven years before submitting to the alignment of her passion for writing. Click here to learn more.

Shawn Wade is creator + artist of – Artistry of a Dreamer, specializing in acrylic painting and custom designs. Wade’s work has been featured on multiple platforms in the fashion industry, further expanding to other avenues. Click here to learn more.

Talesha Wilson is an artist and Louisville, Kentucky native who has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to self-awareness, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement. Click here to learn more.

“We identified artists with the lived-experience of our partner communities, and are training them to think about impacting health, cultivating hope, justice, sustainability, and celebrating culture and identity,” shared poet, author and IDEAS xLab team member Hannah Drake. “We designed Our Emotional Wellbeing to not only impact the participants themselves, but to create a set of arts-activities that can be deployed in the years to come to drive similar outcomes. Whether it be by Jefferson County Public School students after school, teachers in the classroom or community centers.”  

Our Emotional Wellbeing embodies principles from the JCPS Backpack for Success including cultivating:  

• Resilient learners 

• Globally and culturally competent citizens 

• Emerging innovators  

• Effective communicators  

• Productive collaborators  

The initiative builds on years of experience and learning by IDEAS xLab, having seen how participating in artist-led initiatives can positively impact young people. Examples include the Justice League at Meyzeek Middle School, where students experienced a positive change from 6.3 to 9 on a 10-point scale in their ability to advocate for themselves and for others after the first year. 

“I’m so excited to be working with the students at Meyzeek Middle School through the Justice League and Kingdom Academy, because it gives me the opportunity to demonstrate and cultivate leadership, and impact wellbeing through art,” said Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Shawn Wade. “Being a self-taught painter/creator, I’ve explored different techniques that embody hope, learning and creativity. This co-creation process with the young people is an exciting way for us to better understand just how powerful the arts are, and how we can impact hope and belonging through this process.”  

The project, budgeted at $300,000 over two-years including the research and evaluation, has already raised over $213,400, including grants from the Sutherland Foundation, Brown-Forman, the Kentucky Civic Engagement Table and an Arts Fund Grant from Louisville Metro Government.  

In Fall 2020, a “Youth Wellbeing Summit” will be held for the participating young people and artists to share their experience with leaders and young people from across the community, and launch the arts-based set of activities/toolkit for supporting this type of approach by other organizations and artists.  

Starting in August, Our Emotional Wellbeing activities will take place at Meyzeek on Wednesdays from 2:30-4pm, and with LYG the first Friday and second Wednesday evening of each month. Not involved in either location? You still have time to get involved and to participate!  

Click here to learn more about Our Emotional Wellbeing! 

“A lot of what we do is centered around the comfort of other people. We consider other people too much and downplay and minimize who we are. We fear violent situations, backlash from expressing ourselves, fear of not bearing heard or seen or that too much focus will be on us. We should be exactly who we are unapologetically,” said Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Talesha Wilson. “Just because something makes someone uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong – If I am being exactly who I am and it’s not harming anyone or myself, the discomfort of others is not any of my concern because it is something they have to change and I am not responsible for changing the thoughts of people who do not want that for themselves. I want to use my art and this process to support the young people at Louisville Youth Group in understanding that.” 

“I am elated about this collaboration with such brave camaraderie. I am motivated more than ever to experience what’s to come of such a fellowship as this,” shared Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Jazzy J. “I am already inspired by all that I have to learned so far, and for that I am grateful. This project grants me the opportunity to do work that is juxtapose to what will be the legacy and impact of Reedmywords.”