Wilmington will be part of a three-year study called Project HEAL starting next year.
The study will be conducted by IDEAS xLab, a cultural innovation think tank based in Louisville, Kentucky.
Wilmington Renaissance Corporation is running the project locally. It’s managing director Carrie Gray says the focus will be on how to use art to improve the quality of life for West Center City residents – and create lasting change.
“Things like housing, quality of housing, quality of schools, violence, negative behaviors," Gray said.
The project is part of Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki’s Neighborhood Revitalization project for West Center City. Gray says a key goal is getting residents more invested in the community, and ultimately put down roots and live there longer.
Wilmington is one of four cities to be included in the project. Another is Louisville, with the focus on its Smoketown neighborhood.
IDEAS xLab co-founder Theo Edmonds says in Smoketown, residents are working to increase workforce development opportunities, in part through a new initiative called the Smoketown laundry.
“And that is taking an old liquor store in the Smoketown neighborhood and actually converting it into a working laundry that will also house a community health worker, cultural programming and also a minority small business incubator," Edmonds said.
Wilmington was chosen as a site for the study because of the work they’ve already done developing the Creative District – and support of other community partners like Christina Care.
Gray says she hopes to leverage community events to get residents engaged.
“And then you use those events as a way to talk to people about what they’d like to see change in their neighborhood, or what they’re finding to be challenging in their neighborhood," Gray said.
That’s already started to take place in Louisville, Kentucky’s Smoketown neighborhood. Residents there have identified the need for a policy to reduce the proliferation of negative messaging on billboards.
New Orleans, Louisiana and Asheville, North Carolina have also been selected as sites for Project HEAL.