Creative Innovation Zone (CIZ)

IDEAS 40203 The Chamber - A 501(c)(6) Creative Chamber of Commerce

Funding Received: 2014
Louisville, KY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months

Creative Innovation Zone - a civic innovation partnership between artist-led IDEAS xLab (formerly IDEAS 40203), YouthBuild Louisville (YBL), and community partners in Smoketown including Bates Memorial Church and Community Development Corporation. The Zone added arts and culture strategies to the traditional core components of community development in order to increase civic engagement, expand educational opportunities and attract new resources to support economic growth in Smoketown. 

The Creative Innovation Zone (The Zone) helped produce over 35 new pre-apprentice jobs for young adults at YBL and brought together artists-as-civic-innovators with neighborhood organizations to increase non-resident volunteers in Smoketown from 350 (2013) to more than 1,500 (2016).   

The Zone connected more than 30 different artists with organization and community members in the neighborhood, and led to and/or supported a variety of projects including: 

  • Formation of a community arts organization (STEAM Exchange) that converted a former liquor store into a small community arts center with a mission to facilitate passion-driven learning experiences whereby youth can explore the arts through creative play and production; 
  • Creation of a commercial flower farm and urban farm; 
  • Motorcycle mechanics training program for a group of intergenerational women; 
  • Smoketown Arts Festival; 
  • Documentary film on the neighborhood's ongoing transformation; 
  • Collaboration with artists from China as part of the Yale-China Association's artist fellowship program; 
  • Workshop by the Dance Theatre of Harlem that encouraged young people to engage in the arts; 
  • Production of the Smoketown Poetry Opera; 
  • Collaborated with Louisville Visual Art on the Tough & Universal Portrait Installation;
  • Formation of Urban Green, an ongoing initiative launched through The Zone as a partnership with the Potager du Roi at Versailles Palace in France whereby young adults attending YBL travel each year for agriculture and arts apprenticeships to learn techniques in environmental design and urban farming;  
  • Formation of a culinary job opportunities program created in partnership with world-renowned Chef Edward Lee. 

As The Zone was developed with Smoketown partners, IDEAS was simultaneously working to place artists inside corporations including General Electric, XLerateHealth and Humana. This led to viewing the work of Creative Innovation Zone through a lens of health and health policy. Projects that built out of the relationships and foundational partnerships developed through The Zone activities led to the formation of Roots & Wings, a Black performance group that uses cultural approaches to address violence and structural racism and creation of One Poem At A Time – an initiative which replaced billboards in the neighborhood with photos and poetry created with community members and brought the community together with a focus on policy change.  


See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project

Sep 28, 2016
Rob Tinker has been working with Youthbuild for over 40 years educating, training and teaching life skills. Now that Mr. Rob is ready to retire,... Read More
Sep 28, 2015
IDEAS and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence have partnered to create a new program that would train artists to serve on non-arts related boards of... Read More
Sep 14, 2015
Louisville Slugger manufacturer Hillerich & Bradsby Co. announced on Sept. 14 it’s donating a 2-acre parcel of land in Smoketown to the Community Foundation of... Read More
Below is a summary of a conversation between Susan Delvalle from the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, and Lynn Rippy from YouthBuild...Read more