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Things that matter to me:

Hope. People. Justice. Creativity. Culture. Health + Wellbeing. Innovation. Policy. Sustainability. Science.


What I do.

Culture is integral to the definition, creation and measurement of health and wellbeing across diverse communities.  I bring together the creative industries with health sector and government leaders to develop community-centered, culturally-responsive, design approaches to health improvement. I help to frame generative discussions and prototypes with a bias towards collective action and equity. 

Three Roles of a Cultural Evangelist

  • Analyst: Identify cultural opportunities for evolving population health and social impact agendas through cultural and corporate innovation seminars, projects, workshops and nontraditional professional development courses that offer insights for businesses to improve their health “footprint” amongst consumers, employees, and their communities.

  • Entrepreneur: Support “creatives” or representatives of creative industries in developing value propositions, minimum viable product designs and hypothesis tests, rooted in real-world challenges, where cultural solutions, backed by science, can achieve big impact.

  • Catalyst: Innovate and implement projects between creative industries, businesses, and population health researchers and pioneers, including traditional healthcare delivery system agents such as hospitals and physicians. A central focus is on creating evidence-based, “edutainment” media, journalism and creative arts programming which engages social and cultural motivators for wellness.

By deploying an asset-based, cultural-change management framework to solution-finding, I help to identify and activate underutilized cultural assets as the foundation from which to envision, build, measure and spread the most impactful creative solutions for shifting attitudes and behaviors toward a culture of health.

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Artist Statement: How to Heal the World

Co-Founder of the nonprofit IDEAS xLab (Louisville, KY). Cultural futurist, artist, poet and social entrepreneur. Former healthcare executive and champion clogger. CLICK HERE and your can hear my full artist statement on the Five Things podcast by Tara Anderson. WFPL Radio, Louisville, KY.  

Brief Biography

Theo Edmonds | JD, MHA, MFA
Director, Center for Creative Placehealing & Assistant Professor for Health Management & Systems Sciences, University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Science
Co-Founder, IDEAS xLab 
Population Health Practice & Research|
Twitter: @theoedmonds
LinkedIn: theoedmonds


Born and raised in the Appalachian mountain town of Jackson, Kentucky -- same community that is the focus of NY Times Best-seller, Hillbilly Elegy -- I am an artist and healthcare professional who was selected as one of "50 People Changing the Face of the South" by Southern Living Magazine. My work is focused on establishing new value paradigms and mutually-beneficial relationships between cultural-bearers, creative industries, artists, social entrepreneurs, corporations, government and emerging philanthropic structures.

Service Roles

  • Vice Chair of Americans for the Arts' Private Sector Council

  • Co-Chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board's Cultural/Social Impact Committee

  • Lead design consultant to LGBT HealthLink’s work with the CDC to establish a national LGBT Center of Excellence model at the nexus of culture and population health.

  • Committee member for Derby Diversity & Business Summit.

  • Co-leader for Louisville's successful 2016 bid to be named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize winner.

  • Programming Chair for Louisville’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce (Launching Spring 2019)


  • University of Kentucky School of Art & Visual Studies/Master of Fine Arts, Studio (MFA)/2013

  • Tulane University/Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)/1994-1996 (Exceptional Leadership Award)

  • Tulane University/Law (JD)/1991-1994

  • Transylvania University/Bachelor of Arts (BA)/Theatrical Directing and Art Studio/1991


  • Director, Center for Creative Placehealing & Assistant Professor, Health Management & Systems Sciences, University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences /June 2018 - Present

  • Co-Founder and Advisor, IDEAS xLab/ Louisville, Kentucky / May 2018-Present

  • Co-Founder & Chief Imaginator, IDEAS xLab / Louisville, Kentucky / September 2013 – May 2018

  • Creative Development Director, Residency Unlimited / Brooklyn, New York / 2012 – 2013

  • Adjunct Faculty, Studio Art, University of Kentucky School of Art & Visual Studies / January 2011 -2012

  • Research Artist /NYC/France/Appalachia / 2007-2011

  • Arts & Healthcare Consulting / Southeast Region U.S. / 2004-2007

  • Director at Heart & Vascular Center, Queen’s Medical Center/Honolulu, HI / 2003-2004

  • Regional Director for Cardiovascular Services, Tenet Healthcare/Gulf States Region / 2001-2003

  • Administrator, Ochsner Heart & Vascular Center/New Orleans, LA / 1997-2001

  • Director of Network Development, Ochsner Health Plan/New Orleans, LA / 1996-1997

Recent Awards

  • Top 10 National Finalist for Americans for the Arts’ Robert E. Gard Award, 2018 (with IDEAS xLab)

  • Americans for the Arts, Top 10 Business-Arts Partnerships in the U.S., 2017 (with Humana, Inc. + IDEAS xLab)

  • Bingham Fellow, Leadership Louisville, 2016

  • Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize, 2016 (with IDEAS xLab)

  • Americans for the Arts, Top 10 Business-Arts Partnerships in the U.S., 2015 (with General Electric’s FirstBuild + IDEAS xLab)

Special Qualifications

  • Public Speaking

  • Creative Placemaking & Public Health

  • Corporate Social Responsibility Innovation

  • Cultural Innovation in Health & Health Care

    • Social Impact Modeling

    • Cultural Simulations Design

    • Cultural Frameworks for MVP Creation

    • Culturally-responsive Value Proposition Design

    • Hypothesis Creation + Testing

    • Cultural Change Readiness Assessment

    • Cultural Communication Strategies

    • Cultural-based Training Workshops for Population Health Innovation

    • Developing Multi-Dimensional Measurement Approaches

  • Culture-change Leadership Development

    • How effective storytelling can exponentially improve community engagement.

    • How to build a shared understanding of transdisciplinary cultural-based challenges.

    • Culture mapping ecosystems of engagement.

    • How to set “winnable cultural milestones” and hone a compelling message.

    • How to design cultural approaches that will work at massive scale.

    • How to drive (rather than assume) demand.

    • How to develop a co-creation model with communities -- moving from a B2C to a B2B for more effective, lasting impact.

Recent Research

Understanding Medical Mistrust in Communities of Color
Role: Co-Investigator
IDEAS xLab intentionally crafts an approach that puts artists working together with healthcare professionals. Beginning Spring 2017, IDEAS xLab embarked on a new partnership to activate new thinking around health equity and social justice by pairing artists together with medical students at the University of Louisville in The Health and Social Justice Scholars Program.  The project is focused on addressing the gaps in access to care in the Smoketown community related to medical mistrust by administering the Medical Mistrust Index (MMI) to Smoketown residents and local healthcare providers. 

Project HEAL – Health Impact Assessment
Role: Primary Author
Released in fall 2017, the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.) was the first-of-its-kind conducted on an arts and culture focused population health program in the U.S. The Health Impact Assessment was authored by the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, IDEAS xLab, and the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, with additional support from the Health Impact Project - a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Kresge Foundation. Assessment explored how IDEAS xLab’s replicable arts and culture model provides a framework for rigorously and scientifically assessing in what ways (and why) Project HEAL’s community-wide approach may: 

  • Decrease social isolation and improve social cohesion and civic engagement.

  • Create policy changes that positively impact health equity.

  • Increase opportunities for building inclusive economies through social/cultural entrepreneurship.

  • Increase opportunities for improving social emotional skills in youth.

  • Improve wellbeing of communities experiencing chronic stress.

Select Grants

From 2014-present, I served as primary author for 1.3m+ in national grants received by IDEAS xLab to develop population-level health equity programs, interventions and research innovation initiatives and to develop cultural-based, health in all policies model for social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Launched Summer 2018
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Jackson

A partnership with City of Jackson, KY, Breathitt County School System, Breathitt County Department of Public Health, Juniper Health (Federally Qualified Health Center) and an urban-rural Kentucky network of cultural producers, including the University of Kentucky, to use arts/cultural production as a means of better understanding how to address the social determinants of health related to cancer and opioids.

Pew Charitable Trust, RWJF, Health Impact Project 2016
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Smoketown 
The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national initiative designed to promote the use of health impact assessments (HIAs) as a decision-making tool for policymakers.

ArtPlace America, 2015
Grant Initiative: Roots & Wings

A unique, grass roots theatre project linking Appalachian, West African and urban arts in Louisville that engages young adult artists in their 20s as advocates for equitable development and reduction of violence.

National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town 2015
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Natchez

A partnership with City of Natchez, MS, 100 Black Women, Mississippi State Department of Health and a group of African American cultural entrepreneurs to incorporate a health in all policies approach to tourism policy in Natchez.

National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town 2014
Grant Initiative: XLerateArt

A partnership with Residency Unlimited to educate and train artists to be corporate innovation consultants and creating opportunities for artists inside corporations as innovation consultants.

ArtPlace America, 2014
Grant Initiative: Smoketown Creative Innovation Zone

A partnership with YouthBuild Louisville to educate and train artists to be civic innovation consultants and creating opportunities for artists inside a branch of a global NGO focused on creating job opportunities for at risk youth to help the NGO expand its capacity to serve more young people in Smoketown.