National initiative turns to the arts in Gainesville to address youth gun violence

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Gainesville and eight other U.S. cities have joined a national initiative called One Nation/One Project that uses the arts to improve community well-being. Each city selects an issue for the focus of the project.

The Gainesville City Commission recognized youth gun violence as its local issue. The commission said it has allocated 2% – or $648,172 – of American Rescue Plan Act money to fund the project, which will address youth violence through arts and culture interventions.

One Nation/One Project, known as ONOP, will culminate in July 2024 when participating cities will unveil community projects that respond to the prompt, “no place like home.”

The kickoff for the Gainesville project was at the annual City Services Fair held at Howard Bishop Middle School on Sept. 24.

Community members were invited to start creating right away and were offered paint and canvases. There was also a button-making station where participants cut out images and pressed them into buttons.

Sarah Hinds, leader of the art workshop and an artist-in-residence with UF Health Shands Hospital Arts in Medicine, said she was excited to see what ideas community members could create.

“There were lots of interesting conversations going on about what is home,” Hinds said. “As important as the art is, it’s important community conversations are happening.”

The goal of the project is to use the creative potential of arts and culture in Gainesville to promote community healing and well-being. As a community activist, Carla Lewis said she believes the arts can provide substantial opportunities for healing in a community.

“There is a history of arts leading to transformation and healing,” said Lewis citing the Shands Arts in Medicine program, which engages patients in literary, musical and visual arts.

Through its initiative, One Nation/One Project aims to improve community health, create economic opportunities and build partnerships between sectors.

The One Nation/One Project initiative has three phases. The first is community engagement. Anne Wolf, One Nation/One Project project coordinator for the city, said One Nation/One Project Gainesville will be partnering with local nonprofits to host and fund events to connect with people through existing organizations.

The second phase involves enlisting local organizations and artists to work with One Nation/One Project and propose new art projects and workshops that ONOP will fund. Wolf said the proposals will begin in November and projects start in January 2023.

The third phase is a yet-to-be-determined project that will respond to One Nation/One Project’s “no place like home” prompt and will be showcased in July 2024 on the same day partnering cities unveil their work.

Alexandra Rodriguez, a One Nation/One Project national research and impact associate, said she believes one of the most crucial parts of the initiative is the collaboration across sectors among leadership, public health and artists.

“It is trying to propel an interdisciplinary approach to issues that are long-standing and multidimensional,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of times, different sectors are trying to address the same issue and not communicating with each other.”

The University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine will help evaluate the success of the One Nation/One Project initiative.

“The aim for the evaluation arm is to determine whether increased arts engagement supports social cohesion and well-being in the ONOP cities,” said Nicole Morgan, research coordinator for UF Center for Arts in Medicine and One Nation/One Project national research and impact associate.

Morgan said validated well-being and social cohesion scales as well as surveys and focus groups will be used to gauge the effectiveness of the program.

“We may not see a reduction in gun violence in two years,” Wolf said. “This is going to be ongoing work.” However, she said her ultimate goal is to bring more joy, celebration, and creativity into the everyday lives of people.

In the coming months, One Nation/One Project will be involved with more events. To stay up to date on the initiative and its events, email Anne Wolf at: WolfAM@cityofgainesville.org.

About Janelle Puckering

Janelle is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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