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The Stamps School Welcomes New NEA Research Lab

Pictured from left to right: Stephanie Tharp, Jane Prophet, Marc Zimmerman
Pictured from left to right: Stephanie Tharp, Jane Prophet, Marc Zimmerman 

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design will soon be home to a new National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab: Commissioning Public Art Through Community Engagement Arts to Improve Health, and Social/​Emotional Well-Being by Reducing Youth Firearm Injury.

Stewarded by Jane Prophet, Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work at Stamps; Stamps Professor Stephanie Tharp; and School of Public Health Professor Marc Zimmerman, the center will build on a pilot study funded by NIH through the School of Public Health at U‑M. The study led the research team to their hypothesis that public art can benefit communities by reducing firearm-related police incidents (and other violent crime). 

The research team’s pilot study was guided by Zimmerman’s 2018 Busy Streets Theory (BST), which focuses on those features of neighborhoods that foster positive social processes which in turn deter violent crime. BST suggests that when neighborhood residents transform vacant properties into inviting, well-maintained spaces, they send a message that people care about this place. The community improvements also bring people together to create healthy social interaction, collective efficacy, social cohesion, and a sense of pride and community in the place. These factors, then help deter violent crime and increase safe living environments. 

Our preliminary research supports the idea that there is a close relationship between public art and a reduction in firearm-related police incidents,” Prophet said. We’re eager to learn more about this relationship through our research — and share it in ways that can provide policy makers with the information they need to create change in their communities.”

The research team also plans to work closely with community partners to find out how different types of community engagement in the design and production of public art projects can reduce firearm incidents and injuries.

Lecturers Melanie Manos and Emilia White (Stamps); undergraduates Lia New (Stamps) and Kilala Ichie-Vincent (Taubman); Grad student Greg Bushman (Public Health), and independent artist and researcher, Amira Hanafi played critical roles in the work of the pilot study.

The new centre was awarded $149,297 from the NEA with additional matching commitments, creating a total budget of $298,618. The funds will support research on how public art and communities who invest in opportunities for the public to engage in creative expression together can reduce the rate of youth firearm injury. The centre will start work in early 2022

Learn more about the award on the NEA Website, and learn more about the Stamps School’s cross-disciplinary research efforts in the realm of firearm injury prevention in this 2021 Michigan Minds podcast with Jane Prophet.