2022 - 2024, Active

National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab on Commissioning Public Art Through Community Engagement Arts to improve Health, and Social / Emotional Well-Being by Reducing Youth Firearm Injury

Institute Project

This research lab aims to establish and promulgate transdisciplinary research about relationships between public art and firearm injury prevention, building on a pilot study database created at the University of Michigan. The project team will investigate our hypothesis that public art can benefit communities by reducing firearm-related police incidents (and other violent crime). Preliminary results from our pilot data support the hypothesis. The research agenda is to deepen understanding of relationships between public art and firearm and other interpersonal violence; report results in new publishable research and policy briefs; conduct community engagement in Detroit via beneficial public art projects that reduce firearm incidents.

In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, this NEA Research Lab is dedicated to transdisciplinary investigation of the role of the arts and humanities in improving health and social/emotional well-being by reducing youth firearm injury and promoting community factors that protect youth from firearm violence. The NEA Research team prioritizes community-centered design and engagement, as well as rigorous methodology, to enhance the evidence base and improve the built environment for residents of Detroit. Our research partners, community partners, advisors, and funders help us fulfill our commitment to providing a dedicated space for investigation of the intersection of community firearm violence and the arts.

For any questions related to the NEA Research Lab, please reach out to Project Manager, Haley Crimmins at hmcrim@umich.edu.


Our transdisciplinary research explores the relationships between the location, production and impact of public art in Detroit.  The focus is on Detroit residents’ security, especially in relation to firearm injury prevention. We think that public art located in residential areas can benefit communities by reducing firearm-related police incidents (and other violent crime).  

The lab builds on a Pilot Study during which we created a database of public art in Detroit housed at the University of Michigan. We worked with Detroit residents and partner organizations to map the location of artworks and to gather information what kind of artworks they are and how they were made. Preliminary results from our Pilot data support the idea that there is fewer firearm-related incidents (and other violent crime) in residential areas where public art is located, but we have more work to do to confirm this and find out what that might be the case. 

Working with community partners and Detroit residents we will deepen our understanding of relationships between public art and firearm and other interpersonal violence, report results in new publishable research and policy briefs, and support community engagement in Detroit via beneficial public art projects that reduce firearm incidents. The research is designed to answer three core questions: 


  1. How successful are public art projects made with communities in reducing firearm violence?
  2. What are the characteristics of community engaged public arts projects that are successful in helping to reduce firearm violence?
  3. Does following a novel “best practice” model for commissioning and producing public art with communities increase the success of such projects in reducing firearm violence? 

Project Team

Jane Prophet, PhD
Marc Zimmerman, PhD
Stephanie Tharp, BS, MID
Daniel Lee, PhD, Lead Faculty - Data
Rachel Wyatt, MADS, Manager - Data
Haley Crimmins, MPH, Project Manager

Community Partners

Click + to learn more about our community partners
Garage Cultural

The mission of Garage Cultural is to serve as an arts and cultural anchor in Southwest Detroit by providing a variety of events, public art installations, and educational programs to the residents of its communities. The center serves as an incubator for local artists, arts educators, organizers, activists, entrepreneurs and youth in the community. Assisting them in pursuing their personal and collective goals as they produce and exhibit in our multipurpose areas, galleries, and mercaditos. Garage Cultural is formed through collaborations with several community organizations and members who are committed to coming together to share their strengths and resources for the long-term advancement of the residents and artist it serves.

Southwest Detroit is a diverse community; Garage Cultural seeks to ensure its continued diversity by highlighting the existing culture and encouraging collaborations with new populations in a mutually beneficial manner through its programs and events.


As a partner we offer support through co-facilitating the team’s Counter Data workshops, adapting our “Maptime” workshops. These tried and tested workshops are designed to open the doors of cartographic possibility to anyone interested by making a time and space for collaborative learning, exploration, and map creation using mapping tools and technologies. In the proposed workshops, participants will drive the mapping topic which may include mapping out areas in their neighborhood where they feel safe or unsafe, included or excluded, inspired or creative. The proposed workshops share values with our organization’s goal to democratize map making: to help everyone learn how to make maps and become literate map readers.

Detroit Collaborative Design Center

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) is a multidisciplinary, nonprofit design center based in the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and Community Development (SACD). DCDC exists to bring high-quality and community-engaged design to all neighborhoods in Detroit. They do this by engaging, educating and promoting equity in design processes and outcomes. They work with community partners citywide on a range of projects at different scales, prioritizing participation in the planning and design process with the belief that local expertise leads to the best ideas.

Detroit City Walls

The City of Detroit launched the City Walls program in the Summer of 2017. The new initiative integrates a multifaceted approach to enhancing public space by focusing on an essential urban element: the city wall.  The program goals are to highlight the values and the identity of the communities where art work is being created, empower Detroit artists, and provide a positive cost benefit to the public via art versus the cost of blight remediation. The program ensures that the art develops organically and holistically within the community by the community.

Related Projects

The Role of Art and Design in Injury Prevention

Learn about a research project led by Jane Prophet and Lia New at a presentation from the Epidemiology of Firearms and Youth Session of the FACTS Symposium 2020. The project examined thirty-nine art and design works to find patterns in them to find a typology for firearm injury prevention. The research team uncovered four major categories to examine creative work about firearm injury prevention: social commentary, social engagement, collaborative work, and design.