The C.D.C. Has Struggled to Communicate Information About Vaccination. Now, It’s Encouraging Artists to Step in and Spread the Message

The agency recently launched an open-access directory of projects that have used art to promote vaccination.

Angela Nadine, I'm Vaccinated (2021). Courtesy of the artist via Amplifier’s #vaccinated campaign.
Angela Nadine, I'm Vaccinated (2021). Courtesy of the artist via Amplifier’s #vaccinated campaign.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.)—which has been criticized for its unclear messaging around public-health guidelines—wants artists to help spread the word on vaccines. 

The public-health agency recently launched a series of field guides online for how health departments, community organizers, and others can partner with artists and creative organizations to develop programming that promotes COVID-19 confidence.

According to recent data from the agency, 70 percent of American adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine; experts say 80 percent is the threshold for herd immunity. Now, some believe creative storytelling just might help us reach that goal.  

“The arts attract attention, they’re interesting, they facilitate experiences that are memorable, and can convey information in ways that are not just more understandable, but more personally relevant—through narrative, characters, images, music, and cultural practices and traditions,” Jill Sonke, director of the Center for Arts in Medicine and senior advisor to the C.D.C.’s Vaccine Confidence and Demand Team, told Hyperallergic, which first reported the story.

In addition to the field guides, the C.D.C. partnered with the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine to launch an open-access directory of people, projects, and organizations that have used art to encourage vaccinations.

Among the efforts highlighted in the repository are Carrie Mae Weems’s RESIST COVID/TAKE 6 public art project, conceived to raise awareness around the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black, Brown, and Native American communities; Amplifier’s #vaccinated campaign, which calls for artists to submit original pieces of pro-vaccine imagery for awards up to $100,000; and Hip Hop Public Health’s Community Immunity series of music videos that debunks common myths around COVID-19 through song.

Sonke explained that when we have memorable experiences through art, “we are in a particularly receptive space.”

“Research shows,” she said, “that when people communicate to others what they hear, learn, and experience in those moments, when they convey them to others, those people are even more likely to change their behaviors than those who experienced them firsthand.”

See more examples of C.D.C.-promoted projects below.

 

Courtesy of Eric John Olson, via Free the Vaccine.

Courtesy of Eric John Olson, via Free the Vaccine.

Steven Soltysik, <i>Jumpin’ Outa Covid</i> (2021). Courtesy of the artist via the Shot to Reunite campaign.

Steven Soltysik, Jumpin’ Outa Covid (2021). Courtesy of the artist via the Shot to Reunite campaign.

Christine Ling, Stand in Solidarity (2021). Courtesy of the artist via the Shot to Reunite campaign.

A billboard from Carrie Mae Weems’s RESIST COVID/TAKE 6 public art project.

A billboard from Carrie Mae Weems’s RESIST COVID/TAKE 6 public art project.

Giri Dwinanto, Vaccines For All (2021). Courtesy of the artist via Amplifier’s #vaccinated campaign.

Giri Dwinanto, Vaccines For All (2021). Courtesy of the artist via Amplifier’s #vaccinated campaign.


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