Motivated by the need to help the nation charter a pathway for an American recovery, DrPH Candidate and FXB Center for Health and Human Rights Fellow Amanda Taffy is working on a thesis entitled, The Role of the Arts During COVID-19: Gendered Expressions of Resilience & Empowerment. With the help of faculty from the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights at Harvard University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, this thesis aims to understand artists’ potent role during COVID-19, particularly on vulnerable populations. On January 28th, 2021, the Doctor of Public Health Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will sponsor an Art Seminar, “Leveraging the Arts for a Healthier & Just America.”
Dr. Kim Leary, Associate Professor, HMS, HSPH and Lecturer at HKS will provide opening remarks on the American landscape and the need for innovative and diverse partnerships. The seminar will then underscore three female artists’ work, all of whom responded swiftly to mitigate the harm of COVID-19 on women and communities of color.
Nadia DeLane, a prolific storyteller and co-director of the Visual Muze Residency at the West Harlem Art Fund, interviewed members of the New York City community about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. Lending a voice to this community is critical, especially when others often capture experiences of communities of color in statistics. Ms. DeLane seeks to build resilience and activate the community’s empowerment process by setting stories to music for art installations. “Oral and visual histories highlight the importance of creativity for establishing and maintaining wellness. I hope that the Memory Opus installations and COVID Diaries POC stories support us as we usher in a new day,” Ms. DeLane said. COVID Diaries POC will be on exhibit at the City Museum of New York from Dec. 18 to April 2021.
Across the nation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Vanessa Bowen, a Diné (Navajo) artist, understood the importance of a message that speaks to the community’s heart in a way that the scientific community would not be able to capture. “I have a strong belief that building community is my number one…… it’s important to have the [proper] representation. [Art] does way more work than our language does [and] more effectively… I also feel like when you see something that looks like you… Identifiers and artwork, it really speaks to the person who is part of that culture and who is familiar with that culture.”
Finally, NYC-based photographer Savannah Spirit documents human rights issues, including the Black Lives Matter Movement. Given her critique of justice, the photos transport us to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. “In some ways, we have progressed, but in some ways, nothing has changed.” Spirit understands the importance of “telling the story with the photo…the goal is for people to have a voice and be heard, I feel like I have got to help the next person who does not have a voice. …[that] has a lot to do with [me] just being censored…and wanting to give back.”
Ms. Spirit’s most recent curatorial exhibit is “Don’t Delete Art.” All of these artists also depict strong female narratives in their art. The artists’ ability to capture and critique the communities they inhabit uniquely position them to help America start its long recovery process.
Date: January 28, 2021 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. EDT
Please register for the webinar at: https://hsph.me/2b-