On top of juggling the tail end of my current projects with VIM and the New York Health Department, I’ve continued to work on my research. I’ve recently been particularly focused on methods of presenting my research as well as putting together the book I’ve been working on, “Cultures of Paranoia and Repair: Art History and Pandemic Disease.” I’m interested in the ways in which I can expand the audience of this subject matter and also publish the work and research so that it is free to the public. In terms of publishing methods, I’ve been spending some time looking into and reaching out to (free to access) places/platforms where I can blog/present the material.
I’m really excited and committed to continuing this project as well as learning about new ways that visual communication can contribute to the public health field. I’m hopeful that my project/research can do important work in de-stigmatizing disease as well as showing the important relationship between visual communication, community action, public health, and the government. I want to inspire creative action as well as acknowledge the importance of good visual communication both inside and outside of government public health outreach programs (particularly in response to sticky problems).
In this blog post I wanted to share some of the images and content I’m working with for my research. It is, of course, still a work in progress. I’ve attached screenshots of some of the intro book spreads below. I’m excited to continue working and expanding upon this project. I know that it will be a passion project for a long time.
A LITTLE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WPA IN REGARDS TO GRAPHIC DESIGN AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S.
Part of my research has focused on the rich collection of Work Projects Administration (WPA) public health posters, primarily regarding syphilis. I wanted to share a little bit about this collection, particularly because it shows an extremely artful (and artist controlled) approach to visual communication of disease supported by the government.
Between 1936 and 1943 the WPA created many public education posters, 907 of which have been archived by the Library of Congress. The New Deal program, which included the WPA, was created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Many visual artists found employment through the Federal Art Project.
Notably, the New York poster division was led by Richard Floethe, an internationally recognized German-born industrial designer. Floethe was educated by the Bauhaus aesthetic movement and the styles of this movement are evident in many of the WPA posters. Using mediums of poster production including silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut, artists sponsored by the New Deal in seventeen U.S. states added an interesting artistic touch to public health and public information campaigns.
On the left, a poster by Erik Hans Krause for Rochester NY WPA Project published between 1936 and 1938.
On the right, a poster from the New York WPA, published between 1930 and 1950.
To conclude my work under the wonderful support of the Maharam Fellowship, I’m sharing part of my (still in progress) book conclusion:
My archive and research proves that public health and graphic design can be influential and beautiful tools, it also shows an inspiring history of community driven action in response to large illness outbreaks. Artists, designers, authors, community organizers, and public health officials must be mindful of their power to advance fear and stigmatization. With proper organization and good intentions, these groups have the power to create positive change in the treatment of illness, in combatting stigmatization, and in advocating for equitable healthcare coverage.
I want to extend my gratitude to Maharam for this gift of time and support, to Kevin Jankowski who has been an amazing supervisor, my incredible mentors Katherine Mastrangelo (at VIM) and Vanessa Smith (at the New York Health Department), and Matthew Landrus (for helping me to begin this research and passion project). I look forward to continuing to expand this project and to future opportunities to contribute in the public health profession.
Design Developments for VIM and the New York Health Department—Raina Wellman, BFA Graphic Design, 2019
In addition to my research project (which I wrote about in my last post) I’ve continued to work with Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) and the New York Health Department on visual communications projects.
Invitation option #1
Invitation option #2
Above are two invitation options I created for the annual Founders & Friends Gathering.
I also created these flyers for the clinic’s free series of diabetes classes.
Through the process of creating these graphic materials (as well as time spent in both offices) I’ve been able to learn a great deal about the ways in which their projects and office operations are structured.
Above: Some early drafts of the NYCMAP book.
Above: Further screenshots of development for the NYCMAP book.
I’ve particularly learned a great deal about the New York City Mural Project (NYCMAP), a project which utilizes mural making to start dialogues, reduce stigma, and support local communities. To make the event happen, the NYC Health Department works with community-based organizations, artists, leaders who live with mental health condition/s, and the community surrounding the mural to discuss and organize around mental health and wellness.
The images above are some draft layouts I created for a project I’ve been working on with the New York Department of Mental Health regarding the NYCMAP event series. We are still actively working to create a booklet that can show the impact of the project and also perhaps help others organize events with similar goals/intentions.
Below are a series of posters options I created for them to use for promoting the paint festivals that they organize. I added a little to their brand guidelines, which include certain color combinations, image use restrictions, and the paint swatches.
Above and below are some images of the posters and fliers in use at a community paint fest earlier this summer:
I also got the chance to visit a few of the murals in person. I helped with a quick clean up at one of the Brooklyn schools where they collaborated on a large-scale mural creation.
There are two photos of the school below:
Working at these two organizations has been extremely rewarding. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be immersed within these two very different health environments and to learn about the ways in which graphic design can serve them and also push the boundaries of what is expected.
While working at the New York Public Health Department I was also able to talk to a great deal of people involved in communicating and working to solve public health issues. It was really valuable and inspiring to see the ways in which they successfully tackle issues that are weighed down by a lot of stigma, particularly (in this case) drug addiction. It was also interesting to see the ways that they currently use graphic design to communicate messages and the flexibility within those visual/written applications. It made me really curious about what types of visual and written communication are most effective when trying to speak to the general public, particularly about public health issues.
I’ve included some examples of the material produced by the New York Health Department (primarily regarding substance abuse and addiction) below. I was particularly impressed that they have decided to take on substance abuse with education in mind. The ways that they approach the subjects are non-judgmental and tend to be really informative. They also produced a series using personal stories and photographs.
I’ll end this post with one more project I worked on! Some coloring book pages for VIM. They are producing them to raise awareness about their work. It was a fun little project and a great opportunity to keep working with them.
This fellowship has given me the opportunity to expand my research and really immerse myself in the public health field. I’ve learned so much about the ways in which the organizations work; from the content they take on to their complicated hiring processes. I feel like my opportunities to contribute and learn have been really successful and I am so appreciative that the Maharam Fellowship was able to support me in taking on these projects.
Hi! It’s been a bit over a month since my first update. Since then, I have seen so much more of Taiwan!
The more people we meet up with to interview here, the more connections we make to more people and places. We are sometimes receiving more leads than we can keep up with, which is exciting but also exhausting! Many times we are working with people who have tight schedules and long commutes, so there is limited time for setting up a shot and perfecting sound. In the soggy Taiwan heat, it seems cruel to ask our interviewees to turn off their AC units and fans, which presents another hindrance to recording ideal sound. As someone who is not super experienced in documentary work, this is all a very new challenge for me. I am a slow thinker and worker trying to adjust to a very fast-paced mode of operating. However, looking back at the footage and finding the places where people really glow and feel seen through this project makes it so worth it. The more practice I get making footage, the more confident I become, and the better the video turns out.
Currently we have collected hours and hours of footage. Going into this fellowship, Irene and I expected to interview a few people and events which would be edited into a short video. However, as we come to understand how large this tong cao community actually is, we have decided to prioritize gathering footage and interviews during the rest of our time in Taiwan. By the end of December, we will create a short teaser for the project in order to apply for more funding to expand our work.
Working with the Taiwan Tong Cao Association has been an incredibly unique learning experience. Jerry and Kuei Mei have been generous with their time and connections, accompanying us to interviews and sites which often require hours of travel from Taipei. We have been working together to come up with ways to expand the accessibility and knowledge of tong cao. There is so much potential for tong cao as a sustainable material for use in children’s education, product packaging, and DIY culture (very big in Taiwan), to name a few. Kuei Mei’s interdisciplinary approach to building and supporting community is especially inspiring to me. The way she uses her resources, access, and privilege to help people and continue her mission is definitely something I want to apply to my own work. She makes friends wherever she goes, and is always excited to educate new people about our efforts.
This fellowship has given me an experience I could have never imagined in a place I have always dreamed of visiting. To be able to learn about my culture, meet some of my family for the first time, and do work I believe in all at once has been unreal. Scroll down for some stills from our upcoming documentary!
I’m proud to report back to you all that IntegrateNYC’s first Summer Institute was a huge success. Besides the usual struggles with delayed catering, tardy students and listener fatigue, everything went real smooth.
To give a summary of the Institute and everything it incapsulated might be a bit tedious to write and read, but I think it’s worth it to at least give a little attention everything we accomplished in the course of 3 days.
The first day was attended only by half of our student leaders, whom were either returning executive directors or newly promoted executive directors. Everyone was pretty familiar with each other, and it showed in the ease with which everyone stepped into our opening circle. We set up a centerpiece in which every one placed an object of significance, which was set up the two following days as well. I thought it was an interesting ritual to engage in, and a neat way to literally center the space in our personal experiences and individual stories. It was also just a good thing to stare at for people who tend to be a bit visually hungry during a group session (me).
That first day we had a master’s student speak to us about freedom and how it has been conceptualized throughout the history of social justice, and how desegregated, equitable education begets true freedom. The second day, from which point onwards we had a full cast of 24 student leaders attending, we had an accredited professor of American history give an in-depth history lesson revolving around the civil rights movements led by Black Americans. The third day, my supervisor led a “visioning” session, in which large goals and loose plans were laid out for the upcoming academic year (you can see everyone in action in the photo below).
There were lots of team builders, breakfasts and lunches sprinkled in there, but that’s not to downplay their importance: it was in those brief moments that you could see this group of 24 student leaders becoming a unified team.
As I had mentioned I would in an earlier post, I presented a short workshop on artivism, or artistic activism, during the second day of the Institute.
I created the lesson plan and did all the research myself, and in the process of preparing and sharing my research, learned a lot about teaching and communication. An hour-long workshop is not one that I thought would be supremely helpful, given the huge constraint on time, but I think what made a big difference was approaching it like a conversation. I don’t know about you, reader, but I remember the conversations I have far better than the classes I sit through; so I made a handout and had a fun back and forth with five students, and by the end of it I still wasn’t even sure if I was just self-sabotaging by not taking the whole thing more seriously and putting my professor cap on. Thankfully, as is typical for progressive organizations such as INYC, we held a brief reflection on the workshops right after they ended. I was really surprised by the positive response from my students, and humbled by their reassurance that they would take the information with them as they began their work in September.
Through the feedback I got from those student leaders, I have formulated a new understanding of the impact of labor. It’s kind of game changing to think that with even the smallest bit of work I do, it is consumed by people who then carry it with them and let it seep out into what they do, what they say, and how they see. It’s almost funny to think about how naive I was in not holding that as a self-evident truth – I am changed daily by the less than 281 characters I see in a random tweet on Twitter, let alone an illustration or a lesson plan someone pours hour into. It’s simultaneously heartening and sobering. I am now forced to consider what I might not be considering: the possible blindspots in my work, in my life. Then again, art is really just about being painfully considerate, so if I had lost that, I’m glad I found it again.
Here are the two pages of my “Artivism” handout. Compared to my notes, it’s super condense, so please go look up some of the names I dropped and pour some time into researching. Do a deep dive. It’s really worth the effort, and is incredibly interesting and inspiring.
All in all, this Institute was a spectacular way to wrap up this fellowship. Throughout these three months with IntegrateNYC, I was able to explore and expand my capacity to apply creative problem solving to tasks that are not traditionally considered “artistic;” and yet, I feel like more of an artist than ever before. My perspective on what art is has shifted.
For me, art is becoming more about moving throughout the world with intention, and bringing the same ethos to everything you do – then, everything you do is art. You can’t be an artist if you are not engaged in the art of driving safely, the art of caring for others, the art of cleaning the bathroom floor, etc. I was able to engage in the art of everything I did this summer, from grant writing, to ordering food, to running a twitter, to attending rallies. I feel assured that no matter where I land in terms of a career, I’m doing so as an artist. That takes a lot of the pressure off in terms of being a “real artist,” and transfers it to being a real artistic person. That’s less egotistical and far more useful to this world that I love.
A question I’ve been getting a lot now is: “How does it feel to leave a organization after dedicating a whole summer to them?” Well, I wouldn’t entirely know how to answer that. 🙂
Keep up to date with INYC on Instagram and Twitter (@integratenyc) and sign up for their newsletter on their website integratenyc.org. They’ve already accomplished so much – watch them accomplish even more.