UA Art and Art History Featured in New CDC Museum Exhibition about the Power of the Arts in Public Health Outreach

“Trusted Messengers” exhibition showcases diverse and innovative works of art created to promote confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

(Tuscaloosa, Ala.) — Through a unique partnership between public health and the arts, The University of Alabama Department of Art and Art History was one of 30 arts and culture organizations that received support from the CDC Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts to develop works of art to educate the public and inspire confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. The participating organizations used their chosen art forms to translate public health information about the safety and importance of immunizations into an accessible, memorable and diverse body of work. An exhibition at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, GA, entitled Trusted Messengers: Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines Through Art is now showcasing original pieces from six of these organizations, including UA Art and Art History.

Assistant Professor Jonathan Cumberland, who is a graphic designer, created a series of five poster designs to build vaccine confidence in the rural west Alabama counties of Greene, Hale, Marengo and Sumter, where vaccination rates tend to be low. The poster designs were featured on billboards, posters and sandwich boards in community institutions, health centers and businesses. Four of the five designs are featured in the Trusted Messengers exhibition. All five of the poster designs won the Graphic Design USA Award of Excellence at GDUSA’s 59th anniversary American Inhouse Design Awards in August 2022.

Professor Jason Guynes, department chair and team leader for the project said, “We are honored to have been a part of this national initiative. It is extremely gratifying that the arts are being recognized as having a critical role to play in such an important, lifesaving enterprise, and we hope the CDC and other government agencies will continue to call upon the arts to assist with efforts to keep the public informed regarding matters of national importance.”

Poster designs by Jonathan Cumberland were among the selected artworks for Trusted Messengers: Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines Through Art at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, Atlanta, Georgia. Photography by Mike Jensen, courtesy of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum.

“Our talented partner organizations have created meaningful, innovative projects that engaged and informed community members,” said Catherine Zilber, MSc, vice president for infectious disease programs at the CDC Foundation. “This new exhibition features impressive art and uplifting messaging that demonstrates the crucial role the arts can play in communicating about important public health issues.”

Trusted Messengers: Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines Through Art exhibition will run through March 2023 and also features work from Studio Two Three in Richmond, VA; Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective in St. Louis, MO; West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology in Grand Rapids, MI; Vermillion Cultural Association and Creative Care in Vermillion, SD; and the Community Music School of Springfield and the Springfield Cultural Partnership in Springfield, MA.

For more information about the exhibition or the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, please visit their website. Look through images of the CDC museum exhibition on Download all five of the posters for free here.

Funding for this effort is made possible through a subaward from the CDC Foundation and is part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) financial assistance award totaling $2,500,000.00 with 100 percent funding from CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government. 

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.