UA Art & Art History Receives CDC Foundation Funding for Project to Promote Vaccine Education and Acceptance in the Black Belt

The University of Alabama (UA)’s Department of Art and Art History is being funded to create innovative and accurate poster designs that will harness the power of the arts to engage audiences and participants of all ages in overcoming COVID-19 and influenza vaccine hesitancy.  With support from the CDC Foundation, the messaging will promote vaccine education and acceptance in four rural Black Belt counties in west Alabama.

UA’s project team, led by Professor Jason Guynes (chair of the department of art and art history), with Assistant Professor Jonathan Cumberland (graphic designer), Dr. Tricia McElroy (associate dean, humanities and fine arts, College of Arts & Sciences), Dr. Hee Yun Lee (associate dean, School of Social Work) and Dr. Martha Crowther (professor and director of clinical psychology, College of Community Health Sciences), will lend their expertise to create 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, ranging from 53% in Hale County down to 41% in Greene County. Alabama has vaccinated only 43.22% of its citizens, which puts it 48th in the nation. The poster designs will be featured on billboards, posters and sandwich boards in community institutions, health centers and businesses.

Designer Jonathan Cumberland’s illustrations and poster designs have won international awards and appeared on the covers of international magazines. Scholastic Publications has cited his work as an instance of outstanding U.S. poster design.

Professor Jason Guynes said, “We are pleased that the CDC Foundation has recognized through this grant project the expansive role that the arts play in our society, especially as it relates to the arts’ function of informing and shaping public opinion. We are also, of course, ecstatic that we are able to join in the important work that the CDC Foundation does and to be a small part of the global effort that is being mobilized to defeat this pandemic.”

The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) save and improve lives by unleashing the power of collaboration between CDC, philanthropies, corporations, organizations and individuals to protect the health, safety and security of America and the world. Since January 2020, the CDC Foundation, through the support of its donors, has addressed a wide variety of critical needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work has included providing personal protective equipment for frontline responders; care kits for schools, jails and the unhoused; studies examining the impact of COVID-19; work to strengthen communities and community-based organizations to improve vaccination uptake and address misinformation; more than 100 projects focused on health equity; and much more.

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 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, contact Rachel Dobson, communications specialist,