At the height of the omicron variant surge in January, the CDC Foundation awarded $2.5 million in funding to 30 organizations across the U.S. to create arts and culture-based approaches to promote vaccine education and acceptance.
Among the grant recipients was Dr. Courtney Crappell, Director of the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston.
The arts and culture can be crucial tools in public health communication. Because local artists have long served as trusted messengers and translators of vital information in their communities, they can support vaccine education and acceptance in ways that cut through cultural barriers, skepticism and misinformation.CDC Foundation
Dr. Crappell and colleagues at the UH McGovern College of the Arts, in collaboration with Houston Methodist Hospital, used the grant to develop Come Together Houston: A Community Arts and Health Partnership – a series of free performances this spring/summer that also brings free vaccinations to underserved and immunization-hesitant communities.
Neighborhoods include Third Ward, where the percentage of vaccinated individuals is lower in comparison to other parts of Houston, said Donald Rabin, the series’ project manager.
Performances will feature four Houston artists: GONZO247, a graffiti muralist; Mariachi Pumas, the UH Mariachi ensemble; Outspoken Bean, Houston Poet Laureate; and Urban Souls, a contemporary dance company.
The first event took place at Lyons Avenue Festival on April 9, and the series continues May through July:
- May 6, 5:30 – 8pm, Outspoken Bean at MECA Dow Campus (Multicultural Education & Counseling through the Arts) 1900 Kane St, Houston, 77007
- May 21, 12 – 2pm, Outspoken Bean at Trinity Houston United Methodist Church, 2600 Holman St., Houston, 77004
- May 27, 5:30 – 8pm, Mariachi Pumas at MECA Dow Campus (Multicultural Education & Counseling through the Arts) 1900 Kane St, Houston, 77007
- July 23, 4 – 7pm, GONZO247, Mariachi Pumas, Urban Souls & Outspoken Bean at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St., Houston, 77010
During the events, a team from the Moores School of Music will record stories from audience members, reflecting on their COVID experience. Individuals who wish to participate will answer prompts, such as “How did COVID affect you using one word?” and “What did you learn from COVID so far?”
Organizers say the answers will be used to inspire the performances, in an effort to raise awareness of the benefit of vaccines. Digital stories may also be featured on the Come Together Houston website and shared with the CDC Foundation.
Most of the events will have access to free vaccinations, and brochures with information on vaccines and vaccine hesitancy will also be distributed.
Currently, the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals (ages 5 and older) in Harris County is 67%, compared to the national rate of 70%.
Organizers say the series uses the arts not only to encourage vaccination but also to bring the community back together from the pandemic.