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October 25, 2023

Oral History Art Installations Throughout Boulder County Focus on Pandemic Experiences

Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) is collaborating with community partners to create interactive art pieces that capture the uncertainty, loss and hope of residents’ COVID-19 experiences, as well as the crucial role of vaccines in our recovery from the pandemic.

Each art installation uses voices to relay an oral history of the pandemic. Residents and leaders from each of the county’s municipalities helped to develop the installations and share each community’s unique experience.

“The campaign centers around real voices from our communities and is the result of focus groups with residents from across Boulder County,” says Dr. Indira Gujral, Deputy Director. “This led to the creation of a design team that included local government representatives and a diverse mix of residents consisting of, among others, a CU professor, a bluegrass musician, an opera singer and an immigration activist who worked collaboratively to shape the project.”

Design team members noted that a non-traditional approach to sharing COVID-19 experiences could provide unique benefits.

“Art lives differently than paid messaging in the hearts and minds of the people experiencing it,” says Jay Clark, a chef, musician and business owner who helped design and install the pieces. “What art may lack in reach, it makes up for in richness and can earn a place in the audience’s hearts and memories.”

“Our residents also helped us build more effective messaging,” said Lafayette Mayor JD Mangat, who also served as a member of the project’s leadership cohort. "Vaccine hesitancy is far from binary. The focus groups, drawn from the ‘movable middle,’ demonstrated the need for empathic messaging that gently encourages people to get and remain vaccinated while not driving detractors and skeptics farther away.”

A total of six art installations, including ones located in Lyons and the City of Boulder, are slated to be installed over the coming months. The first piece was introduced in September at the Firehouse Art Center (667 Fourth Ave., Longmont). Nederland and Lafayette have recently installed their art pieces. Nederland’s is situated in the Fairy Garden located between the intersection of East St. and East Second Street and the western shore of Barker Reservoir. Lafayette’s is located at 186-189 N Public Road.

Dan Ligon, Teaching Associate Professor at the University of Colorado’s College of Media, Communication and Information, and who also helped develop the concept for the artworks, said, “When designing moments of strategic communication, novel opportunities for interaction often resonate more authentically and memorably than straight up messaging. Especially when the community comes together to create such a moment.”

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