Over a year ago, before COVID-19 changed our lives and took hold of our collective psyche, independent curator and activist Amy Kisch was commissioned by San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) to develop an arts-driven campaign to mobilize communities around the 2020 Census. Understanding that the Census determines the distribution of federal money and political power across the US, Kisch, together with Amy Schoening and Brittany Ficken, formed Art+Action, the first-ever coalition for civic participation across art, creative, community, business, technology, philanthropy, activist, and government sectors.
Harnessing the power of over 40 artists — including Emory Douglas, Andrew Li, Hung Liu, George McCalman, Masako Miki, Joel Daniel Philips, Clare Rojas, Stephanie Syjuco, Sanctuary City Project, Ana Teresa Fernández, and Arleene Correa Valencia — 90 trusted community partners (including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Art+Action’s headquarters and Lead Partner), and a host of creative collaborators, they launched Come to Your Census, a large-scale multilingual public media and programming campaign to galvanize communities — particularly those that are vulnerable and hardest to count — to claim their fair share of resources and political representation by participating in the 2020 Census. Now, against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, Art+Action is moving its outdoor festivals, public panels, and exhibitions online to continue to motivate communities to complete the 2020 Census — which is currently live — and provides funding for a multitude of essential services.
The Census supplies funding for the community programs many of us rely upon under normal circumstances. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that completing the Census is more vital now than ever as the count determines funds for public health coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program) and healthcare (through grants to hospitals and clinics), as well as food assistance like WIC, SNAP, and school lunch programs — which many school districts are making available to families through pick-up sites so students don’t go hungry during school closures.
In the face of overwhelming isolation and powerlessness, Art+Action is offering tools to urge communities to claim their fair share by filling out their 2020 Census, which closes on August 14. Through weekly emails highlighting digital experiences and commissioned artwork — some of which is available for free in their digital toolkit (featuring posters, factsheets, children’s materials, etc.) — Art+Action is harnessing the role of the artist as a first responder to ensure we advocate for our collective future.
To access the Census Toolkit and learn more about Art+Action, visit cometoyourcensus.us/toolkit.