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Wis. artists capture history through pandemic posters

Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Ten Wisconsin artists are on assignment to capture a piece of pandemic history.

Recovery is the focus of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s COVID-19 poster project. The society commissioned artists with a similar task last year. After an open call this spring, the group is now unveiling its latest collection.

“We think it’s an interesting story, and it will definitely pay dividends to historians and researchers that come after us,” Dave Desimone, who coordinated the poster project, said. “It really is sort of our mission as the state Historical Society to collect these stories, preserve these stories and ultimately share these stories with people.”

Desimone explained, posters historically have been used to encourage the public to action.

Titles of works in this collection include “Get Vaccinated,” “Trust Science,” and “We Will Heal.” The society commissioned four additional posters from high school students.

Grant Yun, a UW-Madison alumnus and current medical student in Milwaukee, is behind the poster “Continuing the Effort.”

“I love doing art that’s associated with like public health... that ties together my interest in medicine as well,” he said.

Yun said he wanted to first appeal to Wisconsinites through a familiar farm landscape on the bottom half of the page. It would draw their eyes up to an “explicit” message at the top.

"Continuing the Effort" was designed and illustrated for the Wisconsin Historical Society by...
"Continuing the Effort" was designed and illustrated for the Wisconsin Historical Society by Grant Yun.(Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society)

Yun said he interprets “effort” to mean “continuing taking those precautions that’ll help... future patients from being in the hospital and passing away from COVID and working together to get back to normal life before the pandemic.”

Ciara Nash, who has worked on murals in downtown Madison’s State Street, said she was inspired by a silver lining of the pandemic.

“The whole pay-it-forward thing,” she said. “I was at a restaurant and someone ended up paying for my food and I was like, ‘Wow, this is great.’”

"Helping Hands" was designed and illustrated for the Wisconsin Historical Society by Ciara Nash.
"Helping Hands" was designed and illustrated for the Wisconsin Historical Society by Ciara Nash.(Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society)

Nash continued, “It means a lot. It also kind of makes me emotional because I’ve never thought I’d be placed in a position to be a part of history.”

Desimone said he imagines “maybe a really nice exhibit 50 to 75 years down the road.”

As for the short term, he said the posters will feature in a book about the pandemic.

They are available to view and purchase here.

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