As surprising as it seems, art has the power to help save lives.
Each year, about 6 million people die from diseases that are preventable with vaccines. And about 1 in 5 children around the world don’t have access to life-saving vaccines.
But those are cold and dry statistics.
The Art of Saving A Life enlisted more than 30 artists to create images that bring those numbers to life — to spark conversations, interest and, ultimately, funding for vaccines.
“In science and medicine, we’re convinced that what we work on is really cool, really important, and should interest everyone,” says Orin Levine, director of the Vaccine Delivery Team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “But we haven’t always provoked that interest. Art really speaks to everybody as a way to provoke a conversation, or convey a message.”
The Gates Foundation sponsored the project and will release the artwork throughout January on a website. The pieces aren’t for sale but will be displayed at a conference in Berlin, on Jan. 27. The goal of the conference is to raise money for Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an organization aimed at vaccinating millions of children in poor countries. (Note: The Gates Foundation is also a funder of NPR.)
The artwork is lovely, profound and sometimes stark.
Top Image: The birth of vaccines: Photographer Alexia Sinclair portrays Dr. Edward Jenner giving John Phipps the world’s first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1796. (Courtesy of Alexia Sinclair)
Bottom left: Sophie Blackall illustrates communities around the world where children often miss vaccines, such as a dense, city slum in India. (Courtesy of Sophie Blackall)
Bottom right: From Where the Next Influenza Pandemic? Mexican artist Francisco Toledo felt motivated to create this painting after he learned that pigs are a source of new and deadly strains of influenza. (Courtesy of Francisco Toledo)