Newsday Tuesday: The Art of Saving a Life


January 27, 2015

How can art help save lives? Perhaps it cannot do so literally, but it can help us to shift our perspectives and see the world in different ways.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gathered more than 30 artists to tell some of the moments of sacrifice, innovation and creativity that make up the modern story of vaccine development.

Through current and historical milestones – using photography, painting, music and writing from renowned artists the world over – we see the stories of science come together through art, to save lives.  Artists including Brazil’s Vik Muniz, Australia’s Alexia Sinclair, Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and America’s Mia Farrow share their unique lenses to each tell a piece of this health revolution.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “each artwork, using different methods and media, is meant to bring awareness to the importance of vaccines throughout the course of history.” Sinclair illustrates the breakthrough that was the smallpox vaccine. Muniz uses imagery of liver cells infused with the smallpox vaccine virus that look like flowers. Adichie wrote a short story, giving a reflection from the 1980s, when a new health minister introduced free services to mothers and children. Actress Mia Farrow shared a photo she took in South Sudan sharing a story about her son. The pieces are in a digital form at throughout this month.


When you think about the art of saving a life, I think artists always make you think about other people’s lives… the way you connect to people.  ~ Vik Muniz


The Wall Street Journal, asked Dr. Orin Levine at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation why this story must be told.  “We’re going to be meeting in Berlin on the 27th of January … looking for the world’s international community to recommit to supporting GAVI, the vaccine alliance, which supports vaccination in the poorest countries in the world. This is an opportunity to prevent between 5-6 million deaths in the next five years. So if people see this art and they’re moved, and they’re inspired and they think, “You know what? What a great thing to be a part of”—an effort that could save a million lives a year…Tweet it out. Start that conversation with others about what you’re learning, or how the art’s making you feel or think about vaccines differently.”

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 Disease is something I believe we all need to fight together because ultimately we all share the same planet. ~ Alexia Sinclair


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