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Q&A: Peoria Artist Uses Painting To Encourage Community COVID-19 Vaccinations

Artist Hattie Lee
Artist Hattie Lee

About 57% of Illinoisans older than age 12 are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but rates vary widely on a more local level.

The Peoria Art Guild and the Arts Alliance Illinois are teaming up for their campaign "Vax To Get Back." Artists from across Illinois are creating pieces that encourage the public to get the vaccine.

Peoria artist Hattie Lee wants to use her creativity to encourage more people to get the shot. She's painting an 18x24 watercolor and gouache to get out the message.

She talked with WCBU student reporter Valerie Vasconez about how she wants to be part of the change.

HATTIE LEE: They came to me asking if I'd be willing to be part of this project, I just wanted to be able to be a part of putting the joy out there through art. And they also asked us to think about how we would reach out to people that are perhaps tired of hearing about the vaccination message. I feel like we all see the billboards, and we all see the same kind of language associated with it. And I wanted to see bright colors, I wanted to see something that would draw people in with the joyful painting, and then read more about it. I wanted it to be something a little different, but also just bring beauty into the world through this campaign.

VALERIE VASCONEZ: And for your piece, what was your idea for the campaign?

HATTIE LEE: My idea behind it was just thinking about a door, which we do associate with like open doors and opening to the world, but (the) world reopening kind of thing, like the brightness coming through the door, and then maybe this like hard time surrounding it that we're coming out of. And so I used a lot of dark colors around the doorway, and then the bright colors kind of shooting out of the door and on the door itself. And I wanted to draw people in with those bright bold shapes. But then with just sharing about the campaign to get vaccinated, and then things along with that, and kind of the idea of the world opening and being able to do things joyfully again.

VALERIE VASCONEZ: So how do you personally recall your experiences in the pandemic?

HATTIE LEE: It was difficult at times. Like I had plans that got changed. I actually am involved with a nonprofit overseas, and I was supposed to go work with them in Germany the week that we shut down so... but it's also been interesting because a lot of my friends overseas have been going through the exact same thing as me. So many of us around the world have a common experience now that we have not had before. And I did actually contract COVID at one point, so it, for me, it was just felt like I was moving like a snail for most of the week and could barely get a task done during the day, it felt like. And I had other people in my life that got it worse than me. So I just am grateful that it was only that bad, but and also that the people in my life made it through to so I know other people didn't have that experience.

And like in other ways, like I said, sometimes it was kind of nice to just have the excuse to stay home and really delve into my art practice. But I am a social person. So that also was hard because I need the energy from being with people. So I'm really excited to get back to a more normal life.

VALERIE VASCONEZ: And do have any other comments for the public?

HATTIE LEE: I mean, I just encourage people to do what's gonna give them more peace and I'm excited. I just yeah, I am wishing everybody a joyful season coming out of this time and I hope that when people look at this piece, they will get inspired by it.

Valerie Vasconez is a student reporter at WCBU. She joined WCBU in summer 2021. She is a student at Bradley University in Peoria.