Using Art to Promote a Healthy Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic

This essay uses an art-focused public health campaign in Washington DC’s North of Massachusetts avenue (NoMa) neighborhood to explore issues related to placemaking, public health, community and economic development, and art. The Wear a Mask campaign, from NoMa’s Business Improvement District (BID), used art to encourage passers-by to wear face coverings. The BID commissioned local artists to create poster artwork reflecting the Wear a Mask message, and then placed those posters and signs throughout the neighborhood and in local businesses. We spoke with the BID and local artists who participated in the campaign to identify key themes. The essay lays out three ways in which art was informed by and engaged with campaign goals: to promote health, to promote community, and to promote equity.