With stay-at-home orders stretching across America dragging on into months now, the thrill of doing something new may be good news for the 2020 Census. This is, by the way, Census Week, through Sunday.
Normally the U.S. Census, conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce every 10 years as mandated in the U.S. Constitution, has in-person follow-ups after four attempts to reach us by mail have been sent to each household in America. Not this year. With COVID-19 in our lives, the census bureau has adjusted its operations. For the first time, nearly everyone is invited to respond online, by phone or by mail.
Long before the world began practicing “social distancing” and hoarding life’s essentials like toilet paper, communities across this once great nation of all life’s essentials, began a campaign to spread the word of the importance of being counted. This may be one of the most important counts to date, considering federal funding on everything from school lunches to highway infrastructure is at stake.
Houston and Harris County’s local census drive “Yes! to Census 2020” began last summer and has unleashed its second of five murals in undercounted neighborhoods to build awareness of Census 2020 and the importance of being counted. The grassroots initiative comprises artists to create colorful, life-affirming murals to convey the local census message: Completing the census is important, urgent, safe and easy.
A new Montrose mural is located at 1203 Westheimer Rd. and created by artist Sebastien “Mr. D1987” Boileau (@mrd1987 on Instagram). The artwork includes a Houston rainbow skyline inside a hipster camera roll with the local Census 2020 campaign hashtag #YEStotheCensus. Local Montrose residents informed the creation via engagement surveys.
Houston-based UP Art Studio (upartstudio.org), a design house owned by Elia and Noah Quiles that facilitates art and design projects for urban and contemporary artists, communities, corporations and municipalities, was commissioned to identify locations, secure artists and incorporate community engagement to inform the works of art. The first “Yes! to Census 2020” mural was completed in early March in Gulfton by Anat Ronen (@anatronen1971 on Instagram) and is located at 6227 Southwest Fwy.
In pre-identified undercounted communities, local artists have been and will continue working with community residents to create vibrant murals that reflect each area’s unique character, ethnicities, needs and dreams to deliver the “Yes! to Census 2020” message. The remaining areas where murals will be painted include Alief, Aldine and South Central Houston. Local artists secured to create the remaining art installations include Lee Washington, Colors Oner and Israel McCloud.
The “Yes! to Census 2020” campaign aims to educate Houston and Harris County residents that the census is important, urgent, safe and easy to complete. Local trusted voices and hyperlocal influencers will amplify and encourage participation among multicultural and potentially undercounted populations. A website with census resources, information and events can be found at www.HarrisHoustonCounts.com.
For you information junkies and home-school teachers, the census website has some interesting facts on it including an interactive response rate map. After you fill out the census online, take a drive to see Anat and Sebastien’s murals!
The outdoor art markets that I host monthly on the first and second Saturdays will not be open this month.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.