Events & exhibitions

Drawing Us Together: Public Life and Public Health in Contemporary Comics

Illustration of a clustered tangle of government buildings from the US Capitol as a cloud above a gulping individual.
Image by Dan Nott, excerpt from This is What Democracy Looks Like, A Graphic Guide to Governance

The global pandemic and recent movements for racial justice have tested public and private institutions in this country; our sense of collective wellbeing; and familial, social, and civic lives. Drawing Us Together: Public Life and Public Health in Contemporary Comics explores these challenges and the interconnectedness of contemporary public life and public health through the medium of comics. Authors and artists share a range of stories across time, experience, and identity through the interplay among images and words.

This interactive exhibition—anchored by wall-sized graphics from the Center for Cartoon Studies’ graphic guides to the US healthcare system and democracy—includes a library of over 80 comics spanning the genres of memoir, historical narrative, graphic novel, and informational guide, which visitors are welcome to browse. While in the gallery, visitors are also encouraged to draw their own one-sheet, eight-page book at tables equipped with art supplies, guided by a tutorial from the creators of the Quarantine Public Library. Artists and other experts will hold periodic workshops in person and online to explore topics raised in the exhibition.

The unique comic format can chronicle, in ways that are succinct and easily comprehensible, how our physical and mental health are shaped by complex American systems, while also conveying inequities inherent throughout these systems. The comics included in this exhibition illustrate who has the power to make decisions about our lives and our health, and how those decisions affect individuals and communities over time, often determined by class, race, gender, and zip code.  

Curated by Meg Rotzel, curator of exhibitions, Harvard Radcliffe Institute  

Harvard Radcliffe Institute is grateful to the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS), cartoonists Dan Nott and James Sturm RI ‘21, scholar Hillary Chute, librarian Matthew Noe, Quarantine Public Library founders Katie Garth and Tracy Honn, and The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square for their help with the development of this exhibition. 

Harvard Radcliffe Institute gratefully acknowledges the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Endowment Fund for the Arts, which is supporting this exhibition.

Join us September 22 for the Drawing Us Together: Public Life and Public Health in Contemporary Comics exhibition opening discussion.

At Harvard, Drawing Conclusions about America’s Health Care System (Boston Globe, 11/29,22)

Sign up for Workshops:

Dan Nott will be holding an all-ages drawing workshop exploring visual metaphor and the unique power of combining words and pictures. Sign up here by Monday, October 24, 2022.

Cara Bean will be having a hands-on, visual thinking, mindfulness workshop. Sign up here by Monday, November 14, 2022.

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