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Public health officials are continuing to urge citizens to remain 6 feet apart from others whenever possible. Over the last month, Sneha Shenoy has used her artistic talents to lead a team of artistic young activists in the Pledge to Distance Campaign. Young people send her a picture of themselves and Shenoy and her team send them back a stylized drawing with that person’s name on a mask as seen below. The drawing is then posted to social media and the picture’s recipient pledges to social distance and wear a mask in public.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Sneha Shenoy and I am the founder of Pledge To Distance. I am a rising senior at Klein High School in Spring, Texas. In school, I am very involved with Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) and I will serve as Klein High’s chapter president next year. I am also a member of the National Charity League and love to serve the community with my mom. Other than these two organizations, I practice two forms of Indian classical dance outside of school.
What sort of activism work have you been doing amidst the COVID-19 outbreak?
Pledge to Distance is an activism-based organization seeking to encourage others to do their part for the general public health during this pandemic.
What inspired you to create Pledge To Distance?
In some way or another, I have been an activist throughout my life. When I see an issue in society, I want to do something to fix it. I saw that a lot of people my age were not taking social distancing seriously when stay at home orders were put into place. I figured that if fellow teenagers were to promote the cause, they would realize the importance of the issue. Along with this, I’ve always considered art as a hobby and thought that I could apply this passion for a purpose. Initially, I drew myself and a few friends with our names making the shape of masks on our faces and I posted a collage of these faces on my Snapchat story. Many people messaged me, asking if I could draw them as well. This was the birth of Pledge To Distance.
How much time have you spent working on this? How many pieces of art do you create every week?
Our team spends hours are hours every day working on this campaign. On average, we as a group create 250-300 pieces of art every week. Although artwork is a huge part of the campaign, we also spend many hours a week on website development, social media outreach, communications, article writing and interviews. We’re always working on ways to improve the campaign and incorporating new ideas.
What has been difficult about this project?
We are so grateful for all of the support for this campaign, but with that comes thousands of artwork pieces needed to be drawn. Every single team member that works on the campaign is in high school, so it could be difficult at times to juggle the campaign and finals/ AP testing. Thankfully, since this testing is over for the summer, we have more time now to dedicate to the campaign.
Why do you feel that art is a powerful approach to activism?
Our art is unique and personalized to each pledger. We believe our artwork promotes activism in two ways- (1) When pledgers receive their artwork and post on their social media, it grabs the attention of their followers and encourages them to take the pledge for themselves. (2) Our artwork serves as a reminder of accountability. Every time a pledger sees their artwork, they are reminded of the promise they made for the good of the society, a standard of responsibility to do their part.
Has any particular moment stood out to you while working on this?
We are so grateful with the amount of support this campaign has garnered in such a short period of time. We are so lucky to have influential leaders in our society, such as Harris Country Judge Lina Hidalgo, Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner, and Klein ISD Superintendent Dr. Jenny McGown, support this campaign. Their encouragement truly gives a sense of achievement to all members of the Pledge To Distance team.
What is your plan for this project in the future?
We hope that as states start to reopen, we not only encourage social distancing, but shift to a public-health centered campaign. This means promoting general hygiene, mask-wearing, and hand washing.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I started this campaign by myself not knowing to what caliber it would grow. I am beyond blessed to have a team of 12 other students working on this campaign now to make it successful. I definitely couldn’t do this without them. They are the most incredible, dedicated, and hard-working team I could have asked for. Additionally, I have to thank our advisor, Ms. Kristen Haggard for all of her advice and guidance and my parents who have not only supported me from the beginning of this campaign, but have always encouraged me to do better.
Where can people go to learn more and support your work?
Anyone who wishes to learn about the campaign can go to Pledge to Distance, where they will find information about the campaign, team members, features, artwork examples, and the actual pledge. We also have social media accounts on Instagram (@pledgetodistance), Twitter (@PledgeDistance), and Facebook (Pledge To Distance). Additionally, any questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions for Extended Dialogue:
How did the author use art to promote her idea?
What other ways do you notice art being used to raise awareness for a movement or action?
Have you ever used art to encourage others to participate in a moment or action? How did it go?
Why is art an effective tool for sharing a message to a large audience?