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Communicating in Color: Illuminating Public Work Through the Power of Image.

Guest Blog by // Brittany Curry //

I have a little business doing something called Graphic Recording & Graphic Facilitation where I go to meetings, conferences, and events of all kinds, and draw LIVE on the spot, to engage the audience and summarize the main points of what’s been said. Having been doing this since 2013, I’ve recorded hundreds of meetings all over the country and with this blog post, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the cool & innovative things I’ve seen & heard about happening in public health & community development.

I went to Flint, Michigan in August 2017 to do some work with Michigan State University’s Public Health Division and I was able to meet and scribe a meeting with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, whose research exposed the Flint Water Crisis. While I was there I learned about the Flint Registry & the Hurley Children’s Center. They help impacted kids and families by minimizing the effects of lead exposure while promoting wellness and recovery. The children’s center is housed literally under the same roof as the Flint Farmer’s Market, so, through Hurley’s Food FARMacy program, children get a prescription to redeem fresh fruits and vegetables when they come in for their check-ups.

The New York State Department of Health is in the middle of implementing health & wellness policies in schools throughout the state through the initiative known as Creating Healthy Schools & Communities (CHSC). I joined 25 grantees in Buffalo last October (2018) to scribe a 2-day convening and visually document their processes, successes, and policy updates from the state. (Here’s a short vid showcasing some of my graphics for one of the grantees.) One of the cooooooooolest things I learned about from one of the panelists is a national campaign known as the FNV campaign (fruits & vegetables).

Concerned with the childhood obesity epidemic, the creators of this campaign thought, “We know the power of marketing. We know the power of celebrity. So far, no one has tried to market your standard ‘apple’ or your standard ‘banana’ in the same way these companies spend so much money and effort marketing terrible food products to kids.” So they got a whole bunch of celebrity endorsers to back the campaign to make healthy food appealing and trendy. Check it out on Instagram using the hashtag #teamFNV and you will find some really funny, catchy ads that put avocados & broccoli into a pop culture context as you’ve never seen.

Starfire Council in Cincinnatti had a long history of being a congregate day-service for adults with disabilities. Every day, tons of people with disabilities would all show up to the same building that contained activities, crafts, music. A few times per week, everyone would get in a big van and go on an “outing” to some location in the community—the mall, a restaurant—and everyone would be led around by a staff member. But about 7 or 8 years ago, Tim & Bridget Vogt, who ran Starfire at the time, began to rethink the impact this program was having on people’s lives in a long-term way. In Tim’s words: “We spent years and years, millions and millions of dollars taking people bowling and shopping, and at the end of the day, no one had a single friend they could point to outside of the day program.”

They began to dismantle and restructure Starfire from an organization that groups everyone together and thinks “This is the best we can do” into one that helps people with disabilities explore their unique interests and skills, and expand their social networks with neighbors, community members, and friends over things they have in common. They let go of the systems-centered approach—which looks at people like “clients” and only thinks about all the things people can’t do based on labels and deficits—and made it into a person-centered approach, which considers the person’s uniqueness and his/her own vision for what direction their life should take.

In reversing their conceptual starting place & their practice, they will tell you the massive amounts of blowback they have faced. Starfire’s transformation is noteworthy in a culture where the majority of disability service providers are fighting to procure more funding and resources for programs that will perpetuate congregating people. This organization has actually made the commitment over time to reducing their own staff and budget, taking those dollars and using them in a way that will more meaningfully support people with disabilities to pursue lives outside of the realm of client-hood, pity, charity, and disability services. There are a ton of short, enjoyable videos on their YouTube channel where you can see examples of this paradigm-shifting work. My favorites are Brewers and Naturalists.

“Two Worlds” by me; 2013; contrasting a rich full life, with a life inside of services

I hope you will read more about all of these projects and efforts from the links provided, and learn more about my work as a Graphic Recorder & Facilitator on my Website at www.inkybrittany.com

 @inkybrittany on Facebook & Instagram & my blog at www.inkybrittany.tumblr.com


Brittany Curry is a Graphic Recorder & Facilitator who uses pictures & symbols to capture the messages being shared in meetings, conferences, and events of all kinds. She works throughout the country with corporations, small businesses, non-profits, government entities, and institutions of higher learning, and in 2017 was named to GeorgiaTrend Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list of rising innovators & entrepreneurs. Brittany is active in the disability advocacy community in Georgia, using graphics to stimulate support for self-advocates to pursue to real homes, real jobs, and real friends. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Georgia College & State University and worked as the Coordinator of Oconee Area Citizen Advocacy from 2011—2016 before launching her business, InkyBrittany. Brittany currently serves on the Board of Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy & the Safeguarding Citizen Advocacy in Georgia statewide committee.  

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