Creatively encouraging census participation

#CreativeUplift: California’s arts and culture organizations share the importance of community involvement in the 2020 Census for future funding and resources

Qiana Moore
California Arts Council


CA Census California Counties #ICount graphic

Every ten years, residents across the country and California complete the Census in order to have a detailed count of all people in the United States. The collected data is instrumental in determining federal funding for vital community services and congressional representation in every state, territory, and Washington D.C for the next decade.

Since 1790, the US Census Bureau has sent census takers door-to-door in communities across the country, but the 2020 Census outreach has been more of a challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, in addition to being physically out in communities, the US Census Bureau and organizations across the country are finding innovative and engaging ways to share the importance of participating in the 2020 Census.

Below, you will find a small sample of inspiring 2020 Census outreach projects from California’s arts & culture sector, including current California Arts Council grantees. Artists and their work have a special ability to encourage community engagement and leave a lasting impact on the future.

Don’t forget to submit your 2020 Census household response before the deadline on September 30!

Lancaster Museum of Art & History (Lancaster)

#CountMeIn exhibition at Lancaster Museum of Art & History

The Lancaster Museum of Art & History believes that change happens at the speed of trust. Recognizing the current challenge of reaching residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and being identified as a Low Response Score neighborhood by the US Census, the museum turned to the dynamic artists within surrounding communities to launch their #CountMeIn Census project. The museum hopes to increase household Census responses using online artist-activated workshops, drone-guided exhibition tours, electronic billboards, a blog, and social media. The project includes three artists in residence: Robin Rosenthal, Edwin Vasquez, and Jane Szabo. The Lancaster Museum of Art & History is a grantee of the California Arts Council.

Self Help Graphics & Art (Los Angeles)

“We All Count” billboard by Martha Carrillo

Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG), an organization rooted in community at the intersection of arts and social justice, partnered with Los Angeles-based organizations to implement live art activations for their Census 2020 campaign, but soon found themselves adapting scheduled programming following the COVID-19 emergency. They quickly transitioned to webinars, a blog, and social media. SHG also recognized the power of traditional forms of advertising, displaying Census posters and billboards in English and Spanish throughout their community featuring the work of local artists. Self Help Graphics & Art is a grantee of the California Arts Council.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco)

“How to Complete the 2020 Census” illustrated instructions in Tagalog by Leah Nichols

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), an organization focused on centering artists essential to social and cultural movement, partnered with Art+Action, San Francisco’s first coalition for civic participation, to create the Come to Your Census: Who Counts In America? campaign. The art and civic project amplifies the work of local artists on digital platforms in the four most frequently spoken languages in the SF Bay Area — English, Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog — to underscore that the Census is an essential service that ensures the long-term health and strength of Bay Area communities. The digital campaign includes instructional graphics, interactive video games, virtual gatherings, newly commissioned written and filmed artist responses, and more in their digital toolkit. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a grantee of the California Arts Council.

Santa Cruz County Census (Santa Cruz)

Chalk Party artwork by Priscilla Martinez

In June, Santa Cruz County Census, the local government agency dedicated to making sure every resident is counted during the Census, held the 2020 Census Chalk Party. The social-distancing activity called on support from local artists and residents to create illustrations on sidewalks and walls throughout the county on the importance of Census participation. All works from the project are featured on the Santa Cruz County Counts social media account and website.

CA Census (State of California)

CA Census, the official State of California 2020 Census website, offers all the latest Census information for state residents, including filling out the Census form, best ways to talk about the Census with your community, and lists of additional resources. The CA Census social media account features the artwork and outreach of various California community organizations and includes informative illustrations highlighting their #ICount campaign.

Creative Uplift is a California Arts Council series celebrating California’s arts and culture community. We invite you to follow along on social media as we share the inspirational work of our creative communities far and wide, using the hashtag #CreativeUplift. And we welcome each of you to share your own experiences of art as a source of change, compassion, comfort, healing, and unity in your own communities using the same hashtag.

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Qiana Moore
California Arts Council

Outreach & Events Coordinator at the California Arts Council