By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Blue Shield of California is teaming up with artists in nine counties to create original artwork as part of an education and awareness campaign that offers support and encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic to members who face health-related challenges.
More than 200,000 Blue Shield members, ages 35 to 64, will receive customized-art postcards over the next two weeks that encourage them to build healthy habits, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, taking advantage of the nonprofit health plan’s Wellvolution program to better manage stress, treat existing conditions, and improve mental and physical health.
Wellvolution offers members more than 50 digitally driven health programs to choose from, which address specific health goals, conditions and health risks, and the program is available to most Blue Shield members at no additional cost. This outreach campaign is the latest example of Blue Shield’s efforts to help members prioritize their health from the convenience and safety of their homes to prevent, treat or even reverse chronic conditions.
Eight artists are participating in this initiative. Their artwork reflects the local identities of the nine counties they represent and interprets the theme “food is medicine.” The artists for this program were chosen for their community engagement as artists and advocates for a wide range of causes that include mental health, diversity and inclusion, and ending homelessness.
“With this art collaboration, we’re stepping outside our ‘clinical’ engagement with members,” said Angie Kalousek, director, Mind-Body Medicine at Blue Shield. “We’re tapping into local pride and the power of art to help inspire and give comfort to people during this pandemic, which is having profound effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing of us all. Art chronicles our lives and experiences and reflects cultural values, beliefs and identities. Our theme that food is medicine is intended to support members and inspire them to use healthy food as a strong, shareable source of connection with each other.”
Nine Regions, Eight Artists
Kern County – Sarah Nobles and Kei Deragon
Bakersfield is home to muralists Sarah Nobles and Kei Deragon. Each has a life story that has a profound influence on their art. Kei is a veteran of the U.S. Army; she served as a combat medic and now uses her art to navigate service-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sarah survived homelessness at a young age and discovered that art was a haven and healthy outlet for her experiences. Inspired to community activism by hate speech painted on a neighborhood wall, Sarah and Kei co-founded Creative Crossing, an art group working to beautify and create safer spaces in Bakersfield’s Oleander neighborhood. They don’t accept payment for their murals; instead they reinvest profits and donations from their projects in artists and the community. In May, Creative Crossing partnered with Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for the purpose of spreading awareness for Mental Health Awareness Month, creating a socially distanced chalk-art scavenger hunt for residents.
Los Angeles and Ventura counties – Sally Deng
Sally Deng was born and raised in Los Angeles to Chinese immigrant parents who owned a restaurant in the city’s Arts District/Skid Row. That’s where she taught herself to draw. Sally graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena with a BFA degree. Her talent and hard work have led to many successful projects, including creating illustrations for Stanford Medicine, The New York Times, Vice, Barron’s, and The Atlantic that tell stories of immigration, the outdoors, and women. She was included in the 2020 Art & Style List for “Forbes 30 Under 30.”
Orange County – Larissa Marantz
Illustrator, cartoonist and educator, Larissa Marantz creates visually appealing images and teaches students young and old how to do the same. She has taught art to elementary school students for more than 15 years and has been an adjunct faculty member of Laguna College of Art & Design for 12 years. After earning her BFA degree at California State University, she worked as a character designer for Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power and Rugrats shows. Inspired by her family life, she began illustrating children’s books, and continued drawing Rugrats for Simon Spotlight Publishing.
Riverside and San Bernardino counties – Belen Ledezma
A Chicana artist raised in San Bernardino, Belen Ledezma studied art San Bernardino Valley College, but mostly is self-taught. An artist and teacher, Belen uses her creativity to influence her community and teach art basics to young children. She is involved in work related to inclusivity and the diversity of San Bernardino and the Inland Empire, especially for women. She is deeply focused on her Indigenous/Latinx roots, which are reflected in her art. Belen has been a featured artist with San Bernardino Generation Now, a community-driven network that leverages the arts to educate the public on local socio-political issues and create civic engagement opportunities that embrace San Bernardino’s diverse cultural demographics.
Sacramento County – Franceska Gámez
Born in Manila, Franceska Gámez was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned a BFA degree from Sacramento State University. She now resides in Sacramento and her murals are featured locally and across the world. She is a co-founder and the owner of 1810 Arts Gallery, established to create a space for local artists to showcase their work. Franceska is also a founding member of the nonprofit M5 Arts Collective, which creates free art experiences for Sacramento residents and is a member of Trust Your Struggle, an artist collective dedicated to social justice, environmental sustainability and community activism.
San Diego County – Hanna Gundrum
Hanna Gundrum is a San Diego transplant who earned a BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her artistic style bloomed out of a need to create art from her tiny apartment on a student budget. Socially minded and with a sense of civic responsibility, Hanna is involved with Art Reach San Diego and puts her creative talents to work creating murals with youth at schools and community centers. In addition to her studio art and mural creations, she also works as an artist mentor to adults with developmental disabilities. Hanna uses her creativity to encourage people struggling with mental health to speak about their experiences.
Santa Clara County – Harumo Sato
A Japanese visual artist from Mountain View, Calif., Harumo Sato has lived or traveled in Japan, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Spain. After experiencing sudden illness and severe natural disasters in her early life, Harumo now creates work that promotes coexistence with nature and creates peace in viewers’ minds. Her art is owned by public and private collections and she has exhibited in solo and group shows in California and New York.
About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association with over four million members, 6,800 employees and more than $20 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $500 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation since 2002 to have an impact on California communities.
For more news about Blue Shield of California, please visit news.blueshieldca.com.