Critical Mass Speakers on Current Pandemic: Aaron Huey

Aaron Huey

Critical Mass Speakers on Current Pandemic: Aaron Huey

May 19, 2020

IHC Director Susan Derwin asked Aaron Huey, Creative Director of, a few questions about his work in light of the current pandemic.

Susan: “This past February, you spoke in the IHC’s Critical Mass series about the power of art to be a catalyst for change. How has the current pandemic impacted the way you are thinking about your work as an activist?”

Aaron: “Amplifier’s mission has always been to amplify the most important movements of our times, so when the movement became about saving lives all over the world it was clear what we had to do. We mobilized artists from around the world to make imagery and language that could first and foremost help flatten the curve and save lives through education about safety and best practices, but then quickly we also had to make and distribute imagery that could help support mental health and wellbeing because so many were going to be confused, trapped, fearful, and mourning. In the end we had 10,500 works submitted in 26 languages from 68 countries and were able to distribute over $100,000 in awards to artists to help support their work.”

Susan: “You also spoke about the ways in which art can help direct us to a future we want for our children and ourselves. In these times of extreme flux and uncertainty, what are your thoughts about the role of art in helping to create a livable and desirable future?”

Aaron: “The next category of art beyond health and wellbeing that we saw coming in, and saw as perhaps the most important, was art that could show us what kind of future we wanted to live in on the other side of this pandemic. It has been described as a portal by many and it is necessary to be explicit about what we want on the other side. Artists have the ability to create those signposts that lead us through. They can describe and literally paint a picture of the world we want to live in. If we surround ourselves with those symbols and stories, if we use them as our compass, then it is easier to stay on course and find the strength to build that future.”

Susan: “Are you envisioning how life will be once we transition out of this period of quarantine and acute crisis?”

Aaron: “Extreme. I think some great successes and growth will happen, and I also think this will be used as an opportunity to take peoples’ fear and create tyranny. It will be a checkerboard of dark and light spots that come from this. Leadership like the U.S. has currently does not make me hopeful that we will be a light spot as a nation. I believe our hope is in communities, cities, and states.”

Susan: “What are you reading, watching and/or listening to right now?”

Aaron: “Mostly watching all the art streaming out into the world from places I have never seen it emerge from before. With our open call going global my eyes have been opened to work from every continent and I am incredibly inspired!”