Edel Rodriguez
The Starfish Project
Many of us first got into art to make an impact or affect change in some way.  Making a living out of art is definitely an added bonus, but we jump at the chance to do something that might actually make a difference in people’s lives, regardless of pay.  
Here is a pro bono project I’ve been involved in that I immediately said yes to when asked to participate.    It is for The Starfish Project, an international HIV/AIDS initiative of the Center for Special Studies at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The project began as a drug salvage program, collecting unused HIV medications for use in settings without access to antiretroviral treatment. Focused in Nigeria, this effort has grown into a comprehensive partnership between U.S. and Nigerian health care professionals to provide care to HIV positive individuals. This goal is achieved through provider education, contribution of equipment, and the HIV medications themselves.

The posters I did were placed in hospitals and HIV clinics in the United States and were used to encourage doctors to save unused medications for shipment to Nigeria.  Brochures and cards were also printed to hand out to patients in the U.S. and villages in Nigeria, to educate locals about the program.  I worked with CDM advertising on this project (Paul Correia-AD and Tracy Tompkins).  CDM Advertising volunteered their services to the project as well. I did not want to sign the posters because I felt uncomfortable promoting my name given the subject matter, but the project wanted people to know that this artwork was made specifically for the non-profit’s campaign by an artist and not a piece of art picked up from a stock agency.  I also did the hand lettering for the project.  The work was selected for the 3 x 3 annual and Society of Illustrators exhibition.

I wanted in some way to address the subject of working for no pay that has been brought up by Google’s attempt to get free art from illustrators (New York Times article here). I would encourage others on Drawger to put up their own pro-bono projects so that readers of the site realize that we are all willing to work on projects for no pay, but for clients that have real and important needs.  The time we have to spare should be spent working for worthy causes like The Starfish Project, not for companies like Google.  Google is a $100 billion company with a $416 price per share and can more than afford to pay for all of the art it commissions.
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