Not many get excited about filling out the census, and some may avoid it altogether due to a lack of understanding of what it is and how their information is used. Indianapolis-based artist Tasha Beckwith is looking to change that. Beckwith, 37, was one of two local artists chosen by the Indianapolis Arts Council to use their talents to shed light on the upcoming census, beginning in March.
The Count Me INdy art campaign hopes to use visual art to convey the theme of “Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you matter.” The art will be displayed throughout the city to emphasize the importance of the census.
“Getting involved with this was important to me, because I didn’t know much about the census and how much my input mattered,” Beckwith said. “I wanted to make sure that I could convey the message of inclusion and slip in the information about what it really means to take the census and how it affects the community. I try to make sure that I can include that information in the artwork and include the demographics that aren’t taking the census, including the Latinx and the Black community.”
While creating her portion of the project, which consists of collages highlighting various demographics in the city, Beckwith learned many people avoid the census out of fear. Many in the Latinx community, particularly those without a legal status, were afraid the information would be used to deport them. In the Black community, Beckwith heard concerns about how their information would be used.
According to Count Me INdy campaign manager Callie Kennington, individual census responses are protected under federal law and kept confidential for 72 years. The information cannot be accessed by any branch of government, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Instead, information given on the census can be used to determine how — and where — local and national funds are spent, including education grants, health care programs such as SNAP and WIC, and emergency services. Businesses and community centers can also use census information to determine how to best serve their customers and communities.
“I’ve never gotten the chance to use my art to teach people about different subjects,” Beckwith said. “I’m a visual learner, so I hope this project helps people learn more about the census and inspires them to take it.”
For more information about the Count Me INdy campaign and the census, visit the website.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper with 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.