Snakes on a Virus

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Ebola is a scourge but hopefully not a plague. To aid the world health organizations in their attacks against the deadly virus, illustrator and designer Otto Steininger started a campaign, and along with 20 artists who are contributing to the Art Against Ebola fundraiser, he hopes to raise cash by selling works by Aya Kakeda, Chris Gash, Scott Bakal, Edel Rodriguez, James Yang, Jorge Colombo, David Flaherty and more. You can learn about the other artists and how to help here. In the meantime, I asked Steininger to tell us more about why he chose the metaphor he did to make the point.


It’s obvious why you did this concept, but how did you arrive at a 21-headed serpent?I felt that the myth of the Herculean labor of having to kill a 9-headed serpent which devoured people and animals alike was quite an apt metaphor for the fight against ebola: the disease spreads exponentially, much like the serpent’s heads were growing back each time Hercules cut them off.

Yet eventually he killed the beast. And according to Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, and Paul Farmer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a Founder of Partners in Health, “we have the knowledge, tools and resources to stop [ebola].”

Of course, selling 9 snake heads by 9 illustrators is not nearly enough to raise any significant amount of money. Thus it became the 21-headed serpent.

Ebola email-07

How much money do you hope to raise?Ken Allen, a Brooklyn-based fine art printer, has pledged to donate 20 large giclée prints of the entire 21 headed serpent for which we’re asking a donation of $500 each to Last Mile Health.

If we could sell all 20 of these we could reach $10k right there. But even the $5k mark, modest though it is, would make this a success. Because it also serves as an awareness campaign. We’re encouraging people to make donations at any level, small or big.

How has the response been to your call to arms (or heads)?It was pretty good, although there were some disappointments, too. Someone quite prominent wanted to be removed from my email list of rallying calls.

Otto Steininger

Otto Steininger

Tell us a little about Last Mile Health.Last Mile Health is all about fighting the ebola crisis in Liberia. It gets the right life-saving supplies to the right people, and shows how they should be used. Last Mile Health teamed up with Direct Relief and Partners in Health to air-lift over 13 tons of rehydration solutions, antibiotics and personal protective gear into the country. But what makes the charity so special is that it’s as much about training as it is about supplies. You can’t put a doctor in every remote village, so Last Mile Health identifies the villagers most trusted in their communities and trains them to perform basic, but critical, medical tasks. With the right supplies in the hands of trained people, lives are being saved. It’s the most innovative model of healthcare I’ve seen, and with the right funding, Last Mile Health can help free Liberia of the scourge of ebola, and strengthen its healthcare system in the post-ebola future.


Melinda Beck

Leo Espinosa_Ebola

Leo Espinosa


Steven Guarnaccia

Changing the World With DesignThis kit from is a guide to design activism, filled with inspiring stories as well as advice and instructions for doing it yourself. Anyone can be a design activist. It just starts with a commitment to yourself and your values. Find out more here.