The unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is of concern to us all, and at the Vilcek Foundation, we are committed to attending to best practices so as to uphold and protect public health and safety. While we are unsure what the future holds, we look to our foundation’s mission for guidance in these times. We remain firm in our commitment to our work, as the contributions of immigrants in the arts, sciences, and humanities enrich our culture and society.
We are saddened and troubled by the racist actions against Chinese people and businesses, and troubled by the antisemitic and xenophobic statements that have been reported following the Coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle. We stand with the Chinese and Jewish communities and condemn the misinformation and fear-mongering that the hateful among us seek to spread.
The Vilcek Foundation is taking concrete actions to protect our staff, our colleagues, and our wider community. We have made the decision to cancel our annual gala, and we are developing alternative modes to celebrate this year’s Vilcek Foundation Prizewinners. Next week, our staff will begin working remotely – we take this action to protect our employees and our community, and so as to reduce the risk of community spread in compliance with the guidance of the CDC, Mayor de Blasio, and Governor Cuomo.
We are grateful to the physicians, the public health officials, and the biomedical scientists doing research work that helps us to better understand both the pathogens that cause threats to human health, and the ways human cells and systems function, so we can pursue effective treatments and preventive measures. Our Vilcek Foundation Prizewinners in Biomedical Science contribute to multiple fields of inquiry in these arena; their work underwrites ground-breaking discoveries that have the potential to support human health and medicine for generations to come.
In partnership with the Gold Foundation, we bestowed the inaugural Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha in 2019. This award is especially prescient now, as it celebrates the contributions of foreign-born physicians and public health officials whose work exemplifies humanism, and upholds community health. We are galvanized by Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s work that called attention to and addressed the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in 2014, as we face the coming weeks ahead. Efforts to dismiss the seriousness of the COVID-19 epidemic are as dangerous as earlier attempts to cover up the peril of contaminated water in Flint.
The arts serve to celebrate humanity’s triumphs, and to provide solace and a lens for introspection and reflection in troubled times. We look to the work of the authors, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, dancers, choreographers, designers, architects and all of the other immigrant artists we have supported through our prize programs as a source of inspiration as we and the global community come to cope with this crisis.
We seek to take this current moment as an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to us, and how we can work to meaningfully honor our mission and values in all of our actions moving forward.