Tony Award-winning actor and producer Michael Shulman appreciates the power and potential of artist-driven work.
The founder of SAND & SNOW Entertainment, a stage and screen production company dedicated to creating works meant to stir up social conversation, has spent a large part of his career developing and participating in purposeful art. So it’s perhaps fitting the 2004 Yale graduate, who majored in Art History, would become the first major donor to support the Humanities, Arts and Public Health Practice at Yale, or the HAPPY Initiative.
“The arts, to me, have an ability like no other medium to change the conversation and to lift up and unite communities,” Shulman said. “And that is so essential, even more so now during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of us are fractured and so often feel alone.”
Established at the Yale School of Public Health in 2019, the HAPPY Initiative is a collaborative endeavor encompassing Yale’s Schwarzman Center (a central community space for public gatherings and the arts) and the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Music, Drama, Art, Divinity, Architecture and Management.
“The HAPPY at Yale initiative is about leveraging the rich resources across Yale to improve health messaging and the health of communities,” said initiative director Judith Lichtman, Ph.D. ’96, M.P.H. ’88, chair of the YSPH Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology and the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology.
Lichtman said she is extremely grateful for Shulman’s gift, which has allowed HAPPY to bring aboard Dr. Neal Baer, M.D., an award-winning showrunner, television writer/producer, author and public health advocate, who has long used art platforms to bring attention to and spur discussions about important public health issues. Baer served as executive producer and showrunner of the hit series Designated Survivor,Under the Dome,Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and ER. He was also executive producer of the documentary Welcome to Chechnya, which won a Special Jury Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, received the Peabody Award in 2020 and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
As a visiting scholar and lecturer, Baer will be co-teaching HAPPY’s inaugural Humanities, Arts and Public Health Practice course in the spring of 2022.