College of DuPage alumnus creates vaccination video for Arts Alliance Illinois

  • Glen Ellyn resident Ryan Jolly, a College of DuPage alumnus, created "Breath of Fresh Air," a hand-drawn, frame-by-frame film for theArts Alliance Illinois' "Vax to Get Back" campaign.

    Glen Ellyn resident Ryan Jolly, a College of DuPage alumnus, created "Breath of Fresh Air," a hand-drawn, frame-by-frame film for theArts Alliance Illinois' "Vax to Get Back" campaign. Courtesy of College of DuPage

Updated 9/15/2021 4:26 PM

College of DuPage alumnus Ryan Jolly is promoting the COVID-19 vaccine through a short animated film that he created as part of Arts Alliance Illinois' "Vax to Get Back" campaign.

Jolly was one of four artists selected by Arts DuPage, a regional arts leader recruited by Arts Alliance Illinois for the initiative. The Glen Ellyn resident received a $1,550 grant for his project, "Breath of Fresh Air," which currently is playing in suburban movie theaters that are part of the Classic Cinemas chain.


"The concept as presented was very broad -- the project should be in favor of vaccination," he said. "I thought of this as a good opportunity to stretch my skills in terms of what I could do for a client."

Jolly earned an Associate in Applied Science degree in Animation and currently works at COD as a tutor for the Animation program. Because of his contact with students, he heard about their frustrations during the pandemic and how they couldn't hang out with their friends.

"I created an art piece about them and for them," he said. "My film has a college student whose friends are meeting back up again and doing so safely. All of them have vaccines except for this one student, so he decides to get vaccinated in order to get back together with them.

"I don't do a lot of hand-drawn, frame-by-frame films, which is what I did for this project. It was challenging and fun to bring this character to life. I'm happy with the overall project."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Debbie Venezia, director of Arts DuPage, wanted to include College of DuPage in this initiative and contacted her brother, Tony, who is the coordinator for COD's Animation program. He then recommended Jolly who, coincidentally, had submitted work to a student film festival sponsored by the After Hours Film Society, a local organization that she founded.

"Arts Alliance Illinois wants the projects to speak to specific demographics, so I reached out to Tony because college-age students are an important audience," she said. "We purposefully didn't give the artists any boundaries because we wanted to rely on them to tell their own stories."

Because of the pandemic's impact on the arts, Venezia saw the importance of using them as a way to convey a message about vaccinations.

"The arts have suffered so much, and it's difficult to support all of the artists who have struggled during the pandemic," she said. "Arts are such an integral component to an overall strong economic ecosystem, and this project is helping people return to their lives and to the arts."

For Jolly, whose project was one of 72 created statewide for the "Vax to Get Back" campaign, the opportunity allowed him to use skills that he began developing as a hobby while growing up in Wheaton.


"When I came to COD, I took an animation class with Tony, and it instantly made me want to do this as a career," he said. "It was such a positive experience, and the exploration I did in that class was fantastic."

Jolly is still deciding on career options, including whether to work as a freelancer or at a large animation house such as Disney. He is happy that COD helped him prepare for his future.

"COD has such amazing classes and professors. They love their students and go that extra mile for them. I wouldn't still be here if I didn't love what I do."

Learn more about the Animation program at

College of DuPage is institutionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 21,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The college grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.

Article Comments
Attention: We are experiencing technical difficulties with our Facebook Comments module at this time. Comments will remain disabled until we are able to resolve the problem. We apologize for the interruption. We invite you to engage with our content and talk with other commenters on our Daily Herald Facebook page at Thank you.