Where Are All The Cool Masks?

You know, we talk about the ability the arts have to bring solutions to societal problems. There is one area in which I thought I would see a bigger contribution in the past year but didn’t and that is facemasks.

There is so much obvious potential there, but I haven’t really seen a lot of interesting or clever use of the space. Even if an artist’s purpose isn’t to solve a reluctance to wear masks, there is a motivation to sell masks by designing something people want to show off.

Now granted, the whole point of the last year has been not to come in contact with other people so not only might my experience be limited by the size of the population in my geographic location, but by the need to avoid other people.

However, I am also the person who has been doing temperature checks at the front door of a performing arts venue since July so it has been my business to pay attention to what people are or are not wearing.

I have seen some cool designs that let people show off their personality, but for the most part people show up wearing a monochromatic mask. Sometimes there is a corporate or university logo.

I have seen artistic masks for sale, but haven’t really seen many being worn.

On Hyperalleric, Francesca Magnani, showed off some of the 600 images of New Yorkers wearing masks she has taken and there is some interesting variety among those depicted. I guess I assumed it would become more of a fashion statement than it has.

In my own experience, for Christmas my nephews gave me a mask with a cat face and one with a dog face (though co-workers say it is a bear). What’s fun is that my mouth aligns with the mouth on the mask so it looks like I am speaking with a cat or dog mouth.

Somehow in the last few months I have become identified with those masks. I get more people on the street and in restaurants where I pick-up lunch asking me where the masks are when I am not wearing them than I get compliments on the masks when I am wearing them. People ask my co-workers about the dang masks.

I mean, as you can see, they are kinda fun and the dog one works with my beard even better than the cat one shown below. (I am not a cat, by the way.) But if this is the pinnacle of interesting masks out there, there is a lot more work that can be done.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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