A custom-made, washable coronavirus mask made by artist Amy Wilson (courtesy the artist)

Artists and cultural institutions are stepping up to help health care workers across the United States who have been reporting shortages of face masks and other protective gear while they’re combating the spread of COVID-19.

A new group called Mask Crusaders PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is urging artists, builders, restaurants, and art institutions to donate gloves, masks, eye protection, and other needed equipment at hand. Donors are asked to add their contributions to a spreadsheet online. Volunteers are tasked with picking up the materials and disturbing them to health workers in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Ohio, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and Washington, DC.

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Artist Amy Wilson is offering custom-made, washable coronavirus masks for prices as low as $0.25. “If you are an emergency worker, a personal health aide, or low/fixed income, or otherwise in serious risk and also unable to purchase one, please select Subsidized and you will get your mask delivered to you for 25 cents (this site won’t let me do it for free!!! I’m really sorry!),” the artist says on her website. The regular price of the mask is $20.

Wilson has also compiled a list of DIY coronavirus mask tutorials and sewing patterns for download on a new blog she named Let’s Make Masks. (More mask patterns can be downloaded here.)

Art handlers at Whitney Museum in New York City are also stepping up with donations of protective gear from masks to shoe covers, as shared by artist Tauba Auerbach on Instagram. In the Netherlands, conservators at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam have donated their supplies of face masks and surgical gloves to medical workers in local hospitals. The Van Gogh Museum confirmed to artnet that it will follow suit.

In Liverpool, New York, Stephanie Keefe and Isaac Budmen, owners of 3D printing business Budmen Industries, have also joined the cause. The couple has created 400 completed masks so far, with 16 printers going at once, and set up a database to connect those in need with others who have a 3D printer. Their face mask template has been downloaded nearly 2,000 times.

Fashion designer and former Project Runway winner Christian Siriano announced that his sewing team will be making masks to answer shortages in New York. The fashion companies Los Angeles Apparel and Karla Colletto have also refitted their factories to make masks, according to the New York Times.

Kerby Jean-Raymond of the fashion house Pyer Moss announced on Instagram that his company has gathered funds to purchase over 7,300 masks and more than 1,000 gloves and face protection gear for health workers. The company has turned its NYC offices into a donation center and launched a separate initiative to financially support minority and women-owned small creative businesses that are currently in distress. The company has set aside $50,000 for the project.

And lastly, the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University in Upstate New York has donated several thousand disposable gloves, 600 surgical masks, 29 N95 respirators, and disposable gowns to healthcare providers in the area.

Correction 3/27/2020 10:30am EDT: In an earlier version of this article, Stephanie Keefe and Isaac Budmen’s names were misspelled.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

One reply on “Art World Rallies to Gather Medical Supplies for COVID-19 Healthcare Workers”

  1. I’d also like to call out the thousands of hyper-local efforts by craftspeople and makers. Here in and near Boston just 3 examples are Boston Area Mask Initiative, Artisans’ Asylum efforts and Face Mask Working Group through Mutual Aid Worcester. I also know at least 3 individuals who are organizing collection and distribution of protective gear completely on their own. Every art school, voc tech school, makerspace, nonprofit craft school, woodworking and fabric supply store, has been asked through our networks to give up their goggles, respirators, gloves, face masks. A resident from Boston Medical Center just emailed the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts, where I work, desperately seeking people who can sew and donate reusable gowns for health workers. It’s a true grassroots movement that matches the cultural sector with dire public health emergency.

    Just one Example: Boston Area Mask Initiative

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