Over 300 paper mache masks, created and decorated by people of all ages from across the state, will be on display at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts every Friday and Saturday throughout the month of February. Admission is free, but guests must RSVP to reserve a viewing slot in advance. Face masks are fittingly required in the gallery.
Michigan Legacy Art Park (MLAP) and the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA), two longtime nonprofit cultural organizations, collaborated to expand this art project, which began in August 2020 and was created by artist and Volunteer Director of Education for MLAP, Patricia Innis.
The goal of the “Stay Safe” mask exhibit is to explore the experiences during the health pandemic and foster a sense of connection as we prepare to come out of this emergency and return to life as we knew it before COVID-19. Innis invited fellow artists, supporters, and friends to create the first round of masks, and quickly saw the potential for the project to keep growing.
Innis reflected on the project’s impact, “It quickly became apparent it was more than just a fun thing to do. Families were using the masks as a starting point to talk about thoughts and feelings during the pandemic. I’m amazed at how many still want to create masks and the number of organizations who have expressed interest in bringing the project to their own communities.”
Over 400 people and families have participated since it launched by decorating blank paper mache masks expressing their personal stories during quarantine. Nine local organizations have participated including the Goodwill Inn of Traverse City and the Armory Youth Group of Manistee, among others, with contributions coming from as far away as Minnesota, Colorado and California.
Taken together, the masks create a powerful story of our resilience, our fears, our losses and our hopes as a society over the past year. People creating masks have described the experience of making the masks as “cathartic,” “emotional,” and “creatively therapeutic.”
RRCA volunteers and local artists Lynn Williams and Mary Wahr led the installation. “The gallery looks fantastic and we’re grateful to so many people in the community and around the country for participating. The exhibit will feature a map of Michigan indicating where the masks originated as well as those around the country. Mary and Lynn have done a terrific job designing this exhibit,” said Xavier Verna, Executive Director of the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts.
Verna and Innis will host an online tour free to the public on Friday, February 12 at 1:00 pm. No reservation is required and you can follow along live at the Ramsdell’s Facebook Page. The collaborators will walk audiences through the artwork, share reflections on the project, and take questions from the online audience.
The Art Park has also created a How-To blog for anyone interested in participating in the project from home, creating your own version with groups or organizations, or trying it as a family.
Exhibit details can be found online at ramsdelltheatre.org/facemask, and include two pre-recorded webinars led by Mary Wahr and Lynn Williams on decorating the masks.
About Michigan Legacy Art Park
Founded by internationally acclaimed artist David Barr in 1995 to enrich lives through experiences that connect art, nature, and Michigan’s history. Contemporary Art comes to life in the park’s permanent collection of almost 50 works, located in the midst of a 30-acre forest preserve. The Art Park hosts thousands of visitors and students each year, features miles of trails, world- class concerts outdoors, art and nature workshops, and extensive education programs. Visit michlegacyartpark.org.
About Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts
The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA) manages and operates the Ramsdell Theatre under lease from the City of Manistee to be a vibrant regional center for cultural arts, education and community engagement. The RRCA is proud to serve its community and the region by programming quality arts and cultural entertainment.