Baton Rouge Gallery promotes community safety with masks that are wearable works of art

When Baton Rouge Gallery reached out to its 65 member artists to turn their art into decorative face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they all said yes.

“In this day and age, if you can get 65 people to agree on anything, that’s a win,” says BRG president and CEO Jason Andreasen. “Understandably, artists are protective of their work. So we were expecting that there would be some artists who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to participate. We were thrilled to see that every single one of the artists who were a part of the gallery were excited about it.”

The mask project, launched in June, is still going strong.

There’s a huge variety of cloth masks available, printed with designs ranging from Katrina Andry’s stunning woodcut and mylar piece to Randell Henry’s colorful collage painting to Michaelene Walsh’s charming ceramic sculptures.

The idea came from preparing for the gallery’s June reopening—with visitors required to wear masks—and simultaneously realizing masks were going to continue to be a part of our shared reality. The thought was that it was a way for wearers to feel creative with their mask choices while supporting both the gallery as a nonprofit and the individual artists affiliated with the gallery.

“Their livelihoods have been impacted,” Andreasen says. “There’s fewer exhibition opportunities and potentially fewer opportunities for them to sell their work. Here is a way that we could help them through a difficult time and give people the opportunity to express themselves and support local art with their face coverings.”

The gallery has been part of the community and trying to support artists for more than 50 years, he says. And now, with the mask project, it’s supporting the health of the community, the artists and their art.

For every $25 donation to the gallery, patrons get one of the 65 available masks as a thank you gift.

On day one of this project’s launch, Andreasen’s email inbox was full of donations. He says masks have gone out to donors in 30 different states—and two have gone as far as Norway. But you don’t have to travel far to see the masks in action: Andreasen has seen photos on social media of people wearing them, including frontline health workers who were given masks thanks to donations.

And the donations are making a difference: By August, the gallery had raised more than $35,000. batonrougegallery.org/brg-masks

Check out more stories on art during the coronavirus here.

This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.