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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

A Paper Bag Mask Project For Those Stuck At Home In Montgomery And Beyond

Three images of people wearing paper bags over their heads
Montgomery Center for the Arts, Courtesy
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The Montgomery Center for the Arts has begun a project in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the debate over wearing face masks, by asking people to make paper bag masks. They'll be on display beginning July 20.

Like many other small towns this summer, Montgomery Center has been in the pandemic doldrums. Enter a now-global mask-making project.

Activities at local camps have been called off and the town is missing its usual summer visitors, including many Canadian second homeowners.

So when board members and volunteers at the Montgomery Center for the Arts realized they would have to cancel their summer plans, too, they began looking for a project in which people could participate, no matter where they were quarantined.

A person wearing a cat-shaped paper bag mask.
Credit Montgomery Center for the Arts, Courtesy
A cat-take on the paper bag mask.

The Center’s creative director, M. Sebastian Araujo, had been thinking about doing something related to the pandemic face mask debate when he had a conversation with acting board president Melissa Haberman. 

As a primary school art teacher, Haberman had taught an approach to mask-making that was easy, inclusive and safe: with brown paper bags and Sharpie markers, crayons or paints.

“So that’s how the project began," Araujo said. The result? The "Paper Bag Mask Project."

There are already more than 50 entries, with one all the way from Paris.

More from VPR: From Empty To Bustling; Montgomery Center For The Arts Breathes Life Into Old Building

A paper bag with a face drawn on it.
Credit Montgomery Center for the Arts, Courtesy
An Easter Island-like take on the paper bag mask.

The masks will be featured in a virtual gallery on social media, and some will be exhibited on the Center’s front porch, where viewers can be safely masked and socially distanced.

Araujo has been surprised by the variety of styles and degrees of sophistication reflected in the response. So far they range from one that’s "almost Easter Island plain — actually plainer than that,” while another is “like baroque art," with so much detail that it might be tough to send in the mail.

The show opens July 20 online at the Montgomery Center for the Arts website and Facebook page, plus on the Center's front porch.

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