HOBOKEN, NJ - As a part of the Hoboken Historical Museum’s “Collecting Hoboken” project to document the community’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum invited local artists to transform disposable face masks into one-of-a-kind artworks and submit them to the Museum for a future exhibition: “Every Mask a Blank Canvas.” Artists were asked to use the standard disposable face masks found at most drug stores, and to transform them with the art media of their choice; multiple entries were allowed.

The Museum has selected two co-winners and two runners-up to win a $250 prize. Co-winner Paul Leibow, Leonia created a protest collage in mixed media to reflect the Black Lives Matter protests, and Noreen Heslin, Hoboken, hand-embroidered her mask with a stunning representation of a woman wearing a face mask with a beguiling smile sewn on it.

The runners-up were Lily Zane, a Hoboken artist who hand-embroidered her mask with a word cloud inspired by the themes of the day, and Joan Vergara, a Jersey City resident and student at NJCU, who hand-painted her mask with a woman wearing a mask at a protest, with her fist raised and the words “Power to the People.”

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“It was a tough choice—so many artists transformed these simple masks into works of art with different media, reflecting different messages,” said Museum Director Bob Foster. “We believe that every object tells a story and these masks will tell a story of what’s happening in world right now.”

The masks will become part of the Museum's collections and may be included in the upcoming exhibition, part of the Museum’s real-time, crowd sourced collecting project to document the experience of local residents during the public health crisis caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The public is invited to contribute, using a dedicated website for sharing oral histories, photos, videos and other artifacts of the period we are living through, as we all learn to cope with the new restrictions and health measures advised by state and local health authorities to curtail the spread of the virus.

“Over time, our goal is to collect objects, oral histories, artistic responses and more that we can display in a retrospective exhibit at a future date, much like our Superstorm Sandy exhibit in 2013,” Foster added.

In Phase 2 of the state’s pandemic restrictions, the Museum has reopened at half-capacity six days a week, 2 – 7 pm on Tues. – Thurs., 1 – 5 pm on Fridays, and noon – 5 pm on weekends. Visitors must wear masks, keep a safe 6-foot distance and use hand sanitizer. For the time being, all programs are ONLINE ONLY, such as tours, events and lectures for adults and children. An updated schedule of events and an online catalog of many items in its collections are available at www.hobokenmuseum.org.

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