Hoboken museum announces creative mask winners

Museum continues to collect residents' COVID-19 experiences

These winning masks and others will be displayed in a future exhibit of the Hoboken Historical Museum titled "Every Mask a Blank Canvas."
These winning masks and others will be displayed in a future exhibit of the Hoboken Historical Museum titled "Every Mask a Blank Canvas."

The Hoboken Historical Museum has announced two winners and two runners up in its face-masks-as-art competition.

As a part of its “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 drugstores, and transform them with the art medium of their choice.

Co-winners Paul Leibow of Leonia created a protest collage in mixed media to reflect the Black Lives Matter protests, and Noreen Heslin of 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. Her hand-painted mask showed a woman wearing a mask at a protest, with her fist raised and the words “Power to the People.”

The winners received a $250 prize.

“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 an upcoming exhibition.

Currently there is a display case outside the museum entrance at 1301 Hudson Street with many of the masks submitted for the contest on temporary view.

Also in the breezeway in front of the museum’s entrance are a few activities for museum visitors, including a project encouraging people to write a postcard to the future about the current experience of the pandemic as well as the opportunity to make their own face mask art.

The face mask art contest was part of the museum’s real-time, crowdsourced collecting project to document the experiences of local residents during the public health crisis caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

In Hoboken, a total of 583 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 30 residents have died as a result of the virus as of June 22.

The public is invited to contribute, by sharing oral histories, photos, videos, and other artifacts of the period they are currently living through, as the community learns to cope with the new restrictions and health measures advised by state and local health authorities to curtail the spread of the virus.

Since mid-March, when state restrictions first closed the museum to visitors, Foster has been busy combing the streets of Hoboken, taking photos and talking to people from all walks of life.

“While we can’t possibly preserve everything, we are interested in collecting as many different stories, interviews, images, audio files, and videos as we can, as quickly as possible,” Foster said.

Many museums around the world are undertaking similar efforts and not waiting to collect artifacts after the fact but instead collecting as their communities are still reacting to the historical moment.

“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,” he added.

The museum is now open to visitors at a reduced capacity as long as visitors have no COVID-19 symptoms, wear masks, maintain good hand hygiene, and socially distance at least six feet from one another.

A sink and hand-sanitizer stations are available in the museum.

To contribute to the collecting project go to https://ch.hobokenmuseum.org/home

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.