While New Orleans begins to reopen this
week, we should remember that we're not out of the woods yet. The pandemic
shows limited signs of quitting. Medical workers keep heroically reporting for
duty at hospitals every day, risking their lives to treat sick and contagious
patients. As if that dangerous state of affairs weren't enough, there's a
shortage of simple, life-saving goods such as masks. To help with the
emergency, a group of New Orleans artists have begun accepting donations to
Will Nemitoff, a local "large-scale installation artist," and Ayo Scott, another local visual artist, are partnering with the Arts Council New Orleans, a nonprofit which bills itself as the "city's official art agency." The collaboration's aim is two-fold: one, to inspire coronavirus first responders with poetry and, secondly, to provide them with scarce personal protection equipment (PPE).
Nemitoff brings his company Curious
Form, an arthouse manufacturing firm, to the cause. Curious Form is foregoing
its usual bohemian works to focus instead on assembling face shields. The group
has managed to donate 1,200 masks to local hospitals so far. "I knew I had to
do something to help my city," Nemitoff said.
In addition to PPE production,
Curious Form focuses on hiring workers who are unemployed as a consequence of
the quarantine. As much as they are adapting to the present crisis, supporting
New Orleans creative arts never seems far from their mission either.
Scott took charge of the more
intangible side of the team. He says that stories of frontline medical
professionals having to come up with explanations to give to their coronavirus
patients inspired him. Now, Scott is helping direct local poets to come up with
verse, which Curious Form then prints on its face shields.
The Arts Council New Orleans
provides financial backing. The Council administers a "Creativity Connects"
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a portion of which is
funding the collaboration.
The funding from the NEA grant is
enough to cover 500 masks. To reach its overarching goal of 10,000 masks, Curious
Form still has a long way to go. The group is actively in search of
partnerships and individual donations alike.