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San Francisco to distribute 20,000 masks designed by local artists

Custom-designed, reusable masks will be provided to communities most impacted by COVID-19.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –San Francisco’s COVID Command Center (CCC), in partnership with local artists and community non-profit organizations, has produced 20,000 custom-designed masks for distribution in communities most impacted by the pandemic. The initiative is part of San Francisco’s recently launched “Mask On, Stay Strong” public education campaign to promote mask-wearing as an essential practice in combatting the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopening San Francisco for business.  

"Masks help keep our entire community safe, and as we keep working to slow the spread of the virus and put an end to this pandemic, it's important that we all keep up the good work and wear masks when we're out and about the city," said Mayor London Breed. "This campaign supports our local San Francisco artists and provides beautiful, locally-designed masks for communities that have been hardest hit." 

On Thursday, San Francisco’s Health Officer issued updates to the City’s current Face Covering Public Health Order to make clear that best practice is to use face coverings that have a good fit, such as two or three ply tightly woven cloth masks, surgical or procedural masks, or double masks. Looser fitting face coverings, such as bandanas, scarves, ski-masks, balaclavas, and single-layer neck gaiters, are less effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission and do not qualify as face coverings on public transit per CDC guidance. 

The Order maintains the requirement that everyone must wear a face covering when outside of their residence and within six feet of an individual outside of their own household. Face coverings are still required to be worn in the workplace, in shared or common areas of buildings, and when preparing food or other items for sale. 

“As San Francisco advances through the State’s tiers and we reopen more businesses, we must remain vigilant and continue to do our part to prevent community spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Susan Philip, Acting Health Officer for the City and County of San Francisco. “The science shows that wearing a well-fitted mask helps keep you and the people around you safe. How wonderful that we’re able to provide these vibrant, wearable works of art to continue supporting one another as we reopen safely, together.”  

 “Over the past year, we have seen how effective masks have been at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in San Francisco, and we can’t let up now,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, Director of the Department of Emergency Management. “Thanks to this partnership, we are delivering 20,000 custom, reusable masks to people in the community who need them most. They are beautiful reminders that we can’t give up hope. Let’s finish strong and help keep each other safe and reopen the San Francisco we all know and love.”   

The City’s artist-designed mask project is being funded and managed by San Francisco’s COVID Command Center (CCC). The eight Bay Area artists participating in the project were selected from community stakeholder nominations in late 2020. The artists were asked to create mask designs that both reflect their art practice as well as the spirit of their own cultural community. The results are masks that are vibrant wearable works of art.  

“I was delighted to get the call to create a reusable face mask that would resonate with the Black community in San Francisco,” said participating artist Cheryl Derricotte. “It is wonderful that the City of San Francisco is hiring artists to restart our local economy and keep our residents safe. This is our 21st century Works-Progress-Administration (WPA). Wearable art, during the time of COVID-19, is next level public art.” 

“Like many other Filipino American artists, I come from a family and community of healthcare workers, nurses, and doctors,” said Acebo Arteche. “Today, as the death toll for COVID-19 continues to climb, it has taken a devastating toll on Filipino American nurses. Participating in this project helps me honor both the spirit of bayanihan (communal unity and working together to achieve a common, greater goal), and all of the healthcare workers that continue to fight for our health and safety.” 

“I am proud to work in traditional Cherokee beadwork designs for this [project] because beadwork has always been more than decorative,” said Kim Shuck, author, weaver, beadwork artist and recent San Francisco Poet Laureate. “This imagery is part of our story, this city is part of our story, and for better or worse this way of protecting ourselves and others is also part of our story now.” 

The 20,000 artist-designed masks are being distributed in partnership with community non-profit organizations, Cultural District offices, senior sites, testing and vaccination sites, food distribution hubs, and shelters throughout San Francisco. Participating artists include Kimberley Acebo Arteche, Cheryl Derricotte, Nancy Hom, Crystal Liu, Lydia Ortiz, Ron Moultrie Saunders, Kim Shuck, and Betty Trujillo. Photographs of the masks are available here or upon request.