“Each mask is a blank canvas”: the latest exhibition at the Hoboken Historical Museum


Face masks have become a part of everyday life since COVID-19 swept the world. Some people see them as a shield of protection, others as a daily nuisance, but Bob Foster {director of the Hoboken Historical Museum} sees them as a sign of the times, a historical symbol in the history of our storytelling world. a lot of people. Museums play a vital role in society – they protect our past and use it as a learning tool to share with others what life was like in the past. This is exactly what the Hoboken Historical Museum is doing with its new competition and exhibition of time capsules “Every mask, a blank canvas”.

The exposure of face masks

Bob Foster, executive director of the Hoboken Historical Museum, urged all artists in Hudson County to turn standard disposable masks into unique works of art and submit them to the museum for an upcoming exhibition {this is rightly a sign times}, “Each mask is a blank canvas”.

“I don’t think a lot of people saw face masks as a way to be artistic, they just see it as that bulky thing that they have to wear every time they go out. To think of it as creative clothes was inspiring, ”says Bob.

It seemed almost impossible to find solace in anything during self-isolation and quarantine, but art was one of those things that provided a source of happiness around the world. “The face mask contest was something that relates to now. We have some great exhibits in the museum right now, but they don’t really speak to the present. This competition was a way to engage the artists, who are a very important group of people right now because they inspire us with their creativity, ”explained Bob.

“The idea was to take the simple blue mask that so many of us use every day and ask the artists to transform it. We did not give them any further guidance. They could be political or purely artistic, there were no restrictions. Some people suggested that I introduce a theme, but I realized that you can’t circle the artist, ”explains Bob.

Many face masks had political designs and reflected the Black Lives Matter movement. Others were purely artistic and depicted landscapes, shapes, people, etc.

Read more: A hidden gem: the {Hoboken} Historical Museum

There were about 60 total submissions from artists from across the county. “We had great results and it was really difficult to pick a winner. I chose winners that beautifully reflected our current political climate, along with simple, whimsical designs. I didn’t even think there would be an answer, I was just hoping for a few submissions, ”explained Bob. “Before launching this competition, I had launched my own project to photograph masks on various statues in the city, but it did not fly. So, I decided to launch it to the artists and see what they come up with.

The masks will be part of the museum’s collections and many will be hung in a display case just outside the museum entrance, inside the walkway, ultimately highlighting a unique period in Hoboken, Hudson County and in the history of the world.

“The best part of the exhibit is being able to display them in the catwalk for everyone to see. When we initially hung them in the displays, many people stopped to look at them, asked what they represented, and even took selfies with them. They generate real interest, ”says Bob.

Contest winners

{Photo credit: @hobokenmuseum}

The winners and finalists were announced on June 24. The winners were Paul Leibow and Noreen Heslin. “Paul Leibow created a mixed media protest collage to reflect the Black Lives Matter protests,” Bob shared. “Noreen Heslin created a hand-embroidered design of a 1920s woman wearing a face mask with a seductive smile sewn onto it. Noreen was kind enough to donate her $ 250 cash prize to the museum.

Of course, as with any competition, there were also some amazing finalists. The finalists were Lily Zane, an artist from Hoboken who hand-embroidered her mask with words inspired by the themes of the day, and Joan Vergara, an NJCU student who portrayed a woman with a raised fist, reading ‘The Power to the people “, says Bob Foster Hoboken girl.

Other upcoming exhibitions

This competition inspired another project that is currently taking place in the aisle of the museum. Maria, a resident of Hoboken, volunteered her time to set up a table in the aisle with masks and crafts to decorate face masks with anyone interested. It’s on a first come, first served basis. Bob shares: “Walgreens was generous enough to donate 100 face masks to us for this project. We encourage visitors to create two, one to take away and one to add to the museum’s collection. Most of the participants were children. It’s a really fun activity for them.

That’s not all. To continue to preserve people’s experiences during this pandemic, Bob set up a station in the aisle with a postcard stand and a permanent display where visitors hang their postcards. If the museum is closed, there will still be a few empty postcards outside for people to use, pens, a hole punch, and string to add to the display.

See more: Must-see art galleries in Hoboken

“We encourage people to write a postcard about their current experience with the pandemic. It’s a kind of postcard artifact for the future. Much like September 11 and Super Storm Sandy, people often ask what it was like to experience these events, and the museum isn’t always open to tell them. That’s why I plan to leave the postcards hanging on the screen for everyone to read and get a taste of how people felt during this weird time, ”Bob shares.

The museum reopens

In case you missed the news, the Hoboken Historical Museum is once again open to visitors from June 2, at reduced capacity. All visitors are required to wear masks and keep a safety distance of six feet. A sink and hand sanitizer stations are available in the museum for visitors.

Museums have also been affected by the pandemic in more ways than one. “It was a difficult time, for sure. We have been closed to the public since March 15th. We’re the kind of museum that likes to get to know the people who visit, it’s almost like a chamber of commerce. A lot of visitors come from out of town, and we often tell people where to eat and what to do in town, ”says Bob.

The museum adapted to the time like many local businesses and offered virtual access to exhibitions, as well as the organization of virtual events on Zoom. Bob explains, “We’ve had a few virtual events, but it’s really not the same as people walking through the door. We’re excited to be open and get back to action.

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Written by: Victoria Marie Moyeno

Victoria is Associate Editor-in-Chief of HG and Social Media Coordinator for the Hoboken Historical Museum + Fire Department Museum. She is from fourth generation Hoboken, BNR in Mile Square and Jersey City. By playing softball in town for fourteen years, playing the trumpet for the Hoboken High School Redwings Band, and graduating from New Jersey City University, these two towns hold a special place in her heart. When not a stylist or a Symposia bookstore volunteer, she explores all that the concrete jungle has to offer. You can see her at art shows, local festivities, travel, diving into a new book, saving, or crafting.

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