Hoboken Historical Museum Names Winners of Mask Art Competition

Hoboken Historical Museum
Mask by Paul Leibow. Courtesy of Hoboken Historical Museum

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 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, 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.”

Foster said, “It was a tough choice — so many artists transformed these simple masks into works of art with different media, reflecting different messages,” said 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.

Crowdsourced project: Collecting Hoboken

The face mask art contest is part of the Museum’s real-time, crowdsourced 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.

Since mid-March, when state restrictions first closed the Museum to visitors, Museum Director Bob 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, not waiting to collect artifacts after the fact, instead starting much earlier, often while 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 ourSuperstorm Sandy exhibit in 2013,” he added.

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