Businesses, Artists and Town Collaborate to Salute Covid Workers, Promote Safety
In mid-April, Arlington Service Station owner Abe Salhi was inspired and determined to make a bold statement of hope and resolve amid the Covid-19 crisis. Known for his patronage of public art, which earned him a 2018 Business of the Year Award, Salhi reached out to local artist/activist Johnny Lapham and Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture (ACAC) co-chair Stewart Ikeda for help.
He wanted to create a prominent banner to thank caregivers and essential workers for their courageous and incredibly generous service. Indeed, Salhi himself had been working morning-to-night running the station by himself since the state-of-emergency started. He also hoped the banners would boost morale in town and encourage mask wearing to help “lower the curve” and protect our most vulnerable folks from contracting Covid-19.
Ikeda reached out to Town managers, Health Department officials and the core of the Arlington public arts community to flesh out and support the messaging and logistics of the project.
The group brainstormed two huge, face-mask-shaped banners with the messages “Thank You, Caregivers!!” and “Stay Safe, Arlington!” to suspend from pillars over the fuel pumps for the duration of the stay-at-home advisory. Johnny Lapham designed and painted the banners, and Amy Macdonald offered to sew them with materials donated from her commercial flag and banner shop, Heritage Flag Company in Allston. Macdonald also provided her bucket truck to assist in hanging the banners on May 10.
Arlington Public Art Curator Cecily Miller had the idea of hanging an additional colorful line of prayer flags in the shape of simple over-sized masks that could flutter in the wind to celebrate all the volunteer efforts to make and wear homemade masks, as well as the collective effort and prayers to stay safe and take care of each other in this time.
Artist and past ACAC Commissioner Kimberley Harding gathered donated fabrics, created a design for the prayer flag masks, and coordinated a small team of local mask makers to sew them up in short order. The team included Laurie Bogdan, Margaret Moody, Courtney Rodland, Holly Lebowitz Rossi, Adrienne Sloane and Kimberley herself.
Abe Salhi said he would love to thank everyone involved for their enthusiastic responsiveness and spirited manifestation of the project, and he especially wants to thank all local caregivers and essential workers—and all of us!—for pulling together to take care of ourselves and each other in this time of heightened need and care. Stay safe out there!