ArtWorks News

Hero Design Company’s Face Masks for Heroes: Learn More About the Apprentice Team


At ArtWorks, we are proud of our mission of transforming people and places through investments in creativity. In a year filled with new challenges, heroes have risen to the occasion. To honor these community members, ArtWorks’ Hero Design Company has stepped up to create and distribute protective face masks.

In our first remote project, ArtWorks employed 15 Youth Apprentices led by Teaching Artist Lindsey Whittle.The team did amazing work in creating nearly 700 masks. The team provided protective face masks to organizations and community members throughout the Greater Cincinnati area including the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, La Soupe and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati.

In addition to the masks, the Youth Apprentices conducted research and experimented in areas of interest. Some conducted research on different ways to make masks and experimented with materials and fabric scraps to create masks displaying their individual creative talents. While others explored the effectiveness of different kinds of masks in providing protection or examined the emerging opposition by some to wearing masks at all.

Learn more about what each Youth Apprentice explored by watching this Apprentice Presentation video.

Watch the Apprentice Presentation

The personal initiative on the part of the Youth Apprentices was evident in the work they completed and their interest in self-examination of areas of interest. At the end of the four weeks, the Youth Apprentices had an impressive skill set, and their sheer output and emotional awareness that each apprentice demonstrated during this project was inspiring.

Special thanks to Lindsey Whittle for playing such an instrumental role in the success of this project. Her contagious enthusiasm and support of this project was evident from the beginning. ArtWorks appreciates all the efforts and creativity the team showed in making our first remote project a success.

ArtWorks thanks our generous donors including our ongoing sponsors ArtsWave, City of Cincinnati, and the Ohio Arts Council.

Kudos to the Community Face Mask Making Project Team

Lead Teaching Artist Lindsey Whittle and Youth Apprentices Lura Bentley, Kiara Berry, Ezra Cline, Johanna Engebrecht, Wesley Ericson, Hannah Feibelman, Fiona Harrell-DuChaine, Leo Hernandez, Chelsea Lee, Celeste Leonard, Jasper Murphy, Irakoze Pascasia, LaDe Richardson and Amari Seymoure, and ArtWorks Project Manager Devin Grimm.

Project Highlights

Youth Apprentices were interested in the emerging controversy surrounding the wearing of masks despite recommendations by CDC, local, state, and federal governments, and factors that may contributing to the decision to wear or not wear a mask. “I was really interesting on how masks has affected politics and society,” said Apprentice Chelsea Lee. The Apprentices recommend learning more from this CNN story, Trump takes his war on masks to new lows” (5/6/20).

Apprentice Celeste Leonard discovered during personal interactions that some people were asked not to wear masks to their site of employment or were uncomfortable wearing masks. This interest led her to research information regarding the resistance to wearing masks. She brainstormed other possible options people could use as acceptable coverings. She suggested that scarves, turtlenecks, or other items of clothing might work as an option for those who were not wearing masks for a variety of reasons but would still provide extra protection.

Apprentice Hannah Feibelman’s research, Racially Biased Policing Issues Beyond COVID 19, addressed “the major concern for many black men that wearing protective facial covering during COVID-19 pandemic would exacerbate racial profiling of the police.”  It was her hope that creating designs that were “refined and stylish yet casual, respectable but not intimidating, a part of a job uniform even, and beyond to even fashion…will hopefully play a role in misguided perceptions.” Read Hannah’s research paper.

Youth Apprentices recommend this pattern to add a pocket for extra layers and/or a filter.

Apprentice Noor Essakalli researched ways to breathe easier through a mask and recommends taking slow breathes through the nose and then out the mouth.  When breathing in through your nose, you are  accessing your own body’s defense system by allowing cilia within the nose to act as a filter. In comparison, when breathing in through the mouth, air particles goes directly into the lungs.

Apprentice Jasper Murphy was intrigued by dying fabric using a variety of household items to create interesting patterns. Here are some items he recommends to achieve desired color palettes:  beets (red), onion skin (yellow), butternut squash (orange), artichokes (green), blueberries (blue) and  lavender (pink).

He also included the process to prepare for dye :

  • Let material simmer for at least an hour (1-part material to 2 parts water)
  • Prepare the fabric with a fixative
  • Plants: ½ cup of salt with 8 cups of water → boil for 1 hour
  • Berries: 1-part vinegar and 4 parts water → boil for 1 hour
  • After, let fabric simmer until you get the desired color. Soak overnight for more vibrant colors

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investments in creativity. The organization creates jobs for youth, ages 14-21 with the majority from underserved households, providing competitive 21st-century career-readiness skills through mentorship by professional artists. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed more than 3,600 youth and 3,200 creative professionals, and the organization has completed more than 12,500 public and private art projects that include 190 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination. Learn more at