Vancouver Opera is mobilizing to answer the public need for non-surgical grade masks during COVID-19.
Vancouver Opera is mobilizing to answer the public need for non-surgical grade masks during COVID-19.

The 2020 Vancouver Opera Festival would have been in full swing right now had it not been, like so many other events, cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the cancellation of the Festival and the remaining Vancouver Opera season, came a desire from many of the company’s employees to give back during this crisis.

One answer came from its costumers who have transitioned from creating stage costumes to building non-surgical grade masks for the community after hearing about workers who are unable to access them.

“Vancouver Opera was eager to find a way to help those with a need,” says Vancouver Opera general director Tom Wright in a media release.

“Our goal is to get these into the hands of those who need them as quickly as possible. With the cancellation of our season, our employees began to research ways they could help, which include how to build non-surgical grade masks. We found most of the resources needed were already here in our costume shop.”

Led by Vancouver Opera technical director Autumn Coppaway and the company’s head of costumes, Parvin Mirhady, the two are working in tandem to ensure the completion of the project with proper social distancing and hygiene.

Using a prototype and working from home, costumers use natural fabric such as cotton or silk, fabric interfacing, elastics and cotton thread to create masks.

The completed masks will be delivered directly to organizations in need, including The Kettle Society.

“We, as artists, are so diverse and passionate because we expose the greatest and weakest of humanity,” says Coppaway in the release. “In these moments of darkness, art reminds us that we each can be that light. Though our stages are dark, our hearts and spirits are not, and we still have stories to tell. And this is our story and Vancouver Opera’s small contribution.”

Hoping to create as many masks as they are able, Vancouver Opera is seeking donations from the public to continue the work. Donations can be made online by choosing the “Mask Campaign” on the Vancouver Opera website.  Donations of $25 will provide five masks, and $100 provides 25 masks.