L.A. mayor calls on artists to design and spread the message: Wear a mask

A free, downloadable poster, designed by Shepard Fairey's Studio Number One and Camilla Lonis, is part of the city's new L.A. Mask Print Project. <span class="copyright">(Studio Number One)</span>
A free, downloadable poster, designed by Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One and Camilla Lonis, is part of the city’s new L.A. Mask Print Project. (Studio Number One)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest weapon against COVID-19? Art.

On Wednesday, Garcetti announced a new initiative called the L.A. Mask Print Project, in which L.A. County artists can submit designs for posters bearing the public health message of the moment: Wear a mask. Posters chosen for the city’s coronavirus website can be downloaded for free, and Garcetti is encouraging local businesses and residents to display them.

“Wearing a mask is critical to helping us stop the spread of this virus, safely reopen our city and save lives,” Garcetti said in an email to The Times. “And we need to use every tool at our disposal to deliver this message across Los Angeles, throughout our country and around the world.”

Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One designed the first three posters in the program pro bono. They feature vivid illustrations, and each design is available in English and Spanish. Garcetti unveiled the first one on Friday, a poster created by graphic designer Camilla Lonis that says “Protect & Respect” above the face of a mask-clad woman against a luminous pink and orange sky.

Garcetti revealed the other two Studio Number One posters, also by Lonis, on Wednesday.

California now has more than 400,000 COVID-19 cases, and L.A. County remains a hot spot for the virus. Garcetti has warned of a possible second stay-at-home order for the city.

Considering that 69{22d08c03c7a24d93e425590ff0824241bdc3a783edadf58e6afae3a272b090fc} of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have been among those age 49 and younger, the new art initiative is seen as another way to bring an important message to a key group. Work by the likes of Fairey, who created the famed “Hope” poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, gives the L.A. Mask Print Project a degree of street cred that might appeal to young people.

“Tapping into our city’s trademark artistic talent,” Garcetti said, “gives us a creative way to meet that mission and engage younger individuals who are increasingly becoming infected and spreading this lethal disease.”

Mayor Garcetti revealed this poster, designed by Camilla Lonis of Shepard Fairey's Studio Number One, on Wednesday. <span class="copyright">(Studio Number One)</span>
Mayor Garcetti revealed this poster, designed by Camilla Lonis of Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One, on Wednesday. (Studio Number One)

Fairey incorporates civic participation and social responsibility in his art and encourages it in the culture of his design studio, “so partnering with the city of L.A. to encourage mask wearing was logical for us,” the artist said by email. “The art and design were donated because we think the pandemic, and often democracy itself, call for a contribution to the greater good.”

Fairey has been active throughout the pandemic. He made an image for Adobe’s “Honor Heroes” poster series, propping up healthcare and other essential workers. He’s worked on a COVID-19 campaign, “Angel of Hope and Strength,” with Amplifier, a self-described “design lab that builds art to amplify the voices of grassroots movements.”

Fighting the virus with art means creating messaging about mask-wearing that’s clear and engaging, Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer and former Times architecture critic, said in a statement. “And who better to help us in that effort than the city’s artists and designers?”

Artists who would like to contribute to the L.A. Mask Print Project can email [email protected] for more information.

Fairey put a fine point on the issue, adding in the statement that wearing masks was, simply, “a sign of respect and selflessness.”

Times staff writer Sonaiya Kelley contributed to this story.