Everyone is wearing masks these days…or are they? This summer, a group of Gloucester teens in the city’s Gloucester Youth Leadership Council (GYLC) noticed people of all ages were not always following the mandate to wear masks while in public places. They were concerned about their community and wanted to do something to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The group considered what they could do to have an impact and decided to create an interesting and creative messaging campaign that they hoped would motivate other teens and adults in the seaside community to take the mandate to wear masks in public more seriously.
Some of the GYLC members’ interest in fashion and personal style served as inspiration. Well before COVID-19 made mask-wearing a part of daily life around the world, Olivia Heasley, 17, had purchased masks for no reason other than personal style. Inspired by street fashion trends she saw around the globe, the group did some research and learned that masks have been part of fashion for centuries.
“Promoting masks as a fashionable clothing item came from understanding that face coverings have been a part of people’s wardrobes long before the pandemic,” says Heasley, a junior at Gloucester High School.
“Part of what made this idea come to life is how masks have been prevalent in street wear in other countries for so many years and other styles like street punk,” Heasley adds. “We are just trying to show that it won’t cramp your style, you can incorporate it into your own aesthetic, and it can be cool.”
The “Just Wear It. Masks Are For Everyone” poster campaign was created completely by members of the youth group to promote the mandate to wear face coverings to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “It is not just about your own safety,” Heasley emphasizes. “It is about the safety of others.”
The GYLC decided to create a series of posters inspired by fashion sketches and featuring people of all shapes and sizes from a variety of cultural backgrounds wearing their individual styles of clothing and, of course, a face covering.
Much of the artwork was completed by Gloucester High School Sophomore, Allie Nicastro, 15, who worked to make sure her sketches were inclusive and would be interesting to different audiences. “I was trying to think of posters that I would think are interesting,” says Nicastro.
In addition to Heasley and Nicastro, Ilyana Lorenzana, 16, shared her artistic talents, while Maria Oliveria, Kira Berlin, Lexi Burby, and Isaac Johnson, all 16, brought their skills to the project, including making sure the posters reached a wide audience by producing them in five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Italian. The teens have been hanging them in stores throughout the city and the superintendent of schools was very excited to be able to hang them up throughout all of the schools in the district.
The teens also received support from Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken for their efforts. “I am so proud of our creative youth, and I believe these fashion drawings will encourage young people to wear face coverings,” Romeo Theken said.
“We are thrilled to have this fabulous campaign created in Gloucester by our extremely talented youth,” added Karin M Carroll, MPH, Public Health Director for the City of Gloucester. “The campaign encourages face-coverings, especially amongst teens and young adults, which is a proven strategy for reducing the spread of COVID. It makes me want to get colorful coverings to accessorize my own outfits.”
A banner for the campaign has been hung up in St. Peter’s Square and upon hearing the news of the campaign, the Cape Ann Transportation Authority offered to do a bus wrap featuring the campaign on two of their downtown busses to help promote it.
To get PDFs of the poster that you can print and hang yourself or to learn more about the GYLC, contact Jess Scola, Youth Development Coordinator for the City of Gloucester, at firstname.lastname@example.org.