Luisa Milan made custom COVID-19 masks for the Jack Layton memorial statue on the waterfront. And people continue to take them.
Milan is a Swiss-trained textile artist who has lived on the Toronto Islands since arriving in Toronto in 1979, contributing to the community’s Rogue Wave exhibitions. She is currently manufacturing a fourth mask for the life-size bronze statue welcoming visitors to the Jack Layton ferry terminal, after the first three have been picked.
Layton had a deep connection to the Toronto Islands, she says.
“I started making masks for the sewing army,” says Milan NOW, explaining that the initiative was launched by Toronto fashion designer Diana Coatsworth in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care, frontline workers and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sewing Army uses people from across North America to make non-medical masks to distribute to hospitals and more. The Toronto Island community made more than 1,000 masks which were delivered to Michael Garron Hospital.
The custom masks that Milan made for the statue of Layton are inscribed with the last words of the late NDP leader in an open letter he wrote to Canadians before he died: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. “
The first mask was gone in a day. When Milan made the third mask, she took a friend’s suggestion and left a note inside, asking anyone who takes it to donate to a food bank. She also left her Instagram handle in the note so the taker could mark it.
“I put the words with the feeling of prayer flags,” says Milan, referring to the rectangular Tibetan tablecloths that are supposed to spread positive energy wherever they go. “Prayer flags are for everyone. I hope the people who took the masks can use it. Let these words help them. “
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