Boston Resiliency Fund supporting Boston Lyric Opera partnership to produce clear-front face masks
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that through a grant provided by the Boston Resiliency Fund, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) will work with its local costume shop partner, CostumeWorks, to initially produce over 1,800 lip-reading-friendly clear-front face masks to support Boston's Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, and others who rely on facial expression to communicate. BLO will manage distribution of the face masks in partnership with the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities. The masks produced will be donated, or sold at a discounted rate.
"We know that wearing face masks is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Mayor Walsh. "It is critical that our residents are able to access face masks, and I am pleased that through the Boston Resiliency Fund we are able to support Boston Lyric Opera's unique partnership to create needed face masks for our Deaf and Hard of Hearing residents as well as others who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate."
"Accessibility is about more than just ramps. This is another example of Mayor Walsh's commitment to ensuring access and inclusion of all persons with disabilities throughout the city's reopening after COVID-19," said Boston Disability Commissioner Kristen McCosh. "I would like to thank the BLO for their hard work and dedication in producing these clear masks. Our city thrives because of successful public-private partnerships like this."
"Who could predict that a pandemic would bring to us an opportunity like this -- to serve a new community," said Bradley Vernatter, Boston Lyric Opera's Chief Operating Officer. "Along with the production staff at BLO, the artists at CostumeWorks took great care in designing and delivering a simple, elegant product to help potentially thousands of Boston's Deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens. At the same time, it puts hard-hit artists back to work, which is a goal we prioritize even if we can't perform live for the time being. We are delighted and thankful to the Boston Resiliency Fund for making this effort possible."
"The pandemic has changed the way all of us communicate but for people who are Deaf or DeafBlind like myself, the pandemic has caused us to do a double adaption - adapting to the way we adapted to communicate with hearing people which was to lip-read or read facial expressions," said Kerry Thompson, Executive Director of Silent Rhythms Boston. "The clear mask has been instrumental for me trying to reintegrate into our society's new normal."
in March to help Boston residents most affected by COVID-19, the Boston Resiliency Fund has distributed over $25.7 million to 340 nonprofit and local organizations and there is $7.6 million in funds remaining. Fifty-four percent (54%) of grantee organizations are led by a person of color. Fifty-seven percent (57%) are led by women, and 27 percent are immigrant-serving organizations. A map and a list of every organization that has received funding from the Boston Resiliency Fund can be found here.
Since its founding in 1976, Boston Lyric Opera has led the way locally and regionally in celebrating the art of the voice, through innovative programming and community engagement initiatives that redefine the opera-going experience. BLO is the largest and longest-lived opera company in New England. In its 44 years, the company has staged world premieres, U.S. premieres, co-productions and co-commissions of note with artists and organizations from across the country and around the world. Under the leadership of Stanford Calderwood General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson, who recently celebrated a decade with the company, BLO has each year served more than 25,000 people and employed 350 artists and other professionals. It also has strengthened connections to leading local cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Boston Public Library. Engaging the strengths of nimbleness and creativity it has gained in the last five years -- as an itinerant company that creates unique opera experiences in both traditional and found spaces -- during the coronavirus pandemic, BLO has pivoted smoothly to the digital realm with its online platform, and continues to innovate in the industry.