Brandon Vickerd, a professor in the visual arts and art history departments in York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) and the director of the University’s digital sculpture lab, spearheaded an effort to donate more than 600 masks, as well as gloves and face shields, to Hamilton Health Services for distribution across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
“I came across an article about an emergency room doctor who had made an appeal for the public to start donating N95 masks and other protective equipment,” said Vickerd.
The masks, desperately needed across the country by frontline health care workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, are typically used in York’s foundry or sculpture and printmaking studios to protect students from airborne sawdust and silica particles.
It occurred to Vickerd that in addition to the unopened box in his personal studio, the University would have some in stock for sculpture classes and in the art history department. Vickerd reached out to colleagues in the Theatre program and wood shop about their inventories as well.
With the dean’s approval, Vickerd and AMPD facilities manager Terry Wright went through “every storeroom, every nook and cranny,” in the departments to gather and document all the personal protective equipment they could find.
In all, they collected:
- 360 N95 masks,
- 270 N99 masks,
- 37 5201 masks with cartridges,
- 20 face shields, and
- eight packages of nitrate gloves.
Because health services organizations require clear and detailed accounting of who has been in contact with donated equipment, the gear was transported to Vickerd’s personal studio, where a medical student would retrieve them the following day in a “safe drop,” not coming into contact with one another.
AMPD Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng had praise for all involved in the initiative.
“Even as the arts have been stopped by the coronavirus, artists have found ways to continue making work and to support their communities,” she said. “I’m grateful to Brandon Vickerd for recognizing that while our studios are shut down, our materials and PPE can be used by health care workers.”
“I think right now everybody is wishing they had something they can do to help the efforts to fight COVID-19,” Vickerd said. “This is just one small way that our department could protect the health care workers that are on the front lines of this thing.”
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