This warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, run by Materials for The Arts, is officially closed. In normal times, it receives donations of reusable materials and distributes them to arts organizations, public schools, and city agencies.
With a pandemic ranging, it's opening up to help to create important spaces like this one for hospital workers to regroup, relax, or just take a deep breath.
Angela Montague is the Associate Director of Social Work at Metropolitan Hospital. She had worked with Materials for the Arts over the years to get arts and crafts materials for patient groups and reached out for this project. She helped develop the respite room and uses it along with her colleagues.
"At first I was real strong. You come in, you go to work, and then after seeing my colleagues and putting on the PPE and seeing a patient or two, or talking to a patient, or even going to an urgency room, only became more and more overwhelming; and then the reality of what's been going on in our world and our country and our community is kind of sudden," she told NY1. "It's definitely sad, but my way of coping is to do more work."
Tara Sansone is the deputy director of Materials for the Arts. She worked on that room and also worked with Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn on rooms for families in mourning. A space that was desperately needed.
"I've been going in with a couple of staff members once a week to offer some of the items that are in such need," she said.
Sansone is also getting fabric and elastic to city agencies and nonprofits to make protective facial coverings. In a similar vein, the nonprofit WallPlay, which creates inspirational pop-up exhibits in vacant retail spaces, is paying struggling artists like Brooklyn’s Roxie Darling to make masks for front-line workers and people in their communities.
"To get artist-made masks that are beautiful and creative and expressive in the hands of essential workers and my local community is just so exciting," Darling told us.
WallPlay is using a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for this program. They hope the masks not only keep people safe, but also put smiles on the faces of those who wear or see them.