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Arts Beat: Monterey County arts group commissions mask posters for free download

Instead of a hand-written “no-mask, no-service” sign in business windows—in Monterey County, people will see graphic posters reminding customers to wear masks. The Arts Council for Monterey County commissioned local artiststo create posters that are free for anyone to download and print.

Artist Paul Richmond went for a retro look with his poster, showing a young woman donning a mask in the foreground and a gridded neon landscape behind.

He says he wanted to depict mask-wearing as a symbol of strength and resilience.

“She looks beautiful, she looks tough, you know I think it is a small heroic act we can do everyday to help protect each other so that's what I hope my poster would communicate,” Richmond said.

Richmond said he’s also trying to combat the spread of misinformation about mask-wearing protocol. While Monterey County residents are generally pretty diligent about face coverings, Richmond said the busy tourist-filled weekends seem to bring less cautious visitors, and the posters could provide a gentle reminder.

Artist Mai Ryuno, on the other hand, didn’t want to use any specific face to represent a diverse community like Monterey County.

Instead of a face, her poster features unattached masks in front of a rural landscape, as well as three prominent lettuce heads — a tribute to Salinas Valley’s nickname “The Salad Bowl of the World.”

“Our hope is that striking visuals or interesting or beautiful images will grab people’s attention and [they’ll] actually read it and make them think that ‘oh yeah, I need to put that mask on,’” Ryuno said.

The other two posters both feature a central figure. Artist Bryan Gage’s piece displays a wide-eyed woman staring directly at the viewer with long wavy hair cascading into the ocean behind her. There’s a tiny squid boat in the background, and a Monterey cypress tree decorates the front of her mask.

Gage, who was raised in Pacific Grove, said he wanted to highlight the region’s charm.

“It’s always kind of struck me as a romantic place actually, especially when you gaze out on the water and the squid boats are out there on the water and you have that amazing glow from the squid boats,” Gage said. “That always struck me as something very iconic of the area.”

Artist Beau Bernier Frank’s poster shows a photorealistic man in black-tie wearing a mask made out of Big Sur’s Bixby Bridge. The man in Frank’s painting is based on Clint Eastwood’s Monterey County-raised son, Scott.

“Honestly, yes you can go for the generic poster, but it kind of feels like an ad more than anything else,” Frank said. “So if it has some more entertainment value, you’re more likely to stop and admire or check out the information or dig a little deeper.”

Coincidentally, Frank’s work was made before the pandemic even started, and instead is part of an oddly prescient series that contains multiple figures with the bottom half of their face covered.

While the Arts Council created the poster campaign in response to increasing COVID-19 cases in the county, executive director Jacquie Atchison says the organization sought to highlight some local artists in the process.

While it’s on the community to actually print the posters and put them up, a couple of local businesses have already taken that step, including Meals on Wheels in the Salinas Valley and Open Ground Studios in Seaside.

Anyone can download the PDFs on the Arts Council’s websitefor free.

The KCBX Arts Beat is made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County.

Sean Flannelly is a journalist and student at University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He previously reported for KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California, and served as his student newspaper's sole podcast editor. Outside of the newsroom, he can be found hiking, climbing and camping his way around California.
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