Art Therapist Asking People to Design Masks Showing How COVID Affects Them

By Matt Prokopchuk

An art therapist in Thunder Bay says she hopes a project that she’s heading will encourage people to express through art how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their mental health.

Tamara Reynolds, who is also a registered psychotherapist (qualifying), has launched the “A Mask Tells a Story” initiative, which invites people to submit an original design on a mask that represents what they’re feeling, along with a short narrative of about 150 words that answers the statement: “how my mental health has been affected by COVID-19.”  Reynolds owns North Superior Art Therapy Services. “We know that COVID-19 has affected us in many ways, through school, work, personal life, and it affects our mental health,” she says. “The idea of the project is a means for people to express themselves through art, and how the pandemic has impacted their mental health.”

As for why she’s soliciting designs on masks, she says that they’ve “become part of our new reality,” and that, because faces are so expressive, having them covered up much more often than in pre-pandemic times can make it harder for people to fully communicate. “My thought was ‘how great would it be for a mask to express how [someone is] feeling through a new reality in the pandemic,’” she says. “For example, are people frustrated or angry, sad, anxious—those are emotions that I think that we can basically normally read on someone’s faces, but with a mask on, it’s hard to read.”

The call for submissions is not a contest, she says, although she would like to display the masks publicly, either physically or virtually. With that being said, Reynolds stresses that one doesn’t have to be an artist to enter and that the therapy is in the creation of the art itself and being present in the moment of creation, not in how technically proficient the work is. She originally set November 30 as a deadline for people to submit their designs and statements, but continues to take submissions for the time being. 

“People have an opportunity to look at the masks and feel like they’re not alone,” Reynolds says. “If I do a mask and it looks very sad and somebody on the other side of the city does a mask that looks very sad, then I don’t feel so alone.”
Submissions can be emailed to, mailed to, or dropped off at, North Superior Art Therapy Services, 106 North Street, Thunder Bay, ON P7C 3K9