KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Blue Valley North High School alumnus has shifted his art career to help health care workers desperate for personal protective equipment.
William Nemitoff, a 2009 Blue Valley North graduate, is a major player in the New Orleans outdoor art scene, but when COVID-19 hit, he transformed his production facility to make face shields with messages written on the front of each mask.
"The messages are, ‘The whole city is behind you,’ ‘We're rooting for you,’ ‘We're in this together,’ ‘I'm here for you,’ and ‘You are not alone,’" Nemitoff said.
He created the messages in collaboration with Arts Council New Orleans, which is serving as Nemitoff’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor for the face-shield project.
"Really just sharing that we're together that it doesn't have to be an isolating experience," Nemitoff said.
The face shields have an elastic band and a foam piece along the forehead.
"We have received amazing feedback from the hospitals that they say that they fit their needs and they're comfortable," he said.
The production also created jobs for about 20 musicians and hotel workers who were laid off because amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Basically, what I wanted to do is fill the gap right? Fill the gap in the need for face shields and in the need for jobs," Nemitoff said.
He said his generosity and spirit of giving is rooted in the examples of kindness he experienced growing up in Overland Park.
"[It] really helped me in my growth as a person,” Nemitoff said, “and I think instilling in me a lot of the values that led me in this direction.”
Each mask costs $3. They can be purchased for hospitals, residential care facilities or businesses. Donations can be made through the Curious Form Face Shield GoFundMe Campaign. With each donation, the company will send a mask to a health care worker who requested a donation.
Three thousand masks have been donated for medical centers, childrens hospitals and other medical facilities in Louisiana. Nemitoff would like people to donate or purchase masks in his hometown and the Kansas City metro. There are 7,000 masks ready for delivery. For more information, contact Curious Form in New Orleans.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that Nemitoff created a nonprofit for the face-shield project.