People keep taking the Jack Layton statue’s face masks

Luisa Milan has made four personalized masks for the memorial during the pandemic, inscribing each with former NDP leader's last words

Luisa Milan has been making bespoke COVID-19 masks for the Jack Layton memorial statue on the waterfront. And people keep taking them.

Milan is a Swiss-trained textile artist who has been living on the Toronto Islands since she immigrated to Toronto in 1979, contributing to the community’s Rogue Wave exhibitions. She is currently making a fourth mask for the life-sized bronze statue greeting visitors to Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, after the first three were plucked.

Layton had a deep connection to the Toronto Islands, she says.

“I started making masks for The Sewing Army,” Milan tells NOW, explaining the initiative was started by Toronto fashion designer Diana Coatsworth in response to the Personal Protective Equipment shortage for health-care, frontline and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sewing Army enlists people from across North America to make non-medical masks for distribution to hospitals and more. The Toronto Island community made over 1,000 masks that have been delivered to Michael Garron Hospital.

The personalized masks Milan has been making for Layton’s statue are inscribed with the late NDP leader’s last words from an open letter he wrote to Canadians before passing away: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”

Jack Layton Mask details

Luisa Milan

Luisa Milan’s face masks for the Jack Layton memorial are inscribed with the late NDP leader’s last words.

The first mask was gone within a day. When Milan made the third mask, she took a friend’s suggestion and left a note on the inside, asking the anyone who takes it to make a donation to a food bank. She also left her Instagram handle in the note so that the taker can tag it.

“I put out the words with the sentiment of the prayer flags,” says Milan, referring to the Tibetan rectangular cloths that are meant to spread positive energy wherever they go. “The prayer flags are for everybody. My hope is that the persons who took the masks can use it. May those words help them.”


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