Image Credit: “Hulk” by Katelyn Leboeuf
by Joey Phoenix
While mask-wearing has become a hot-button topic in national news, for heroes like Black Panther and essential workers, wearing a mask is a no-brainer.*
Beverly’s Paper Asylum is hosting an art contest with the theme of “Real Heroes Wear Masks,” encouraging local artists to create work showing pop-culture icons donning N95 face masks. The submission deadline is this Saturday, August 1, and three lucky participants will get a $50 gift certificate to the store for their efforts.
Paper Asylum Owners Pete Kreitchet and Anthony Gallucci were inspired to do this project by the Real Heroes Wear Masks art initiative designed by Brian Hibbs, owner of the San Francisco-based Comix Experience. Kreitchet felt like there was a twist that the San Francisco project didn’t quite cover. So he decided to take the art prompt a step further.
“It’s more than just superheroes wearing masks like normal,” he pointed out. “Spider-Man already wears a mask, so he should also be wearing an N95 mask on top of his mask.”
He put forth the idea to the Northshore Comic Book Community in April– a roundtable of artists and creators who meet on the first Monday of the month – who loved the idea. The prompt developed into a contest with the end goal of displaying the art in shop windows and around the store, politely reminding people to wear masks in public.
A Community Comic Book Store
Since opening in 2017, Paper Asylum has developed a strong local following drawn in by its on-point comic curation and commitment to selling and showing the work of local artists, writers, and creators.
“Beverly has a really really rich local art scene,” Krieitchet said, mentioning the proximity to art college Montserrat and the Beverly Arts District. “We just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so much potential here.”
They started engaging with local artists from the very beginning, inviting them to come and table in the store on Comic Book Wednesdays and to sell their work in the store.
“We have a whole section devoted to just local artwork, local creators. And it’s great seeing how proud they are of having their stuff in the shop and cross promoting on social media,” he said.
When COVID-19 restrictions hit in mid-March and the store had to close, things were definitely harrowing at first. But Pete credits the store being able to float to the store’s very loyal fanbase.
“People were reaching out to us, checking to see if we had a certain book or comic before they bought it on Amazon. They really came through to support us,” he said.
The duo also decided to take to the internet, engaging with their fans on social media and developing Paper Asylum’s online store. With that purpose in mind, the Real Heroes Wear Masks art contest both serves to generate buzz on social media, but also to create relevant art to show in the store, reminding people of their civic duties during a global pandemic.
“We wanted to remind people that we’re still here, but also just to bring fun things to their social media feeds, especially at a time like this where you have the pandemic, political unrest, and just a lot going on in the country,” he added. “It’s important to provide content like the ‘Hey, the new Lumberjanes volume came out,’ that will bring some excitement to their news feeds.”
You still have time to get your submissions into the Real Heroes Wear Masks art contest by the end of day Saturday, or you can enjoy the results of the contest by checking out Paper Asylum on social media or visiting the store, which is now open to the public.
*Just wear a mask. It’s good manners.