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Faces on Display

Mask Up With Fort Collins Museum of Art

Every year at the Museum of Art Fort Collins (MOAFC) “Mask Up” has a different meaning when the Eye Center of Northern Colorado Masks Exhibition & Online Auction makes its appearance. For eighteen years artists, a majority of which hail from Northern Colorado, have been expressing themselves through this unique medium. Not only to scratch that creative itch but also to help support the MOAFC’s mission, “to spread the power of visual art.” 

The exhibition came into being nineteen years ago when Gary Hixon an interior designer, Paula Edwards a MOAFC board member, and Molly Babcock an art teacher got together with a plan to “pull [the museum] back from the brink,” says MOAFC Executive Director Lisa Hatchadoorian. Nearly two decades ago the museum was in rocky fiscal waters and they needed to find something to “anchor” their fundraising. Thus the Mask Exhibition was born. 

Masks have been an artistic and spiritual medium for millennia and can be found in various cultures. Even dating back to the Stone Age, according to Britannica. They have served a variety of purposes including, discipline, protection from the elements, or even to symbolize a leadership position within society. The masks that will be on display this April may not carry those specific meanings to the artists who created over 200 different pieces for this year’s exhibit. Like the one submitted by the Academy of Arts and Knowledge, “The kindergarten through 5th-grade visual art students at Academy of Arts and Knowledge Elementary School directed, designed, and painted our mask, Plectiartem, to celebrate in-person learning.” The thoughtful mask name combines parts of the Latin words complecti, meaning to entwine or embrace, and artem meaning art.” 

They do, however, hold a special meaning to the MOAFC and the larger artistic community of Northern Colorado. Not only does the public have the opportunity to experience the creativity that goes into creating these masks by attending the exhibition, but also to purchase them at auction. The mask exhibit is a multi-faceted fundraising program that includes support from sponsors and donors alongside the funds raised through the online auction. All the proceeds, which total more than 1.7 million dollars to date, from the exhibit go back into funding future programming at the museum. “Basically everything that we do as a museum, the exhibitions that we host and bring in, the programs that we do, our education space, the programs, and workshops” Hatchadoorian explains. “So everything that is public-facing [is funded through the yearly mask exhibition].”  

The masks themselves are also made locally. Chris Wanner, an artist and a professor at Colorado Early Colleges, created over two hundred masks the summer prior. He uses molded clay that is then kiln fired and shipped to the artists that signed up to participate. If you’re interested in learning more about the process behind the creation of the masks you can visit the MOAFC’s website where they have a video of Wanner creating the masks by hand. 

All of this combines into the museum’s most popular exhibit which Hatchadoorian attributes to the support it gives back to the organization. If you want to experience the exhibit, or have the possibility to snag one of the unique pieces for yourself, visit the MOAFC when “Masks” opens on April 1st throughl May 6th.

  • The Academy of Arts and Knowledge
  • Douglas Gennetten
  • Molly Babcock
  • Ann Blackstone
  • Emma Campbell
  • Patrice Biggi
  • Anne Marie Martinez
  • Kim Erlandsen
  • Renee Giovando
  • April Eisele
  • Maddy Coy
  • Sarah Bennett
  • Bridgette Bailey
  • Malini Bartels
  • Susan Bonsall