COVID-19 RESPONSE

TYSON FAMILY FOUNDATION GRANT FOR MEDICAL MASK PRODUCTION

ARKANSAS ARTS AND FASHION FORUM RECEIVES TYSON FAMILY FOUNDATION GRANT FOR MEDICAL MASK PRODUCTION

The Tyson Family Foundation has given the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum a generous grant to fund the production of medical masks for the Northwest Arkansas community. This one-time gift is dedicated to supporting the work of local seamstresses from diverse communities to produce high quality cloth masks to be donated to local medical facilities. This funding, along with a grant from the Arkansas Community Foundation, has given the organization the capital to begin production on 2,000 cloth masks for the community. Partnering with students from their sewing workshops alongside professional sewist from Canopy NWA, the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum has established the first non-profit sewn goods workshop of its kind in Arkansas.

Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum leadership is working with the Sewn Trades Collective and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, along with the Arkansas Maker’s Task Force, to stay up to date on best practices, material resources, and needs within the local community, in Arkansas, and on a national level. To increase efficiency for this project, AAFF has also received assistance from the Northwest Arkansas Community College. The implementation of the Technology and Building Sciences department’s laser cutting technology has increased the production rate of the medical masks, allowing AAFF to assist more clinics and health professionals in need. 

On April 3rd the Center for Disease Control released new guidelines recommending universal mask wearing for all people who must interact with the public. This includes a recommendation for the public at large, along with healthcare workers, food services workers, delivery drivers, and anyone else who must conduct essential business. Because of this increased demand for cloth masks across the entire population, the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum began to seek funding to increase production from the volunteer-based services they had already been soliciting since March 20th with the launch of the volunteer based Mask Maker Challenge. Information on that program can be found arkansasfashion.org/masks

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum has pivoted its focus to respond to the needs of the local community, and to continue to provide both creative outlets, and professional opportunities. Along with the new mask workshop AAFF has also been distributing masks made by volunteers from throughout the community and have distributed more than 1800 masks to date to local hospitals and clinics. They plan to distribute at least 2000 more by mid-May. Additionally, they have also begun offering masks for retail to the public through their Buy One / Give One program in partnership with local seamstresses. Each mask purchase includes a donation from the seamstress to a local healthcare provider. 80% of proceeds from those sales go directly to the seamstress, and 20% are donated to AAFF to continue their mask distribution projects.