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Art Institute Lions, Picasso statue in Daley Plaza sporting face masks

The large-scale public gesture is an homage to Mayor Lightfoot’s rallying cry earlier this month promoting her “Chicago Together! Make a Mask, Give a Mask, Wear a Mask” initiative.

The lions wear face masks outside the The Art Institute of Chicago during the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday afternoon, April 30, 2020.
The lions wear face masks outside the The Art Institute of Chicago during the coronavirus pandemic. The masks were installed as a symbolic gesture on Thursday, one day ahead of a statewide mandate requiring masks in public places.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Walk past the iconic lion statues at the majestic entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue and the message roars out loud and clear: If you’re in Illinois, you have to wear a mask or face covering in public starting Friday.

The large-scale public gesture is an homage to Mayor Lightfoot’s rallying cry earlier this month promoting her “Chicago Together! Make a Mask, Give a Mask, Wear a Mask” initiative. The mayor is asking residents to make/donate homemade cloth masks for first responders and Chicago’s homeless/shelter populations. A cloth-masked Lightfoot herself is pictured on the video screens at the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.

In Daley Plaza, the equally iconic Picasso statue is also sporting a mask. The massive coverings for the lions and the Picasso feature a Chicago flag and were created by Dimension Design in Glenview.

According to a statement from the Art Institute, the materials used in the creation of the masks did not in any way impact those needed to produce PPE supplies for first responders and frontline workers.

The Picasso statue in Daley Plaza wears a mask during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Picasso statue in Daley Plaza wears a mask during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The masks, made from a printable synthetic material, were designed by Kelly Winter of Dimension Design, and took several days from plan to completion, said the company’s co-founder Jeremy Biewer. A team of 10 employees worked on the project — from graphic design, to fabric engineering, to printing, cutting and sewing.

“The fabric can hold up pretty well in Chicago weather,” Biewer said. But if there’s any [wear and tear] in the coming weeks, he said they can “produce replacements in a matter of hours if necessary.”

Biewer said his company generally works trade shows and large-scale events, but has reconfigured to create masks for first responders and frontline workers during the pandemic. To date, they’ve donated 3,000 masks to local facilities.

Kelly Winter of Dimension Design in Glenview sews a mask for the lion statues outside the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Kelly Winter of Dimension Design in Glenview sews a mask destined for the lion statues outside the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Courtesy Dimension Design

The lion masks were made for a “very modest three-figure charge for material and labor,” said Jim Winter, executive vice-president of Dimension Design, while the mask adorning the Picasso statue was “donation from the company to the city and people of Chicago.”