A few weeks ago, on 10th Street and Hamilton Avenue, Herron alum Philip Campbell (B.F.A. General Fine Arts '89) built a simple clothesline that gives residents of the Near Eastside free access to face masks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a free exchange to help the people in the surrounding neighborhoods stay healthy and safe," Campbell wrote in an Instagram post. "If you have extra masks, please share [them] here. If you need a mask, please take one. Cleaning and making instructions are included."
We talked to him by email about his socially engaged art project, culminating in a continuous random act of kindness. He also told us how his recent studio practice was inspired by working in the healthcare sector.
HERRON: What led you to the idea of a "Free P.P.E." stand?
PHILIP CAMPBELL: I had just finished installing a large fort made from 14 quilts for an exhibit at the Indiana State Museum in February, "FIX: Heartbreak and Hope Inside Our Opioid Crisis," so I was ready for something small to work on. Besides being a creative problem solver, I manage a team of recovery coaches for Project POINT at Eskenazi Health. COVID-19 safety and sewing naturally equalled masks for me.
HERRON: Working at Eskenazi Health has influenced your artwork, both directly and indirectly, from the safety blanket you made for "FIX" and now this "Free P.P.E" stand. How did you get involved with Project POINT?
CAMPBELL: I've been a self-employed artist, creative consultant and entrepreneur all my life, but I've been sober for 10 years and realized I wanted to work in recovery. So, two years ago I accepted the position at Eskenazi Health and became the project coordinator of Project POINT a year later. It's a wonderful opportunity, and it's enhanced my creative practice.
Working in the emergency department and with the city's most vulnerable population, you quickly come to realize that many people do not have access to the majority of things that most of us take for granted. COVID-19 wasn't going away and people were not wearing masks, so I thought I'd give the public free access and maybe help keep some neighbors healthy.
HERRON: How many face masks have you made since March? Were they all meant for the "Free P.P.E." stand, or did you donate some of them?
CAMPBELL: The intention in March was to make face masks for family and coworkers in the hospital's emergency department. The first 40 went to family members across the country. The second batch went to Eskenazi Hospital and I just kept making them and giving them away.
I have no idea how many I've made so far. I installed at least 100 of them on the clothesline, and others contributed at least another 100.
HERRON: How often do you add new masks to the clotheslines — and are you able to keep up with the demand?
CAMPBELL: I put some out a couple of times a week, and they're usually gone in a couple of hours. I was hanging some on Sunday and half of them were taken as I was putting them out.