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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : May 2000 : Mask Project fund-raiser returns

Mask Project fund-raiser returns

By Joanne Ditmer
The Denver Post
May 1, 2000

- What does Mshindi, the black rhinoceros at the Denver Zoo, have in common with Eddie Cheever Jr., Picabo Street, David Carradine, Ali MacGraw, former first ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford, and several hundred other notables?

All of them, including Mshindi, have painted a clay mask for The Mask Project 2000. More than 800 masks will be on display at the Cherry Creek shopping center and in Cherry Creek North through June 25, and auctioned to benefit Hospice of Metro Denver. It's a silent auction, with each bidder entering or upping his or her bid during the eight-week exhibition; top bid on June 25 takes the mask.

In 1998, the project's first year, $ 440,000 was raised for Hospice of Metro Denver. Founded 20 years ago, the hospice is a nonprofit agency that serves one out of three terminally ill patients in the metro area, helping them spend their final months in comfort and dignity. Hundreds of masks have been painted, collaged, adorned, ornamented, framed and bejeweled - several with genuine diamonds, peridot and topaz - in a fantasy of expression and creativity. Participants included local and national artists, entertainers, celebrities, politicians, members of the media, designers, community leaders, cultural attractions, Denver Public School students and people who just wanted to join in the fun.

Mshindi, who paints with a large brush in his mouth, shows an expressionistic form of colorful strokes on a white mask. Lady Bird Johnson, of the Keep America Beautiful movement and founder of the National Wildflower Center, covered her mask with red, white and blue wildflowers, then added a white Texas star. Amy van Dyken put a pair of swim goggles on her mask.

Five actors from NBC's 'West Wing' television show - Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Dale Hill and Bradley Whitford - sent masks. Donald Trump sent a collage of buildings covering the face. There are masks that look as if they came from primitive tribes; those that make you laugh; pieces that are awesome works of art; some that are dramatic, humorous, cutting-edge sophisticated - a variety more than most of us can imagine. Some will appeal for their looks, others for the big names who painted them.

To see them all would take several hours; the exhibition is free and open to the public. Up to 1.5 million people are expected to see The Mask Project and learn about Hospice of Metro Denver.

On the main floor of the shopping center, 300 masks are shown in display cases; on the upper level, next to Lord & Taylor, The Mask Project store has a bounty of 150 oversized creations, such as a portrait of Mona Lisa, with a painted mask for her face, and her hands in the traditional game pose of 'Paper, rock, scissors.' Eight floral designers have crafted handsome mask compositions.

The Mask Project store also offers T-shirts and mousepads bearing mask images. A special item is a pen designed by Hyde Park jeweler Philip Stone and John Elway; it has a diamond teardrop and will sell for $ 100. If you spend $ 475 with an American Express card in one day, you will receive a mask pen, with a limit of one given per customer for the entire show.

In addition to the 400 celebrity masks, owners and employees of 200 shops at the shopping center and in Cherry Creek North have created masks that reflect their businesses. You can't miss the 40 large iron masks standing 5 feet tall and displayed throughout the Cherry Creek Shopping District. Crafted by Dennis West of 23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio Gallery, they went to individual artists to give character and personality. These Expressions of Cherry Creek also will be auctioned.

Denver International Airport shares in the celebration. Faces of Angels is the mask show at Concourse A, on display through May 29. These masks have been made by young people who are terminally ill and children who have lost a loved one to death.

'The bereaved children will have their masks returned to them, we don't want them to suffer a second loss,' said Mele Telitz of the hospice. 'Many of them poured all their heartache, their memories, their joy into making the mask that celebrated the person who died, and it was a time of celebration of their life as well as of the sorrow.'

More than 100 masks were made by Denver Public School students and are on display at DIA. Fifteen of them will be juried into the exhibition at the shopping center.

At the shopping center mask store you can pick up a list of the 15 categories into which the masks have been divided, and where they are shown, for easy finding.

Look for your favorites: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Calista Flockhart, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, James Garner, Pam Grier, Kelli Williams, Jacques Pepin, Ingo Rademacher (heartthrob Jax in 'General Hospital') Gov. and Mrs. Bill Owens and a bevy of mayors and council members, Mike Shanahan, Peggy Fleming, Bill Romanowski, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jay Leno, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Chris Daniels and The Kings, Peter Max, Annabel and Pat Bowlen, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Buzz Calkins, John Tesh, Bill Blass, Richard Monfort, Charlie Monfort and family, and hundreds more.

In 1998 the highest price - $ 7,000 - was paid for a mask by John Denver, made shortly before his death. It was broken before it even left the gala auction.

Purchaser Rita Bass Coors was not dismayed. She took it home, selected personal photographs of herself and husband Bill Coors with Denver and his family and had them framed together - the mask still broken. It will be on display at The Mask Project store.Mask Project 2000

The Mask Project 2000 kicks off today. There are several components to the project, which benefits Hospice of Metro Denver. Here are the details:


What: Mask Project 2000 exhibit, more than 400 clay masks decorated by local and national artists; celebrities; entertainers; sports figures; political, media and community leaders

Where: Cherry Creek shopping center, 3000 E. First Ave.; first floor and upper level Mask Project Store, where bids may be entered in silent auction

When: Today through June 25; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday




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