MORENO VALLEY, Calif. – As more businesses get ready to reopen in California with social distancing, it’s clear wearing a mask will be part of the so-called “new normal.”

Masks have been a part of art and culture since the Stone Age, but this is the first time they’ve been so prevalent in modern Los Angeles culture. 

What You Need To Know

  • Wearing masks becoming part of "new normal"

  • Muralists helping promote awareness of need to wear one

  • Artist "Hope Dealer" has doctor brother

  • Using art to recast masks as symbols of unity

“It’s definitely part of the times right now. It’s a little bit of history,” said muralist Ruben Rojas as he painted his signature “love” on a boarded-up business in Santa Monica. For Rojas, the summer should mean cashing in on events and commissions but most of his business has been canceled. 

“Contracts were signed, deposits were coming and then they were gone,” Rojas said. 

The checks have stopped but the work continues. The Fourth Street mural is part of a partnership with non-profit Beautify Earth and the local business improvement district Downtown Santa Monica. 

Rojas teamed up with artist Corie Mattie to brighten the mood on empty streets and encourage pedestrians to take the pandemic seriously. 

“If you’re not wearing a mask you’re being careless,” Mattie said. Her alter ego is the “Hope Dealer.” Her art is public but the purpose is personal – her brother is a doctor who could be recommissioned to an ICU or an ER if Covid-19 stresses the capacity of local hospitals. 

“The Hope Dealer really came to fruition with him because he helped me think of some of these concepts,” Mattie said. 

In their art, masks don’t signal fear or distance, but unity and love.