Businesses, artists, town collaborate to salute Covid-19 workers, promote safety

Banners wave at Arlington Service Station, owned by Abe Salhi.Prayer-flag masks wave at Arlington Service Station, owned by Abe Salhi. / Johnny Lapham photo

UPDATED, May 13: In mid-April, Arlington Service Station owner Abe Salhi was inspired and determined to make a bold statement of hope and resolve amid the Covid-19 crisis. Known for his patronage of public art, which earned him a 2018 Business of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce, Salhi reached out to local artist/activist Johnny Lapham and Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture (ACAC) cochair Stewart Ikeda for help.

He wanted to create a prominent banner to thank caregivers and essential workers for their courageous, generous service. Indeed, Salhi himself had been working morning-to-night running the station by himself since the state-of-emergency started. He also hoped the banners would boost morale in town, encourage mask wearing to help “lower the curve” and protect our most vulnerable folks from Covid-19.

Creation shots: See more photos and videos: No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3

Ikeda reached out to town managers, Health Department officials and the core of the Arlington public arts community to flesh out and support the messaging and logistics of the project.


The group brainstormed two huge, face-mask-shaped banners with the messages “Thank You, Caregivers!!” and “Stay Safe, Arlington!” to suspend from pillars over the fuel pumps for the duration of the stay-at-home advisory.

Lapham designed and painted the banners, and Amy Macdonald offered to sew them with materials donated from her commercial flag and banner shop, Heritage Flag Co. in Allston. Macdonald also provided her bucket truck to assist in hanging the banners May 10.

Cecily Miller, Arlington Public Art curator, had the idea of hanging an additional colorful line of prayer flags in the shape of simple, oversized masks that could flutter in the wind to celebrate all the volunteer efforts to make and wear homemade masks, as well as the collective effort and prayers to stay safe and take care of each other in this time.

Kimberley Harding, an artist and past ACAC commissioner, gathered donated fabrics, created a design for the prayer flag masks and coordinated a small team of local mask makers to sew them up in short order. The team included Laurie Bogdan, Margaret Moody, Courtney Rodland, Holly Lebowitz Rossi and Adrienne Sloane.

Harding and Bogdan installed the flags with Lapham, delighting passersby, including a procession of classic cars parading down Mass. Ave. on May 10 during the installation.

Salhi said he would love to thank everyone involved for their enthusiastic responsiveness and spirited manifestation of the project, and he especially wants to thank all local caregivers and essential workers—and all of us —for pulling together to take care of ourselves and each other in this time of heightened need and care.

This news summary was published Tuesday, May 12, 2020, and updated May 13, to add link to more photos and three videos.