From props to PPE: Chicago theatrical fabricator pivots to make face shields amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Members of Chicago's technical film and theater communities may not be making magic for audiences right now. But, some of them are taking a cue and retooling their skills to help the medical community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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From props to PPEs, theatrical techies are taking their skills to another level by making desperately-needed face shields for the medical community.

"We have all these artists who are completely out of work," said Angie Gaffney. "It has decimated the freelance and film industry and we have all these supplies and skills for manufacturing and fabrication."

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And the Shield Project was born. Gaffney is a Chicago film producer whose husband co-owns Hero Solutions, a theatrical fabricator in the old Bindery Building in Chicago's West Town. Tweeting it out brought them a team and guidance by a University of Chicago doctor. Now with the employ of 18 artists, the face shields are going out locally and nationally.

"From my tweet to shipment of 2,000 was 8 days and that included design, testing in the field, feedback and manufacturing," Gaffney said.

Mario Coletta is a commercial sound mixer. Now he has sound knowledge of PPE - and purpose.

"I had something to look forward to everyday," Coletta said. "I had meaning. This is not a commercial to throw on the air. This is helping people who need something."

"We are working on a prototype for an aerosol box which protects the doctors from splatter during ex or intubation. And we are also working on a drive-thru testing shield," Gaffney said.

All artists working receive their hourly union wage. Shields are billed at base cost plus 10%. That 10% is reverted back to the artists to help with rent and buy supplies to sustain the project.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.
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