SEATTLE — When the coronavirus arrived in Washington state, the shutdowns seemed swift to those affected by them.
At the Showbox in Seattle, workers thought the shutdown could last a few weeks. Almost a year later, they’re wondering whether they’ll be returning to work at all this year.
There’s dozens of employees who are out of work. As Shannon Welles, the theater’s assistant general manager notes, it’s not like those jobs can be filled elsewhere – the entire industry has been shut down. That’s why they’re working to raise funds to buy food for workers who’ve been unable to find work for months.
“No one thought almost a year ago that we’d be out of work for almost a year,” said Welles. “People need food. Rent is really expensive in Seattle; this is just a way to help the staff that we know are hurting.”
The funds are being raised with unique masks created by Robin Dunkle, a designer and owner of Howard and Marge Boutique in Burien. The masks are created using a special process using real tickets and light boxes to create images that are printed on the masks, so the masks not only raise money for out-of-work Showbox employees, they represent the theater via ticket stubs from shows provided by the employees.
“We put out a few calls on social media, and people were on it,” explained Dunkle. “People were buying like 5,10 masks a person.”
Dunkle, who met her husband at the Showbox 23 years ago, said she can’t imagine a future without live music. That’s why she’s selling the masks online and in her brick and mortar store in Burien.
On Feb. 13 they’ll give out food at the Showbox SoDo location to employees. The workers who can’t make it to the pick-up will be met by volunteers who are boxing and delivering the food, as well. The food, according to Welles, is all purchased from local vendors in an effort to keep all the money raised local.
“It’s a little bit of hope,” explained Welles. “It’s a little bit of support for the employees who are living with uncertainty every day.”
Dunkle and Welles are planning to continue working together to develop other masks. In the meantime, sales will fund future food buys that will support employees who are staying home thanks to the pandemic.