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Aware of the shortage of personal protective equipment for medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the costume shop of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Clarence Brown Theatre has begun making masks to donate.

Constructed with quilting cotton and muslin left over from fabric purchased to create costumes for this past CBT season, the masks are intended for medical professionals and nonmedical staff whose day-to-day work involves intermingling with the public, though they may not be front-line workers.

Since the project began on March 23, a team of faculty, staff, and graduate students has created more than 200 masks.

“Our hope is that these masks will help to save on the stock of surgical masks and N95 masks for those who need them most,” said Kyle Schellinger, costume shop cutter and draper.

Others participating in the project are Melissa Caldwell-Weddig, Elizabeth Aaron, Amber Williams, graduate students Margo Birdwhistell and John Merritt, and Assistant Professor of Costume Design Lauren Roark.

While working from home and practicing social distancing, the team has created a plan for the creation of the masks.

“Kyle cuts out the materials and makes kits, which are then picked up from a CBT drop-off area by the other members of the ‘CBT Mask Squad,'” said Caldwell-Weddig, costume shop manager.

Masks are then taken to be distributed.

“We are proud and pleased to be able to serve and assist our medical community,” said Tom Cervone, CBT managing director, “and hopefully add a bit of fashion along the way.”

UT staff, alumni, and friends have coordinated through social media to sew thousands of face masks for those needing protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve created their own system of delivering masks in the Knoxville area while safely practicing social distancing.



Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Robin Conklin (865-974-2497,

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