During a time when people can use a chuckle or two, young Sana Motlakunta designed a protective mask that’s bound to do the trick.

“I painted a rainbow with a face, winking, with tongue out,” she said, her face beaming with the type of smile she hopes to generate.

Sana is an art student of Selva Priya, who decided to help make Valentine’s Day an extra-special occasion for employees of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“During this pandemic, we always think about the frontline workers. They’ve worked outside for us to be safe inside,” the South Fayette Township resident said. “So I really felt we should give something to honor them.”

Priya Arts students worked on painting masks that were preapproved by the hospital, coming up with their own ideas.

Aanya Jha created a tie-dye design using green, pink, red and blue, and for another face covering, she made a mandala, a geometric configuration of symbols, with a black marker.

“I like doing it,” she said about the project. “It’s good to give other people things.”

Ishaan Sankaran came up with three contributions, one of which features a panda and another showing a yellow emoji wearing a mask.

“To honor the frontline workers, on the mask I put the medical sign on it,” he said.

“I made one more mask that was a doctor showing his true identity. It was like an Iron Man suit inside.”

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, Avanthika Rejiesh painted an emoji with heart-shaped eyes on one mask and hearts in each corner of another, and perhaps with the end of winter in mind, a third face covering shows a flower.

And they follow a common scheme.

“I used the primary colors, which are red, yellow and blue,” Avanthika said.

Shaivy Shrivastava’s creations primarily are black and white, except for prominent use of red as a symbol of stamping out a virus.

“Since the frontline workers are giving us gifts by protecting us, I would like to give them a gift for them to be safe while protecting us,” she said. “My teacher, she inspired me to do this to help the frontline workers. And she’s like my idol.”

Sana also had praise for Priya.

“She teaches us different techniques, and I’m learning each one of them and using each one of them,” Sana said. “I like painting and giving those paintings to other people, because I like the smile on their face when I give them the painting.”

A two-time Three Rivers Arts Festival scholarship recipient, Priya said her students, in turn, serve as an inspiration with their enthusiasm as she continues to plan altruistic activities

“I look forward for any occasion or any celebration to give back to the community,” she said. “I believe it’s not only about teaching art. It’s more than that for me. They’re learning how to give to others, how to bring a smile from others by making something that is useful.”

As for the Children’s Hospital masks, she hopes to bring a bit of joy to the workers who wear them and the young patients they serve.

“We are used to wearing all the boring masks. So I think this is fun, to have something kind of colorful and unique,” she said. “Handmade is always unique.”

Priya also hopes her students’ latest project promotes a positive message.

“This is a good example that no matter how old you are or young you are, whoever you are or wherever you are, you can still spread kindness,” she said. “You can make the world a better place to live with whatever you are able to do.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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