Art, it’s said, can save lives. Christopher DeGaetano interprets that literally.

At the start of the pandemic, DeGaetano’s Portland design firm, Hovers Over Water, partnered with Street Roots newspaper to launch The Art We Breathe, a philanthropic project aimed at providing vulnerable populations with protective face coverings. Artists around the world have contributed work, which is then printed onto premium-quality bandannas and put up for sale online. With each purchase, one is donated to a person experiencing houselessness.

The prints range from vibrant, multicolored designs to Black Lives Matter statement pieces. At 22 by 22 inches, the bandannas can also be used as a scarf or head wrap, or as wall art, giving them a shelf life beyond the current health crisis.

So far, the program has been able to donate about 50 bandannas to Portland’s houseless. DeGaetano and his team spend a chunk of their time at the Street Roots office in Old Town, interacting with the community while they hand them out. DeGaetano says people light up when they see the art and feel the lightweight, breathable material.

“These people don’t have a lot for themselves,” he says, “but some people are literally trying to donate money to us for the bandannas we’re giving to them.”

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