CNM Instructor Participates in International Project Designed to Recognize the Dedication of Health Care Workers

Lynette Andreasen, who teaches in the Jewelry department, made a series of thank you medals that were distributed to workers on the front lines of COVID-19
November 16, 2020

Lynette Andreasen—who teaches Jewelry and Art Appreciation classes at CNM—wanted to do something to help as COVID-19 spread across the globe. She started by sewing some 300 masks that were distributed to many of New Mexico’s hardest hit communities. More recently she also volunteered for the Hand Medal Project, where jewelers and students across the world made medals in the shape of a hand that were recently distributed as thank you gifts to health care workers at 309 global hospitals. 

“For me, this project was an important way to work through some of my anxiety and sadness, but more importantly it was also a way to do something helpful, even if what we did was microscopic,” Lynette says. 

The Hand Metal Project was started by artists Iris Eichenberg and Jimena Ríos and so far more than 3,100 people have joined to help and more than 70,000 medals have been made. The medals are designed to be tributes like any other medal, but Iris and Jimena also wanted them to serve as a sort of ex-voto, or traditional offerings made to a saint in the form of a vow.

Lynette says the vow part comes from the thousands of participating artists and is meant to show the medical workers that they’re not only grateful for their work, but also vow to help however they can in the fight to stop the pandemic.

“I don’t know what it feels like to be a medical worker right now, but I know it must be hard, especially when they see the continued spread,” Lynette says. “That’s why the thousands of artists who participated want to come together to show that we care and will do everything we can to help.” 

Lynette found out about the project a little late so she was only able to make 12 medals before they were due at the end of October. But she meticulously cut each one by hand from copper before filing, sanding, and finishing them. She then attached a ribbon and safety pin to each one so they could be easily worn by the receiving health care workers. Lynette didn’t sign her medals like she would other jewelry because the project is meant to be about the recipients and not the makers.

On their website, Iris and Jimena say they chose a metal hand as the symbol for several, very specific reasons. 

“Our current battle with coronavirus is fought with an enemy invisible to the naked eye, its specter made all the more ominous by its intangibility—a danger you cannot see. By contrast, metal, especially jewelry, is known by its weight and shape against the body. When formed into a medal, it provides a physical testimony for both the unseen virus and invisible bravery of those who have fought it,” they write. “Hands themselves have been powerfully present in this battle. They are symbols not only of how our bodies have become weapons to be washed, sanitized, and gloved, but also of their innate power to heal and to connect. For around 3,000 jewelers that joined the project, of course, they are the language of skill and expression embodied.”

All of Lynette’s medals were shipped to Texas and distributed to Texas hospitals because that was the closest global distribution site set up by the project. She says she’s happy to support health care workers in Texas because COVID-19 is a global problem. But down the road she hopes the project continues and that she might have the chance to make more medals that are handed out here in New Mexico.  

“I would love to keep helping,” she says.