The air is cool in the Public Garden. The leaves are varying shades of red, yellow, and brown. You are strolling through the grass, looking for something to do, or maybe someone to be. If you’re lucky, you’ll see her knitting under a tree beside her “art emporium,” waiting for you to wander by and take what you want. She is known as Ms. Mouse. And what does she have? Masks.
These aren’t the kind of masks you’ll find at Party City, though. You won’t see any Donald Trump faces or Scream masks, no horse heads or Batman masks. These masks are very different. Ms. Mouse herself wears a large mouse head on her trips to the Public Garden, accompanied by her mask-filled cart inscribed with the words, “Ms. Mouse’s Art Emporium. Take what you want. Give what you like.”
Underneath the mask, Ms. Mouse is known as Sara Peattie, a Boston-area puppeteer. Her character, Ms. Mouse, was born three years ago, as documented by a blog post where Peattie writes, “Tried it out on Wednesday, romped in shouting ‘Art for all!’ and scared all of the people out of that corner of the Public Garden, then tried it again, quieter, sitting with my knitting on Saturday and Sunday and it worked! Fun, fun fun.” She’s kept it up ever since, giving away masks and puppets to anyone who pleases.
Masks are closely tied to identity—they not only hide your identity but give you a new one, something we all want from time to time. But to Ms. Mouse, masks are not just tools to hide or to play pretend or to win costume contests with—masks are art, a way to shape materials into something new and creative and interesting and, in some cases, horrifying. These masks demand respect, just like their creator.
Ms. Mouse’s philosophy is simple: art is nothing if it cannot be shared. These masks would be beautiful on display, but they are even more beautiful in the hands of those who can appreciate them.
Text by Jillian Meehan
Photography by Noah Chiet