l you folks in the Bayshore or close to it, you only have a few days to treat yourself to a very unique, free exhibition at the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council on First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands. The exhibit will be removed following an Open House closing reception Jan. 23 to make way for another display of local and state-wide artistry at the First Avenue art gallery and gift shop. More than 50 artists have presented a startling array of artwork in a variety of media including in oil, watercolor, pastels, shredded newspaper and three dimensional settings giving vivid images how the Covid pandemic has impacted the person, the area, and the nation. Randy Mayer’s “Staying Safe” took the blue ribbon award in the juried competition for paper, with judges identifying the work as “outstanding,” given the technical challenge his work in transparent watercolor presented. Brian McCarty took the top award for “In the Park”, a large painting judges terms “a meticulous execution because of its depiction of a park with shadows. Like many of the works on display, this painting is for sale. Margery Cohen earned an honorable mention for her “Inner Workings,” among the variety of works receiving commendations for the excellence of the works. Also outstanding are the store front displays presented by the husband and wife team of David Habout and Nathalie d’Iris, artists in their own rights who have blended talents in the Covid era. D’Iris and Habout combined their talents and their sense of generosity and designed and made hundreds of masks they donated to front line workers in New York and more recently, to students in two schools in Monmouth County. They also made masks which are available for sale at the Arts Council in four different sizes for toddlers, six to 12 year olds, petite or teens, and adult. My particular favorite is the creative mask the couple made for people who wear hearing aids. If you have hearing devices, then you know how often the straps get mixed with the aids themselves and it’s frustrating. This couple has a great design of a mask where the strap goes around your head rather than your ears. Comfortable, easy, and no fear of losing one of those expensive little hearing devices. I’ll tell you more about this fascinating couple next week, but Halbout is a furniture maker and instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and together with his wife, a textile designer, they designed the colorful and specially designed masks that have been rated at being more than 85 per cent effective. Their window displays during the Age of Covid exhibition also combine their interests and talents, with d’Iris displaying some of the elegant silk dyed scarves she has designed, together with crocheted and knitted fashionable long accent pieces for women. The designer grows her own flowers in order to ensure the organic dyes she creates from cosmos, poppies, black-eyed Susans, black walnut and other flowers and vegetables. Halbout's display includes a variety of radios and speakers, both modern and earlier, representations of his work as a sound engineer for large theaters, amphitheaters and arenas. Also available for sale, the old-fashioned pieces have been incorporated with modern speakers and connections and are displayed together with restored smaller radios also with newly designed speakers. The Arts Council is open Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission fee and visitors are invited to browse the exhibition at their leisure without time limits. The Open House/Closing Reception is free, but tickets may be reserved on line at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-in-the-age-of-covid-closing-reception-tickets-135905313451 to ensure social distancing. Take home hors d’oeuvres by Anthony “ Weird Eye” artist and chef will be available to attendees. Even if you’re not an art aficionado, this gallery is certainly worth a stop and a visit. There’s an incredible amount of talent in this area, and to see it on display in such a beautiful and relaxing setting, is a great gift to give yourself, at no cost, during stressful times.