The COVID-19 Pandemic is tragic on so many levels. When I learned that those infected and hospitalized were being separated from their loved ones, potentially dying among strangers, I felt a profound sense of grief. And as the pandemic progresses, seeing how it disproportionally affects communities of color and immigrant populations sheds new light on inequality and systemic racism.
In response to the pandemic, I’m working to create a COVID-19 memorial that is compassionate, inclusive & participatory. The memorial will offer a place for healing and introspection, to process our personal and collective loss, to honor and release those who have died.
The COVID-19 memorial will be made from lovingly folded and stacked recycled clothing. When people pass away, their loved-ones often recycle their clothing. Therefore, the memorial will likely include garments from the victims of COVID-19 as well as the general population, connecting those lost to those who survived.
We are now actively seeking clothing donations, please spread the word so people know about this possibility. Potential donors can reach out here to schedule a pickup.
The core design takes the form of a giant spiral. Participants can walk around the memorial or enter inside for an immersive experience. The outer part of the spiral will extend into the room, like an open arm, beckoning to the viewer. The memorial will be colorful, with all of the clothing sorted from dark to light. The dimensions will be approximately 10’ (H) x 30’ (W) x 30’ (D).
The memorial will be modular and can be installed anywhere level and dry. The best-case scenario would be a high-traffic area. In New York where we are based, the perfect location would be the east side of Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal (GCT). We are attracted to this setting because GCT is at the heart of New York’s transit system. Thousands of people from all walks of life pass through GCT every day. Installing the work in Vanderbilt Hall will enable maximum participation.
The memorial will be built off and on-site, allowing the public to observe the fabrication process. Stations for folding and stacking will be set up to the side. People can sign up for a folding lesson and contribute to the development of the memorial.
This is an extremely ambitious project for very uncertain times. It will require many hands and many hours. I have built an initial team, but first, I will need to secure a venue and funding. I will explore funding opportunities with the following organizations: Creative Capital, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Sculpture Center, No Longer Empty, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Public Art Fund, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Art Production Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Fractured Atlas, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The New York Community Trust.
Derick Melander, New York City, January 17th, 2021