A COVID-19 Memorial

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.

Design

COVID-19 Memorial Artwork. Updated design for sculpture with second-hand clothing.

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). 

Location

Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal

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. 

Process

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. 

Potential Partners

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 FoundationFord Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The New York Community Trust.

Derick Melander, New York City, January 17th, 2021

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10 replies on “A COVID-19 Memorial”

I love the empathy involved in this, Derick. And the embracing of our collective loss of each of those precious lives. It feels like a generous and concrete act of bringing together as a reminder that we already are, even when we seem most separated. Beautiful, as usual. Like the idea of it starting off in Grand Central first-kind of an echo of Ellis Island for many of our ancestors at another difficult and beautiful time for individuals.

Thank you Laura, I like your comparison of GCT to Ellis Island, it is a place of passage and it marks time. I used to sleep on the benches in Vanderbilt Hall after punk shows, before the renovation. I’m so glad this project speaks to you. The work required to make it happen is overwhelming at times, but I am trying to keep my eyes on my feet and take one step at a time.

Wishing you the best of luck on this ambitious project. Its scope is both vast and intimate, as is the pandemic itself.

Great concept Derick — Reminds me of Richard Serra’s immersive sculptures that make you feel fear and despear when you’re in them, but adding the organic feel of the used clothes (and the pandemic), carried by incalculable numbers of individuals and with the potential to continue growing. In this, it differs from Serra’s iron structures which are limited by the original design. Yours, in theory, could grow endlessly

That’s interesting Natalia, I had not thought about the potential for the piece to grow, but you are right, the spiral could just keep wrapping around itself. Thank you.

I think it’s a very appropriate idea for a memorial and a natural evolution of your work.
As a high tech update, you could put an RFID tag on each item of clothing so each persons donation could be located, at least to nearest couple of feet. You know if this were to happen people would be going to nuts trying to find their loved ones item of clothing, as people do with the names on May Lin wall in DC. They had to adapt and create name finding booklet, you might need to think about incorporating a name register somehow, maybe projections on the floor or something to avoid video screens or extranious visual interference. XO, JR

Thank you Jody for your thoughtful response! You have a very good point about the need for donations to be located. All good ideas. I’ll need to catalog everything that comes in to enable that. I’ve thought about using tech, and also about going analog, with a map and name tags that hang down.

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