A survey of COVID-19 memorials and tributes to those we have lost to the pandemic.
A few months after I started this project, I began encountering the work of others with a shared sense of responsibility and desire to honor those we have lost. Projects range from ad-hoc and ephemeral to well-financed with a desire for permanenace.
As of April 2021, there have been 134 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide with over 2.9 million deaths… And these numbers are still increasing. After a year of safety measures that included masks, hand washing, and social distancing, we are finally seeing the possibility of a “normal” future as vaccine distribution picks up speed. Even as we start to move into our new future, it is very hard to forget our grief and the loss of the thousands of humans in the United States and across the globe. All over the world, people are finding traditional and new ways to honor the ones we lost and to help those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic. We use our creativity to build memorials, and tributes to heal, encourage better public health outcomes, and encourage dialogue.
Here are some of the memorials that have been created in the United States and all over the world:
20,000 empty chairs set up outside White House on COVID-19 Remembrance Day
“Twenty-thousand empty chairs were lined up on the Ellipse, a large lawn outside of the White House. Each one stands for 10 lives lost to COVID-19. The organization COVID Survivors for Change set up the chairs and also live-streamed a program of “advocacy, art, and real people’s stories.” More Here
World’s First Large-Scale COVID Memorial Designed for Victims of the Pandemic
“Architecture firm Gómez Platero has designed a new memorial to honor those affected by COVID-19. Sited in Uruguay, the monument is made to be an expression of hope in an uncertain time. As the first large-scale monument to the worldwide victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project is called the “World Memorial to the Pandemic.” It aims to be a space for mourning and reflection that’s environmentally conscious and emotionally impactful.” More Here
A Public Art Installation Honoring Loved Ones Lost to COVID-19
“In Fall, 2020, a national space for mourning emerged outside RFK stadium in Washington, DC. Beginning in late October, this four-acre site became covered by small white flags, each one in honor of an American who had died from COVID-19. In the central space, the flags were planted in an array to echo Arlington Cemetery’s 270,000 headstones. By the end of the exhibition, the number of flags—267,080—approximated the size of this nearby landmark. After 165,000 flags were planted in the center, the public was invited to help plant the remaining flags in sections under the trees. When we ran out of space in this massive field, we moved into adjacent green spaces for placement of flags. The installation ended on November 30th. During the installation, visitors were invited to personalize flags for loved ones lost to COVID-19. By the end of the exhibit 1,865 flags were dedicated with names, dates, and special messages. These flags ultimately will be donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and other archival institutions.” More Here
Not forgotten. Not just a number.
“The website covidmemorial.online allows people with a personal relationship to a victim of coronavirus to participate in a collective digital obituary by simply adding the hashtag #COVIDmemorial to a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram post. The memorial collects and shares public content created by people who personally know someone who passed away because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as objective, vetted information about the total impact of the crisis. Without any objection or condition, the memorial respects all wishes of next of kin about posting and sharing information about any individual. The memorial allows stories to speak for themselves.” More Here
A Virtual Memorial for Those We’ve Lost
“To help our readers honor the lives of those lost during the pandemic, we decided to ask them to submit photographs of objects that remind them of their loved ones. The responses were overwhelming, capturing love, heartache and remembrance. We heard from children, spouses, siblings, grandchildren and friends — people who had lost loved ones not only to Covid-19 but from all manner of causes. What united them was their inability to mourn together, in person.” More Here
Wall of hearts grows as a memorial to loved ones taken by coronavirus
“Throughout the afternoon, bereaved families also came to the National Covid Memorial Wall by the Thames, holding the red pens they would use to remember their loved ones. Since the wall started last Monday, about 60,000 unique hearts have appeared on the two-metre-high wall. Organisers expect to reach their target of 150,000 hearts by the middle of this week, reflecting the number who have died with Covid-19 marked on a death certificate in Britain (a figure running higher than official government statistics).” More Here
Rose River Memorial makes its way to Garden Grove
“The traveling art installation commemorating hundreds of thousands of lives lost to COVID-19 made its way into Garden Grove. Last year artist Marcos Lutyens had an idea for a tribute to victims of the pandemic in the form of red felt roses. The result was the Rose River Memorial.” More Here
Covid Memorial Blanket
“Knitters and crafters, by tradition, often take to their craft in a way to help others. To bring comfort to those who may need it. To soothe their own spirits when the world gets overwhelming and scary. Heather, Ally, and Amanda are knitters. Each working in a local yarn shop, decided to do just that. The project begins with a large art installation blanket. One 12 inch square for each soul lost due to Covid-19 in Canada. The blanket, to date will be almost 9000 square feet, and weigh approximately 1500 pounds.” More Here
Twenty thousand flags placed on National Mall
to memorialize Covid-19 deaths in the US
“Twenty thousand American flags have been placed on the National Mall as part of a memorial paying tribute to the more than 200,000 people nationwide who have died from the coronavirus. The installation, called a Covid Memorial Project, was organized by a group of friends in the Washington DC area who raised money online. They then gathered volunteers to place the flags on the mall on Tuesday. Each of the 20,000 flags represents 10 American lives that have been lost to the virus this year, according to the group’s GoFundMe page.” More Here
A tree of loss
“On a walnut farm in Ballard, Calif., Anne Guynn has created her own personal memorial. Each week, she goes out into her family’s orchard, climbs a ladder into one of the walnut trees and hangs garlands of colorful paper hearts she has cut out and strung: one heart for each of the nearly 4,000 Californians who have died from COVID-19.” More Here
An urban memorial
“Projected onto the brick wall of a Subway sandwich shop across the street appeared the words “Covid Memorial.” Below them scrolled a slideshow of faces of COVID-19 victims, along with messages their loved ones had posted on social media — messages mourning the loss of their Uncle Rudy, or Auntie Joyce, or cousin Jorel, whose smiling faces flashed into the night, and vanished.” More Here
Paul Chan Wants Us to Look Up at the Night Sky
“The scope of the tragedy is so great because of its interconnectedness to so much beyond New York. There isn’t enough ground in the city to do a memorial justice; there isn’t enough ground on Earth. But there is above us — in the night sky. I propose that every single person who we have lost to the pandemic from New York, and everywhere else, be memorialized by having a star named after them. The memorial, then, would consist of this new, vast constellation of stars above us.” More Here
Kristina Libby, Floral Hearts Project
“New Yorker Kristina Libby began placing heart-shaped flower wreaths in prominent sites across the city last April, when the first wave of the pandemic was at its terrifying height. “I laid a heart because I was grieving and I wanted to do something to recognize our losses,” the artist said in a statement. “Community matters now more than ever, and one way we can grow community is by grieving together.” The project has since blossomed into something greater. On March 1, volunteers created Floral Hearts in 100 sites across the US with flowers donated by 1-800-Flowers, with additional installations to follow.” More Here
Shane Reilly, Memorial for Those We’ve Lost
“In May, Austin sculptor Shane Reilly began planting flags on his lawn for each Texan who had died from COVID-19. The display quickly proliferated. “This isn’t just a flag, this is someone’s mom or dad. That’s somebody’s friend that died,” the artist told local news outlet Kxan in January. At the time, he was up to 32,000 flags, and running out of space. Texas officials have denied permit requests to erect the piece at the state capitol, according to Reilly’s GoFund Me, but he is looking for a new home for the growing installation, which he hopes will become a state-sanctioned memorial.” More Here
Carlo Omini, Resilienza, Comunità, Ripartenza
“On February 21, 2021, the tiny town of Codogna, Italy, unveiled a monument commemorating the nation’s first documented locally transmitted coronavirus case, diagnosed one year earlier. Designed by architect Carlo Omini, the sculpture features three steel columns and is set amid a small garden with a quince tree. In a message of hope amid a still-raging pandemic, the work’s titular inscription means ‘resilience, community, restart.'” More Here
Madeleine Fugate, COVID Memorial Quilt
“Inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which her mother helped work on in the 1980s, 13-year-old Madeleine Fugate started collecting fabric swatches honoring the individual victims of the coronavirus as a final project for her history class. Her hope is to have the loved ones of each of the deceased contribute a square for the quilt, which is set to go on view for a year at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.” More Here
Sonia Gutiérrez, Luminarias on S. Washington Ave.
“Artist Sonia Gutiérrez created an eight-block trail of 212 glowing paper lanterns in her neighborhood in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Christmas Eve. She read a prayer as she installed each luminaria, which represented the 212 residents of the city’s Washington County who had died to that point.” More Here
Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives, Loved Ones, Not Numbers
“The Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives put up a wall of 5,000 broken paper hearts outside Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights in August. The state’s dead numbered 5,300 at that time.” More Here
Andrea Arroyo, CoVIDA
“Welcoming visitors to the grounds of Manhattan’s oldest single family home, the Morris Jumel Mansion, this winter, was a delicate yet evocative cut paper and ribbon installation that served as New York’s first memorial to the pandemic that had ravaged the city. Its site, at a property that has survived everything from the American Revolution to the September 11 attacks, served as a reminder of the resiliency of New Yorkers, while Andrea Arroyo’s floral garlands, commonly used in Day of the Dead altars, spoke to the Latin American community of surrounding Washington Heights, the neighborhood in Manhattan that has seen the most COVID deaths.” More Here
“The city of Detroit honored its dead with a memorial of photographs of over 900 locals who died of the virus that stretched for miles along Belle Isle on September 2. The display was organized by Detroit Arts and Culture director Rochelle Riley.” More Here
MTA Arts & Design, Travels Far
“Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York honored its own with a video tribute featuring photographs of many of the over 100 employees who had died of coronavirus. It ran at stations throughout the subway system three times a day through February 7, and can still be viewed online. The memorial was conceived by MTA Arts & Design director Sandra Bloodworth, who created the artwork with Cheryl Hageman and Victoria Statsenko, and co-led by Andrew Wilcox. Gene Ribeiro and Gary Jenkins provided graphic support, with audio by composer Christopher Thompson, and a newly commissioned poem, “Travels Far,” by US poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.” More Here
Graham Ibbeson, Covid Memorial and tribute to key workers
“The UK town of Barnsley has tapped sculptor Graham Ibbeson to honor the efforts of essential workers during the pandemic with a new permanent monument that represents the way in which the entire community has been affected by the virus.” More Here
The few Covid-19 memorials listed above are only just scratching the surface as there are many, MANY more touching tributes out that exist. The pandemic affected the entire globe and still is affecting the world over a year later. So many of people needed a place for healing and introspection in order to process our personal and collective loss as well as honor and release those who have died. These tributes hope to move us all forward.
Please leave a comment if you know of another memorial or tribute that we can feature here, or include in a future post.