Folding Cranes / Enfolding Community
Since September 2020, I have folded a majority of the more than 6400 cranes, to represent each Iowan who has passed away due to COVID-19. The pandemic, as an unfortunate universal experience, is among the greatest global health challenges of our time. Many of the victims have died without their families at their side because of the risk of contracting the illness. The thought of a loved one dying alone creates an added dimension to the grief.
Incorporating a variety of colorful papers, each crane lovingly, embraces the memory of an Iowan who tragically experienced death at the hands of this crisis. Where names are known, they are handwritten on the cranes.
This memorial is currently scheduled to be shared in a number of locations across Iowa. Please see our Calendar of Events by clicking on the button below.
I felt a profound call to address this collective loss--both tangible and emotional--through creativity, choosing to make origami cranes, inspired by an earlier sculpture I have incorporated into All Saints Day and All Souls Day at our church each year. I wanted to convey that these Iowa deaths were not just a statistic–they were people who loved and were loved.
I chose the crane for this memorial because of the bird, with its broad wingspan, carries significant symbolism in may cultures. A victim of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 began the tradition of paper crane folding to encourage healing and hope.
How It Evolved
I spent my time of "isolation" folding origami cranes, one by one, as the pandemic evolved. When the number of deaths escalated, a 6th grader and another adult stepped up to help with crane production.
The dynamic, organic sculpture grew to cover two 15-foot by 5-foot spaces at Sacred Heart Church in West Des Moines, Iowa. It continued to grow to cover additional large banner-style displays on additional sanctuary walls.
It's been a place of quiet reflection and public prayer services as each crane commemorates a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker. I will continue folding cranes in honor of any future COVID-related deaths.
Many people have shared comments about their experiencing the memorial. The beauty of the collection of cranes and the memorial's sheer size seems to have made a very "loving" impact on them or has brought a little joy into their journey toward healing.
Upon reflecting on these experiences and what the future could be for the memorial and without politicizing the installation, I began seeking to have it become a traveling exhibit. I am sharing this experience while adding interactive demonstrations (such as making cranes or other origami objects), a time of silence aligned with the number of Iowa deaths/inner-denomination prayer service and/or an artist presentation, etc.
The goal is to create an opportunity for reflection and a sense of community over Iowa's pandemic experience in this historic phenomenon called COVID.