Folding Cranes / Enfolding Community
Since September 2020, artist Pamela S. Douglas has folded a majority of the nearly 10,700 cranes, to represent each Iowan who has passed away due to COVID. The pandemic, as an unfortunate universal experience, is among the greatest global heath 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 died from COVID. 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.
Douglas felt a profound call to address our collective loss––both tangible and emotional––through creativity, choosing to recognize our collective grief and desire to honor the victims of the pandemic.
The artist wanted to convey that COVID deaths were not just a statistic––they are people who loved and are loved.
The crane was chosen for this memorial to incorporate the globally-recognized tradition of paper crane folding as an act of love to encourage healing and hope.
How It Evolved
Douglas spent her time “sheltering in place” folding origami cranes, one by one, as the pandemic evolved. When the number of deaths escalated in 2021, two volunteers stepped up to help with crane production.
The dynamic, organic sculpture began as two 4x10-foot banners (1,500 cranes) at Sacred Heart Church in West Des Moines, Iowa for its annual All Saints––All Souls Day celebration in 2020. The sculpture continued to grow through 2021, 2022 and 2023 and now the massive installation includes over 10,700 cranes.
The beauty of the memorial and its sheer size seems to have a “loving” effect both in visitors’ grieving and honoring the victims of COVID. Upon reflecting on visitors’ stories and what the future holds for the memorial, Douglas began seeking hosts for a traveling exhibit.
This experience will be shared with interactive demonstrations, community engagement events and an artist’s presentation.
The goals of the traveling exhibit are to create an exhibit that:
-embodies a globally-recognized symbol for hope and healing;
-transforms space into a place for individual and collective reflection;
-expresses our sense of community as Iowans experience this historic phenomenon called COVID;
-affects our need to recognize and express our collective grief in order to heal emotionally;-offers a visible gesture of solidarity through a memorial; and
-is a tangible, positive influence on the grieving and healing processes for those experiencing loss due to COVID.