Stella Yu and Sammy Lee know the power of an image. That’s why the two Denver artists have asked the community to contribute photos for a project called COVID Walls, which honors those who have suffered during the pandemic and reminds leaders that finding solutions to COVID needs to remain the top priority.
COVID Walls began in August with a display on a wall outside the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. The art project invites locals to come paste a photo of a loved one who has died from COVID, lost their job or business; fought the illness and survived, or helped others during the pandemic while serving as a frontline worker.
So far, the project has already collected dozens of photos and continues to gain traction. Some hear about the wall through friends while others, like Christina Campbell and Juan Dominguez, hear about it through social media.
The couple added a photo of Dominguez’s father, Gil, to the wall. Gil passed away this summer after being hospitalized for COVID-19 in May. While the couple was able to hold a memorial service with limited capacity, they said the wall is another cathartic way to remember Gil’s life.
“It’s a good way to honor him and it spreads awareness,” Campbell said. “It’s important to know (the COVID patients) are real people with real families and they had lives.” The wall is also an important reminder to others, Dominguez said.
“COVID is real. It can take anyone,” he said. “Don’t underestimate it.”
Anyone can add a photo of their loved one free of charge. The photo should be black-and-white and either 8.5 by 11 inches, or 11 by 17 inches. Locals can print off their own photos and visit RedLine to add the photo to the wall personally, or they can email the organizers, who will put up the photo for them. The organizers can be reached at [email protected]
And for those who want to see the COVID Walls display, Yu said they can either visit RedLine or they can get a clear view of the wall while passing by on 24th Street.
As far as Yu knows, no one else in the world is doing anything identical to COVID walls, though she said she and Lee were inspired by similar COVID-related projects across the country, many of which have been digital.
The organizers hope COVID Walls will inspire others locally and nationwide to post their photos somewhere — and that can be anywhere, Yu said, from the RedLine display to a garage door to a street corner. She added that it’s important to make sure you have permission to put up a photo on a property before doing so.
“People could not have memorials because they could not together. This is a way of acknowledging those we’ve lost,” she said, “and seeing their faces wherever we go.”
To add a photo is free but must be black-and-white and either 8.5 by 11 inches, or 11 by 17 inches. The organizers can be reached at [email protected] It can be viewed at Redline Gallery and it is located at 2350 Arapahoe St., Denver.