As the United States begins to emerge from this very long struggle of coping with the weight of the pandemic, the impact of those lost to COVID is vast. Grief and remembrance take many forms.
Over 1,000 medical providers lost their lives to COVID-19 while saving lives of their fellow citizens.
Moved by these sacrifices, Susannah Perlman, a veteran of exhibiting art using digital technologies through her ArtHouse.NYC, is honoring them with the Art Hero Project, where an artist working with the family creates a portrait that represents their loved one.
In homage to those lost and creating a form of memorial for their families, on a beautiful spring afternoon this past weekend, the portraits of healthcare providers lost to COVID screened in Chelsea’s Big Screen Plaza behind The Klimpton Hotel. This is a fitting tribute during what is also National Public Health Week.
Family members have already received the original painting. On-site, they received a small-framed copy, which many held during the afternoon projection.
“It becomes a leap of faith for them to come onboard,” says Perlman.
Families choose from a series of artist samples the particular artist to do the portrait; that’s when they begin to realize the sincerity of the project.
Those memorized and honored with the Art Hero Project are nurses and doctors of many different specialties, a radiological technologist, a respiratory therapist, and an EMS worker. A great many are foreign born.
They provided their service of medical care from the New York metro area as well as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes nationwide— from Florida to California, from Louisiana to Vermont.
“Once the portrait is complete, they have been truly grateful and appreciate that the unique character of their loved one has been captured in a timeless work of art,” says Perlman.
Being involved in this process of remembrance affects family members in different ways. It wasn’t so easy for the son of Quen Agbor Ako, a nursing home Registered Nurse who spoke of the stress of the last year since he lost his mother. One daughter of a Jamaica Hospital Medical Center doctor couldn’t bring herself to attend this remembrance while her mother with other siblings, present at the outdoor projection, was extremely grateful for being part of the project.
For families who have not been able to have traditional funerals this experience, with the outdoor exhibition honoring their loved one’s memory helps offer a much needed meaningful recognition of their heroism.
Artists with various realistic styles formed the creative pool from which families chose the painter to portray their loved one. The results are very personal, artistic representations, capturing the loved one’s essence.
In New York City, 20 Hero portraits from the Tri-State area were also part of the digital display on the LinkNYC kiosks (public wifi-fi and device charging stations).
Ballyhoo Media Boats in Miami projected portraits of the healthcare provider from Florida, the South, and the Midwest. And in Las Vegas and Southern California nurses were honored on billboards, sponsored by Bonnie Fang Foundation with Lamar Advertising Co.
Additionally, earlier this month in a continuous projection, framed backlit images exhibited the Hero Art Project in windows on 8th St.