How do you memorialize those that lost their lives to Covid-19 in a thoughtful and prideful way that captures who they were, even while the pandemic rages on? That was among the challenges we faced in creating and mounting ‘Forever Essential’, commissioned for our client SEIU UHW. Designed to be a ‘portable pop-up’ exhibit that could travel to multiple locations across the state of California, the attention to materials, power sourcing, and transportation (the physicality of it all), in addition to the careful work on artistic expression and design were incredibly important to consider.
IT STARTS WITH RESEARCH AND IDEATION
For us, the final product you usually see is based on a wide range of concepts developed for a particular project during our ideation and research phase. This endeavor was no different. We reviewed numerous well known and large scale memorials, from various 9/11 memorial exhibits to tributes to victims of mass shootings, and then looked at the various ways these memorials took shape, which was everything from sculptures to billboards to murals to t-shirts. We also looked at ways to memorialize one person, and then ways to memorialize an aggregate number of people in the same context. Working with the UHW team we finally landed on the towers as a way of illuminating these lives, figuratively and literally.
MAKING IT BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING
Top: Fully printed tower panels before assembly; Middle Left—Light bars; Middle Right: Assembled & lit towers; Bottom: Timelapse of tower fabrication & assembly
Knowing we wanted to utilize custom portraits of essential workers who passed away due to COVID-19, we consulted with a number of artists to arrive at a style to draw them. The portraits would then be printed on large panels for the towers, adorned with colorful backgrounds and remembrances of the person from loved ones. We iterated over a number of color combinations for the tower panels, and landed on the two tone color washed background that you can see below. The towers themselves were designed to be seen both day and night. LED lights, powered by a battery & solar panels, were lined on the inside of each tower to create a glowing effect at night.
Installation was scheduled for December 2020, with programming plans on the steps of the Capitol. Unfortunately, COVID cases rose in December, causing more restrictions in public places, so this installation was postponed until an undetermined date.
THE UNVEILING OF ‘FOREVER ESSENTIAL
Fast Forward to June 2021, after watching Covid spread even further through California, the number of healthcare workers who have died due to Covid-19 has no doubt increased since the inception of this project. When we heard that a memorial event would take place on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, we quickly assembled a team to document the installation so we could share with you all the final product of many months of research and work. Watch news coverage of the event here. Not only was it important to document our hard work coming to pass, we feel that it was extremely important that people know the stories of essential workers who have lost their lives trying to serve, and save, others.