NYC Museum Honors Those Lost to COVID-19 in City’s Only Living Memorial

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • November 23, 2020

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Andrea Arroyo, “CoVIDA: Homage to Victims of the Pandemic,” Mixed media, vinyl, flowers, ribbons, papel picado, Morris-Jumel Mansion at Roger Morris Park, 2020. Photo: Bruce Katz

The Morris-Jumel Mansion opened a new, outdoor public art installation, CoVIDA - Homage to Victims of the Pandemic, this month. The living memorial will be on view at Manhattan’s Roger Morris Park until December 31, 2020. As an artistic tribute to the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, CoVIDA honors the people who have passed away from the virus, acknowledges the resilience of our community, and recognizes the courage of essential workers still on the front lines. 

CoVIDA is created by internationally-recognized artist Andrea Arroyo, who lives a few blocks from the museum in Washington Heights. The title combines the word “COVID” with vida, meaning “life” in Spanish. Inspired by a range of traditional memorials from across the globe, Arroyo combines multiple elements including stylized winged figures, used in various cultures to represent the universal concept of freedom; the silhouette of the cityscape which celebrates the healing of our city; flower garlands in the traditional cempasúchitl color of Latin America’s Day of the Dead; papel picado; and adornments that evoke traditional memorial ribbons, wish trees, prayer flags and altars. Ribbons incorporated into the piece feature names of pandemic victims, submitted by the public for inclusion in the living memorial, which will continue to  expand, as more names are received.

Andrea Arroyo, “CoVIDA: Homage to Victims of the Pandemic,” Mixed media, vinyl, flowers, ribbons, papel picado, Morris-Jumel Mansion at Roger Morris Park, 2020. Photo: Bruce Katz

The Morris-Jumel Mansion will install CoVIDA on the gates and fence of the museum’s grounds - the original site of the historic 1765 home and Manhattan’s oldest surviving residence. Shiloh Holley, Executive Director at Morris-Jumel Mansion, relays that this property and its former inhabitants have witnessed and withstood other national trials and tragedies for centuries, ranging from displacement, wars, financial crashes, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and the present day COVID-19 crisis. “The grounds of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which formerly comprised 130 acres, is a fitting place to display CoVIDA - Homage to Victims of the Pandemic, as a testimony to the resilience of the people of New York City to survive and surmount tragedy and sorrow.”

The CoVIDA project acknowledges the impact of the pandemic and creates a safe opportunity for community engagement, as well as a space for reflection and intersectional conversations. To date, over 500 names have been added to the memorial by public submission including at the Community Day of Reflection. So far, the ribbons on display include names of people in the community, around the country, as well as from Mexico, Turkey and France. 

The neighborhood of Washington Heights, like other regions of the country, has been devastated by COVID-19. “Due to quarantines and strict social distancing guidelines, people have not been able to come together to grieve as a community, to be with loved ones as they passed, or bear witness to the scale of this tragedy across the country,” said artist Andrea Arroyo. “In addition to acknowledging our cultural heritage and the land of the Lenape Nation that we stand on today, CoVIDA acknowledges that life continues during the pandemic, and while we reflect on the devastating loss of life, we look to the future with hope, and celebrate the life that is here and now.”

Andrea Arroyo, “CoVIDA: Homage to Victims of the Pandemic.”

The piece features an important public participation element, and individuals are invited to submit names in person and virtually of loved ones lost to the pandemic throughout the run of the exhibition. Submissions can be made on-site at the Morris-Jumel Mansion and on the grounds of Roger Morris Park, at community satellite locations, and virtually by filling out a form located at morrisjumel.org/covida.

Morris-Jumel Mansion (1765) is the oldest remaining house in Manhattan, a historic site that has witnessed the evolution of Uptown from rural countryside to a dynamic multicultural community. Through historic site tours and education programs, the museum places the building, its surroundings, and collections within the context of the evolution of American Life. Morris-Jumel Mansion seeks to serve as a cultural resource for New Yorkers, national tourists, and international visitors. The Mansion has a long-standing relationship with contemporary art and has showcased the work of both local and internationally-known artists, such as Yinka Shonibare, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Talia Greene, Felipe Galindo, Rachel Sydlowski, and others both in the Mansion and on the grounds of Roger Morris Park. 

Andrea Arroyo’s work examines social justice themes, including immigration, gender and race discrimination, and the environmental crisis, with a special focus on their disproportional impact on women. Currently she is examining the impact of the pandemic on Black and Latinx communities, as well as the dynamics of immigration in New York City. Arroyo is an award-winning artist who has exhibited widely. Her work is in private and public collections around the world (including The Library of Congress and The Smithsonian Institution). She has received both local and international recognition with extensive press coverage in over two hundred features in the international media. Publications include The New Yorker (cover art), The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Nation. For more information visit www.andreaarroyo.com.


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