Remembering Loss at Bergamot Station
Evelyn Tucker | The Corsair
March 17, 2021
Building Bridges Art Exchange at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica is hosting an installation to commemorate those lost to COVID-19 in West LA. It consists of felt roses contributed by members of the community, one for each life lost.
Experiential artist Marcos Lutyens, created this "Rose River Memorial" as a tribute that offers a visual representation of the vast death toll. “This is a project of recognition, of being able to channel grief,” continued Lutyens, “but also recognition of something that wasn’t recognized for a year.”
The art installation provides a meditative space that integrates the scent of roses and soothing music composed by Yuval Ron. “This installation is pure healing for the community,” said curator and founder of Building Bridges International Art Foundation, Marisa Caichiolo.
At Lutyen’s request, Caichiolio became a “godmother” of the project and immediately submitted a grant proposal to the Santa Monica Cultural Affairs’ Art of Recovery program. The initiative was launched in November of 2020 as part of the City of Santa Monica’s Economic Recovery Task Force to support public art that focuses on public health and safety, community connectedness and restorative justice, and funding displaced artists.
The project is a crowdsourcing campaign that invites the community to make roses either at home or during a visit to the installation. A partnership with Kiwanis Family Clubs, an international service organization, has resulted with students and their families in the San Gabriel Valley sending in hundreds of handmade roses as a part of their community service project.
“By making something you feel like you’re doing something physical, tangible, like you’re actually in control,” said Lutyens
The project offers the time and space to reflect on the impact of this pandemic. “Everybody lost something, they lost jobs, they lost homes, they lost hope,” said Caichiolo of this opportunity to collectively grieve. “I think this installation is part of recovery.”
People have included names, messages, or added a personal touch to the roses they’ve contributed. Marisa remembers how the family of Dr. Payman Simoni attached a rock to their rose, to simulate their culture’s tradition of leaving a stone of remembrance on a gravesite. “It’s been incredible, powerful, to see how important the art is for healing the communities and especially right now it's mandatory,” said Caichiolo.
In collaboration with organizations Let’s Reimagine, Marked By COVID, and The Friday Minute, the project held a virtual vigil on Monday, March 1, as a national day of remembrance. These groups have joined a collective effort calling on government officials to establish a National COVID Memorial Day. So far 170 mayors have shown support to proclaim the first Monday in March a holiday which will honor all of the American lives lost.
Along with the installation at Bergamot Station, the "Rose River Memorial" includes installations at the Orange County Museum of Art, UMSL Millennium Student Center in St. Louis, and a traveling refrigeration truck in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The goal is to combine all the panels, each containing hundreds of roses, to create one giant art installation in Washington D.C. in 2022.
The exhibition is free and open to the public by appointment only. An event is planned for Thursday, March 25, to move the installation to the parking lot of Bergamot Station. Caichiolo hopes city officials will attend and plans are being made to hold a small outdoor gathering that conforms with COVID regulations as well as a virtual stream of the event. Details for the hybrid in-person and virtual event will be announced soon.