‘More together than apart’

Public submissions being accepted for Americas COVID-19 Memorial

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The Americas make up about 13% of the world’s population. Yet, as of April, nearly 50% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in the Americas.

So the Biennial of the Americas got to thinking: “how can people memorialize the 1.4 million deaths in our hemisphere,” said FloraJane DiRienzo, deputy director of the Biennial of the Americas.

Thus, the idea for the Americas COVID-19 Memorial came to be.

“The Americas COVID-19 Memorial seeks to create a space to come together in our individual and collective grief and healing processes, providing an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of a global pandemic through art,” DiRienzo said. “We hope that many members of the public will submit artworks, conveying varied experiences and insights from across the Americas.”

The Biennial of the Americas is a Denver-based nonprofit that got its start in 2010. It exists to “enhance, celebrate and discover the cultural and economic connections between” the Americas, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, states its website.

“We’ve all been affected (by the pandemic) in some way,” DiRienzo said. “As our world becomes more global, we have to look beyond our backyard.”

The Americas COVID-19 Memorial was announced in early March and entails a multi-month project, culminating this summer with an online exhibition that will be publicly accessible. Currently, the Biennial of the Americas is seeking artwork submitted by the public to be included in the memorial. The open call for public submissions will close at the end of May.

There is no prerequisite of being an established or professional artist — meaning anyone is welcome to submit a piece of original art. Individuals or collaborative groups of any age or nationality, who reside within the boundaries of the Americas are invited to submit artworks.

All art forms are accepted — including written word, photographs, paintings and drawings, for example — as well as all mediums, though it must be in a digital format. For example, a sculpture is welcome, but to be included in the online exhibit, a digital photograph of it should be submitted. Artwork may be accompanied by a 300-word narrative describing the work and any details about inspiration, materials used or additional context, though not required.

Submissions should focus on how the artistic imagination conceives a memorial to a contemporary tragedy that transcends national borders.

“There is a larger community that went through similar things, and different things (during the pandemic). Everybody’s perspective is valid,” said local artist Derrick Velasquez who is an exhibition organizer for the memorial. Velasquez is co-curating the memorial with Maria Paz Gaviria, who is based in Bogotá, Colombia. “Artists are the lenses through which we can make sense of the world in a cultural way.”

Along with the public submissions, the Americas COVID-19 Memorial will feature the work of 20 commissioned artists who will be announced in May.

The online exhibition will launch mid-June, which is when public voting begins. The public will be able to vote for their favorite artwork — both the public submissions and that of the commissioned artists. The voting period will close in July, and awards will be announced in August.

DiRienzo hopes the Americas COVID-19 Memorial will serve as a space for both healing and unity, she said.

“Oftentimes, we don’t think about how similar we all are in the Americas,” DiRienzo said. “This is another opportunity to highlight how we are more alike than different, and more together than apart.”

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