Mural 'In Memory Of' pandemic deaths unveiled at Mission Manor Park

A mural commemorating the lives of people who died during the COVID-19 pandemic was unveiled in Mission Manor Park on Sunday.

The memorial is dedicated to South Side residents who died from coronavirus or other diseases during the pandemic.

The lead artists for the “In Memory Of” project are Alex! Jimenez and Paloma Jacqueline. It features nearly 200 blue clay tiles embossed with the names of the deceased. Each tile was handmade by volunteering artists and Jimenez said the workshop days provided space for the volunteers to sit with their grief.

“We all can connect through grief and loss,” Jimenez said. “It’s a part of life in some ways but COVID really interrupted that for people.”

The project took two years to complete, Jimenez said. The artists and the volunteers began working together in spring 2023. Glazing and finishing up the tiles took months to complete.

“Just hearing how people were affected by it, I think, was really moving and also just hearing how people were able to channel grief by using their hands as an artistic practice and they were surprised by what they were able to make,” Jimenez said. “A lot of people shy away from making art because they feel they don’t really know how and clay is a very approachable medium. It was nice to see that people felt proud of the thing that they made at the end.”

There was a candle lighting and name reading, along with music by Sunnyside High School’s Los Diablitos as about 30 people attended the unveiling at Mission Manor Park, 6100 S. 12th Ave.

Jacqueline said it was amazing to see the turnout at the event after the work and effort that went into the installation.

“You’re here as an artist, you’re by yourself or working with volunteers with rain or wind or heat,” Jacqueline said. “But people showed up and we now have this huge community and that’s beautiful.”

Jacqueline’s father died during the pandemic.

“I was able to really work through a lot of what I was dealing with y sharing my skills and my love for clay with others,” Jacqueline said. “You know, giving people space just to grieve, to cry, to talk, to be open, to learn something new – that really helped me get through my own stuff.”

One of the attendees was Dominica Dominguez. She participated in the making of the memorial and her mother’s name — Lupe Urias Dominguez — is carved in blue clay.

“It’s an honor to have the memorial,” Dominguez said. “So many have been affected by COVID and as time passes, the number will be forgotten, you know? And because people are in their daily lives, this is a great remembrance and it’s beautiful.”