GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WOOD) – Wanting and floating in the breeze, thousands of pieces of paper bound in clear lines grace the trees outside the building that houses Lake Effect Church and Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church northwest of Grand Rapids.
They are weathergrams, a Japanese art form that typically features haiku on paper left outside. Instead of poems, these paper strips feature the names of people who died of COVID-19 or committed suicide during the pandemic.
Artist Donna Kemper came up with the idea for the installation and designed the handwriting for many of the weathergrams herself.
“Social media has been so toxic and there have been so many people who have denied that there is even a pandemic. There have been so many rude things posted, “she said.” I just spent time in prayer and said, ‘What can I do?’ “
Kemper wanted to represent every person who died from COVID-19 and came up with the idea of the weathergrams.
“People say you’ll get over the pain, but you don’t. Change and age, but it will always be with you. The concept was to remember every lost person because he represents a family, friends, a community. Our nation is in mourning and hasn’t really had a chance to deal with it. “
Kemper still has people calling her, asking her if the installation is done because they want to add names to it. Other artists also presented many of the paper strips.
The United States hit the milestone of one million deaths from COVID-19 earlier this year. While Kemper doesn’t have a million pieces of paper, it has nearly 2,000.
“Seeing it actually up and spinning in the wind is even better than I imagined. I hope people reconsider the idea that it wasn’t a big deal to see each piece of paper visually will affect people by seeing something more visual, rather than just stats and numbers. “
Jack Systema is the pastor of Lake Effect Church and helped Kemper install the paper threads on the outside. Its congregations share the building with the congregation of the Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church.
Rev. Zacharia Char leads that church and also supported the project.
“I feel this is really good. This can be a special prayer that can involve everyone walking around and having a moment of silence or a moment of prayer about someone we have lost. The million people we’ve lost here in America, ”Char said.
The installation is located outside the church building at 1550 Oswego St. NW in Grand Rapids.
Kemper and the pastors will hold a prayer service to dedicate the installation Wednesday at 6pm. It is open to the public.