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COVID Memorial Quilt exhibit inspires hope and healing at the Armory Art Center

Madeline Fugate sewing the memorial squares into the Covid Memorial Quilt. Photo by COVID Memorial Quilt

The world has experienced continuous grief the past two years from COVID-19. Madeline Fugate, a 14-year-old high school student, strives to bring healing and peace to those whose loved ones have died from COVID.

Inspired by a past project by her mother to make a quilt honoring friends who died of AIDS, Madeline launched the Covid Memorial Quilt.

“My mom’s making of her quilt really helped her and the community come together through that difficult time, and it turned out to be really healing for her, almost magical. So, I looked at her and said, ‘Why don’t we just do that again, a COVID quilt?’ And that’s how it was born.”

Friends and family members can submit their own square designs to be added to the quilt. Every step of the process holds significance, starting with the dimensions of each square: 8 by 8 inches, chosen because an eight on its side is the symbol of infinity.

Eight “is a flow of energy — a sign of life,” the project’s website says “The Covid Memorial Quilt is a living memorial to remember all who have died. May they never be forgotten.”

Photo by COVID Memorial Quilt

Madeline acknowledges the endless grieving since the outbreak of COVID-19 and understands that the process of grief continues throughout a survivor’s life. Madeline’s main goal with the quilt is to help people heal while giving COVID’s victims a proper remembrance.

“A lot of times when you Google or see on the news ‘COVID deaths,’ they are only talking about numbers. They very rarely say people. Even on Google, there’s no mention of people; only a number pops up. … It can really be dehumanizing for them,” Madeline said.

Each family can submit a design for a quilt square or write a detailed portrayal of the loved one so that Madeline and her team can create the square.

Madeline has taken many personal stories to heart. One family submitted a snippet of a man’s shirt pocket with his business cards inside. The family explained that he always wore shirts with pockets so he could carry business cards to give to acquaintances.

“It was really sweet to see. It was almost like having that physical representation allowed you to see him actually doing it,” Madeline said.

A healing practice when navigating grief is to remember a loved one’s habits and celebrate them through practices of remembrance. Remembering how that person lived can offer peace amid the pain that the person is gone.

Madeline said she is certain of two things: The project will go on as long as people submit squares, and her calling in life is art. “As for now, I really want to get all of these people remembered, so I am putting all of my focus on that.”

Panels of the COVID Memorial quilt are currently on exhibit within various parts of the country, including California, Nebraska, and West Palm Beach. The Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach will feature more panels than any other exhibition in the United States. It is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

To learn more, or to submit a square for the quilt, visit the COVID Memorial Quilt website.


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