Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced Edmonton will being the process of commissioning a public monument to commemorate the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a ceremony on Saturday evening, Sohi said the city would work with the Edmonton Arts Council to select an artist to create a permanent public piece of art to remember those who lost their lives to the coronavirus and the collective challenges the pandemic presented.
No specific timeline or projected cost was presented, other than the project will be funded through the city’s public art reserve.
For the mayor, creating a monument represents the first step toward healing from the damage inflicted by the pandemic.
“Over the past two years, we all have been shouldering the weight of this pandemic,” Sohi said. “Many of us have been apart from those we love, and many have tragically lost loved ones.
“We have felt scared, worried, and angry. But, we have also never stopped being hopeful,” he added.
Sohi recognized the pandemic is still ongoing but said the monument would serve as a public acknowledgement of Edmonton’s “collective grief and loss” alongside the sacrifices of frontline and health-care workers.
“The grounding nature of public art will memorialize this difficult and trying chapter of our story,” he added.
Sanjay Shahani, Edmonton Arts Council executive director, said the organization would work with local artists and have them submit creative visions for what the monument would look like and the story it would tell.
“That’s what we do best,” Shahani said. “Is to give the freedom to the artist to imagine it.”
In addition to announcing the public monument, Sohi said the city would host a public vigil this summer to help Edmontonians grieve those who died during the pandemic and process the impact it had. No further details were offered on Saturday.
When asked about the divisiveness of the pandemic and if there would be concerns of vandalism once the monument is constructed, Sohi said the project would help people come together again as a community.
“We can agree or disagree on the restrictions or on the protections during COVID,” he said. “But we all know as a community that the last two years have been very difficult, and as a community, we need to come together to close that divide and bring people together.”
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