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Artists Salvatore Pirrone and Miriam Gusevich have been selected to design Fairfax County’s COVID-19 memorial (courtesy ArtsFairfax)

Fairfax County is envisioning its forthcoming COVID-19 memorial as a space for reflection — something that’s been difficult to come by since the pandemic upended life temporarily for some and more permanently for others.

The concept comes from artists Miriam Gusevich and Salvatore Pirrone, who have been chosen to design and build the memorial, ArtsFairfax announced Monday (Aug. 21).

“We need memorial spaces and artworks to help us appreciate the bonds we share as human beings,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said. “With such artworks, engagement invites us to learn from our pain and redouble our efforts to lift up each other every day, not just in emergencies.”

A nonprofit designated as the county’s official arts agency, ArtsFairfax and the Fairfax County Arts Committee selected Gusevich and Pirrone unanimously after putting out an open call for artists earlier this year.

According to ArtsFairfax, the pair proposed “a tall and slender memorial” called “Circles of Memory” that will “protect a contemplative space” in honor of local residents who have died from COVID-19, along with the health care workers, first responders and others involved in the county’s emergency response.

The memorial will be installed in front of the county’s Public Safety Headquarters and Herrity Building at 12055 Government Center Parkway.

“The monument will be comprised of a 27-foot tall hollow concrete cone, divided by a break in the center and topped with an oculus from which to view the sky. Visitors will be invited to sit inside the structure and on the surrounding benches,” ArtsFairfax said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff in February 2022 to start planning for a memorial that will symbolize the pandemic’s impact on the local community.

Since then, Covid has ceased to be designated as an official public health emergency both locally and nationally, but the disease continues to spread, albeit at lower levels of severity than in previous years. As of yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District had recorded 273,842 cases, 5,403 hospitalizations and 1,794 deaths, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The county’s memorial will create a communal space for visitors to acknowledge those losses.

“We hope to provide an environment that will bring people together,” Pirrone said. “The memorial strives to be a place of reverence for the lives lost and the people who honor them.”

The design will be finalized after the artists conduct a full site review, according to ArtsFairfax Director of Communications Allison Mui.

The agency says the project will take “several months to complete,” including opportunities for members of the public to meet the artists, discuss the design concepts and “share experiences.”

“Art does not cure, yet it can help us heal. Creativity can offer renewal; through it we can nurture faith in the future,” Gusevich said.

Here’s more on Gusevich and Pirrone from the press release: Read More

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An FCPS employee gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at an Inova clinic in January 2021 (photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools)

Fairfax County is looking for artists to contribute to a COVID-19 memorial.

The project is spearheaded by ArtsFairfax, the county’s official arts agency, after planning started nearly a year ago.

“The selected artist/team will design, fabricate, and install a permanent work of art that will commemorate the suffering of people in the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the heroism of the people who responded to the emergency,” ArtsFairfax said in an email.

The memorial commemorates the approximately 1,743 deaths from Covid in the Fairfax Health District, where there have been approximately 264,451 cases. The district includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

“This scale of disease and its impact to the communities of Fairfax County, as well as the impact to a County workforce that responded to the public health emergency, are worthy of memorialization,” ArtsFairfax said in a release. “The County has identified a location for a significant public artwork that will commemorate the suffering of people in the pandemic as well as the heroism of the people who responded to the emergency.”

The memorial will be located at the center of the plaza at 12055 Government Center Parkway.

The application is open to all artists living and working in the area — meaning anywhere between Richmond and Baltimore, according to the release — and eligible to work in the U.S.

A $200,000 artist fee includes design, materials, fabrication, insurance, travel, packing, shipping, installation and a maintenance plan for the artwork, the release said.

Admission opened on Jan. 23. An online information session is scheduled for Wednesday (Feb. 1) at 3 p.m. The application deadline is April 12.

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A memorial for the late 19-year-old Virginia Tech student Mary Read has been relocated and enhanced with greenery.

The Annandale resident was one of 32 people killed on April 16, 2007, in the shooting at the university.

A rededication event will take place in Canterbury Woods Park (5018 Wakefield Chapel Road) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 16) — 15 years after the attack.

“This was her park,” said Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who spoke with the family this week. “So it was important to them that the memorial stay in this park.”

The site near Braddock Road that the memorial had occupied for over a decade frequently flooded. County staff worked with Read’s family and local advocates to find a “more appropriate and accessible” spot in the park, according to a statement from Walkinshaw.

“Over time, the flooding down there has gotten worse and worse — to the point it’s submerged much of the time,” Walkinshaw said Tuesday (April 12) during a board meeting.

Earlier this week, a crew relocated the existing bench and plaque to their new spot, which is by the parking lot at a higher elevation.

“The Read family [is] really excited for this and appreciative of the community’s efforts to make this happen,” Walkinshaw said, adding that the community’s efforts will ensure Read’s memory is respected and treated with the dignity that it deserves.

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