SALINAS VALLEY — Salinas Valley Health and Healing Together hosted the Monterey County dedication of the Rose River Memorial art project to recognize the impact of Covid-19 and promote community healing.
The renowned Los Angeles artist who co-founded the national effort was one of the ceremony speakers.
“It’s very special for me to be here today with my family,” said Marcos Lutyens, international artist and co-founder of Rose River Memorial. “Salinas Valley Health is the first medical center to take a lead on an art installation and the result is a beautiful tapestry of people healing together from a global crisis.”
The March 6 dedication ceremony showcased a wall of more than 2,500 handmade red felt roses created by community members, including hundreds from residents in Soledad and Greenfield, and adhered to nets donated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
To date, the county has recorded 827 official deaths from the virus. The original goal was to make one rose for every life lost; however, the partnership with Healing Together and an outpouring of community interest far exceeded expectations.
The display honors those lives lost to Covid-19 in Monterey County as well as those forever changed.
Nadine Semer, MD, palliative care physician at Salinas Valley Health, spearheaded the local art installation as a way for people to channel the many emotions stemming from Covid-19. She praised Healing Together, Salinas Valley Health Service League volunteers and the many other nonprofits, schools, individuals, organizations and other area hospitals who embraced the project.
“Healthcare workers were on the frontlines of the crisis; however, so were many others,” Semer said. “The emotional impact of Covid-19 was experienced in every corner of our communities. Patients, families, business owners, school children and the list goes on. When you look at the devastating loss, isolation and financial hardships, it has been a difficult three years for all of us. The Rose River Memorial is a therapeutic outlet to recognize the impact and heal together.”
Maria Munoz, a Salinas Valley Health nurse, spoke emotionally at the memorial, pausing through tears as she remembered her father.
“I had a photo of my dad with me at the rose sessions and here today,” Munoz said. “I know he received the very best care, and yet Covid took his life. Like many families, the virus prevented us from having a large gathering to honor him. Participating in this project has helped me process my grief.”
In addition to the Rose River Memorial on public display at Salinas Valley Health, Semer wanted to create a traveling memorial, which can be used by nonprofits and other organizations throughout Monterey County. A mobile net and crab trap covered with red felt roses are considered roving displays and available upon request by emailing [email protected].
“When the coronavirus surfaced in early 2020, no one could have imagined how long the threat would last or the toll it would take,” said Pete Delgado, president/CEO of Salinas Valley Health. “I commend Dr. Semer for her personal and professional commitment to bring this project forward, culminating in this dedication.”
The public display at Salinas Valley Health is expected to remain visible from East Romie Lane in Salinas for several months before eventually going to Washington, D.C., to be a part of a larger national dedication planned by Lutyens and Rose River Memorial. More information can be found at www.roseriver.memorial.