Two local artists have teamed up to create a memorial sculpture honoring Watsonville residents who have died of Covid-19, and are asking for the community to get involved.
Kathleen Crocetti and Monica Galvan have been working together for the past year after being selected by the City of Watsonville for the project. The sculpture is nearing completion and is scheduled to be installed in the upper portion of Struve Slough in late August.
The 8-by-4-foot-tall sculpture depicts a monarch butterfly. One side is a glass mosaic by Crocetti. The other side, created by Galvan, will be covered in ceramic candles and marigolds, which the artists hope will be put in place by residents who have lost loved ones to the virus.
Crocetti said the idea for the sculpture came thanks to input from people she knew at the Muzzio Mosaic Arts Center who lost friends and family to Covid-19. A handful of conversations stood out to her—including one with a high school student named Erik, who had lost two uncles and an aunt.
“I talked to them, asked them what the Covid memorial should look like,” she said. “They wanted it to be genuine … to shed light on the situation. They wanted it to be interactive in some way. And they wanted it to not just remember the lives lost, but also to not dwell on the past. It should be something uplifting. In their traditions, death is not necessarily the end. It’s a journey to something else.”
The symbol of the butterfly was chosen to represent transition, Crocetti said. When completed, people will be able to stand in front of the mosaic side, giving the illusion they have sprouted wings.
“I’m super excited about the placement,” she said. “It’s at the convergence of two paths at the slough … So you’ll stand in front of the butterfly, and the backdrop behind you will be the slough. It’s a beautiful location.”
Galvan’s ceramic side of the sculpture will also be interactive. She plans to have the marigolds, which were created separately from the piece itself, placed one by one by local residents at a special event on Aug. 27 (2-6pm) and 28 (12 noon-6pm).
“We’re looking for anyone who has lost someone to Covid, or been extremely affected by it, to come choose a flower, and place it on the butterfly where they want it to be,” Crocetti said. “Covid is a health issue, so of course, we don’t have access to a list of names of people who have died or been affected. So we’re relying on the community to spread the word about this.”
A website will also be launched where people can submit photographs, artwork, videos and stories of their loved ones, which will be archived along with images of the sculpture and a map for visitors to find it. People can start preparing to send them items now. They hope to launch the website soon.
Crocetti said she was glad to work on the project with Galvan, who is the founder of Arte Del Corazón, a group aiming to support local artists by, among other things, organizing open-air art markets and other events.
“I was really happy Monica took me up on my offer to partner with me,” she said. “I feel like my role as an artist in town, who has experience and privilege, is to elevate other artists. Partnering with an artist who hasn’t done a large-scale public art project is one way I can do that.”
According to the County of Santa Cruz, roughly 268 county residents have died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. South County was disproportionately impacted by the virus, as roughly 37% of the county’s known cases were reported in Watsonville, despite the city only making up 29% of the population.
This makes the memorial incredibly poignant for the county’s southernmost city, Crocetti said.
“I’m really grateful to the city for making this project happen,” Crocetti said. “It shows so much compassion on the part of our elected officials that they would think this is an important thing to do. Our city is a city with heart.”
Crocetti said that she, Galvan and everyone else involved hope that those who have lost someone or suffered greatly due to Covid-19 can find some solace from the memorial.
“When Erik was telling me what he wanted, he said he wanted this memorial to be a place of healing,” she said. “A place where you can let some of your sadness go.”