Artist Creates ‘Iowa COVID Memorial’ From 7,550 Origami Cranes

Statewide Iowa — A colorful, intricate art installation is on display in the Des Moines metro area that features more than seven-thousand-500 origami cranes, each representing an Iowan who died of COVID-19.

Artist Pam Douglas, of Clive, folded each of the paper cranes by hand and has assembled them in a 12-by-27 foot curtain along with 36 mobiles that will be suspended from the ceiling.

Many of the cranes carry the hand-written names of Iowans who’ve died from the virus and Douglas is diligently working to add more cranes and names to the installation as more victims are reported about a hundred every week.

The exhibit has been displayed in several Iowa locations already and Douglas transports it inside more than a hundred cardboard banker’s boxes. While she usually creates paintings or drawings, she says the isolation of the pandemic inspired her to turn to the thousand-year-old Japanese art of paper folding.

She’s had plenty of practice and Douglas says she can now fold a crane in less than two minutes. A victim of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima began a tradition of folding paper cranes to encourage healing and hope. While Douglas counts herself as very fortunate that she hasn’t lost any immediate family members or friends to coronavirus, she does have a few relatives who work in the medical profession.

The exhibit has already been on display at Sacred Heart Church in West Des Moines and it also spent several months at Reiman Gardens in Ames. It was unveiled at 11 am Monday in the Student Center on the Ankeny Campus of Des Moines Area Community College. While a stint is planned at Loras College in Dubuque next summer, Douglas says she’s looking for other Iowa venues where the installation can be displayed, and hopefully, bring healing.