Artists create portraits to honor those who died of Covid

As of this week, 465 residents of the three Northern Kentucky counties have died from Covid-19, and the death toll is still growing.

As a way to remember and honor some of those who have died, Christian Schmit, a sculptor by trade and a programmer at the Kenton County Public Library, was moved to use art to keep their memories alive.

Schmit dialed up his contacts in the local art world to find artists to produce portraits of people lost to the disease. Using photos provided by family members or friends, the artists drew or painted portraits of the deceased. The results have been on display at the library’s William E. Durr Branch in Independence.

“I’ve been calling it the transformative, healing power of art,” says Dave Schroeder, the library’s executive director. “Art is a healing process.”

Twenty-four families were selected for the project, and they were paired with 20 artists, including noted Cincinnati portrait artist Carl Samson, painter Ellina Chetverikova, and Schmit.

As they were completed, the portraits were displayed in groups of five on the library’s Facebook and Instagram pages. They were then collected and displayed in a quiet lounge area at the Durr Branch.

Accompanying each piece is a short biography or memory of the family’s lost loved one. After the display comes down, a family member or other loved one will be presented with their portrait, Schroeder says.

The project was done at no cost to the families, and the artists received a small stipend for their work.

The artistic representations are more powerful than a collection of photographs, Schroeder says.

“A piece of art depicting that person has another level of meaning because it’s been filtered through the eyes and the spirit of the artist,” he says. “There’s a creative aspect to it that goes beyond a simple photograph.”

The display can be seen at the Durr Branch, 1992 Walton Nicholson Road, Independence,  through Aug. 6, and after that on the project’s website.

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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.