The City of Watsonville selected local artists Kathleen Crocetti and Monica Galvan to create a sculpture honoring residents who have died of Covid. After a year, the sculpture is nearing completion and is scheduled to be installed in the upper portion of Struve Slough in late August. The artists are asking the community to get involved.
The sculpture stands more than eight feet tall and 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 says the idea for the piece came thanks to input from people she knew at the Muzzio Mosaic Arts Center who lost friends and family to Covid. 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 explains. “They wanted it to be genuine, to shed light on the situation. They wanted it to be interactive in some way. They wanted it not just to 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. When completed, people can stand in front of the mosaic side, giving the illusion they have sprouted wings.
“I’m super excited about the placement,” Crocetti says. “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, created separately, placed by locals at a special event on Aug. 27 (2-6pm) and Aug. 28 (noon-6pm).
“We’re looking for anyone who has lost someone to Covid or been extremely affected by it to choose a flower and place it on the butterfly where they want it to be,” Crocetti says. “We don’t have access to a list of people who have died or been affected. So, we’re relying on the community to spread the word about this.”
Soon, a website will also be launched where people can submit photographs, artwork, videos and stories of their loved ones, archived along with images of the sculpture and a map pinpointing its location. People can start preparing to send them items now.
Crocetti says 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 says. “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, making the memorial incredibly poignant for the county’s southernmost city. South County was disproportionately impacted by the virus, as approximately 37% of the county’s known cases were reported in Watsonville, despite the city only making up 29% of the population.
“I’m really grateful to the city for making this project happen,” Crocetti says. “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, Galvan and everyone else involved hope that those who have lost someone or suffered greatly due to Covid 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,” Crocetti says. “A place where you can let some of your sadness go.”