St. John’s University hosts gallery debut of Queens COVID Remembrance Day exhibit

The Queens Covid Remembrance Day Project will be showcased in the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery at St. John’s University. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s University)

St John’s University will host a new exhibition honoring the more than 8,600 Queens residents who perished during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queens COVID Remembrance Day Project, which held a poignant event at the Forest Park Bandshell in May, will move indoors to the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery on the university’s Jamaica campus, located at 8000 Utopia Pkwy., beginning Aug. 8.

“The Queens COVID Remembrance Day Project represents a community-based memorial for loved ones lost over the pandemic,” SJU M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery Director Dr. Owen Duffy, Ph.D. said. “It also is a powerful way to breathe life into those individual stories and serves as a visualization of the loss the borough has experienced. I am in awe of the work the QCRD committee has done to make sure the memory of so many Queens residents — our neighbors, friends and family — lives on.”

Photo courtesy of St. John’s University

Sixteen-year-old artist Hannah Ernst created “Faces of COVID Victims” after the loss of her grandfather to the virus. Her work has become an iconic symbol in the COVID-loss community, characterized by a striking silhouette in front of a yellow heart.

She has completed more than 1,600 of the portraits since last August and 270 of the pieces honoring Queens residents will be on display at St. John’s following an opening reception on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m. with remarks from Congresswoman Grace Meng.

“So many families in Queens continue to be devastated by the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19, and my heart still aches for them, and the pain they have gone through,” Meng said. “The Queens COVID Remembrance Day Project is a fitting way to honor them and commemorate the memories of those from our borough who passed away from this terrible virus. They and their families must not be forgotten, and this project will help ensure that they are remembered.”

(Photo by Dean Moses)

During the May 1 event in Forest Park, the portraits, each representing an individual’s life story with details unique to each of the lost: A favorite baseball cap, glasses or a carefully shaded salt-and-pepper beard.

The adorned the empty benches of the Forest Park Bandshell as a visual representation of the tremendous loss endured by the Queens community.

“As what was once the ‘epicenter of the epicenter’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, Queens has suffered a tremendous amount of pain and agony due to the loss of so many of our family members, friends and co-workers,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “This suffering has been born chiefly by the family members of those whom we have lost. This art exhibition sponsored by the Queens COVID Remembrance Committee will hopefully alleviate some of that suffering by allowing us to remember all the wonderful qualities of these loved ones who were taken from us far too soon because of this terrible disease. May these beautiful and special people never be forgotten.”

(Photo by Dean Moses)

The exhibit at St. John’s will be open to Queens families and the general public from Aug. 8 through Aug. 12 to continue to honor and celebrate the memory of all those lost to COVID-19.

For more information, visit the Yeh Art Gallery website.