CHILLICOTHE, Ohio— Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director (ODNR) Mary Mertz today unveiled a new memorial honoring the victims and survivors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the Storm, a mixed-media sculpture designed and created by Ohio artist Kevin Lyles, is now on permanent display at the COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove at Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe.
“This sculpture is a meaningful addition to the memorial grove at Great Seal State Park,” said Governor DeWine. “After the Storm represents the memory of loved ones lost, the strength of survivors, and the courage of those who faced – and are still facing – the impacts of the pandemic.”
Governor DeWine and Director Mertz dedicated the COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove to the heroes and victims of the pandemic in April 2021. The grove was designed by ODNR to provide a peaceful place of solitude for visitors to remember and reflect on the pandemic.
The sculpture, which stands 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide, reflects the natural characteristics of Great Seal State Park’s hilly landscape. Its foundation is a stainless-steel grid cage filled with locally sourced glacial rock. Its curved lines follow the hollows and ravines of the area, like the park’s trail system.
“The peace and serenity often found in nature have been beautifully depicted in the striking sculpture, After the Storm,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “From the native birds in flight to the way the sun interacts with the steel sculpture, we hope that visitors will find optimism for the future in the quietness of the COVID-19 Memorial Grove.”
Nearly 40 species of birds, such as swallows, gulls, raptors, and hummingbirds were included in the sculpture. The natural world is a reoccurring theme in Lyles’ art. He chose birds as a memorial symbol because, for him, they personify how COVID-19 did not differentiate by age, race, wealth, religion, or gender.
“As the base rises up, a grid symbolizing the pattern of life features stainless-steel negative silhouettes of various bird species, which become partially and then fully realized three-dimensional cutouts of Ohio birds soaring up to the heavens,” said Lyles. “The memorial is a reminder that we were privileged to have our loved ones with us, and this isn’t their end, our memories of them have transformed into blessings that we will keep with us.”
As the stainless-steel birds begin rising above the grid, their shapes form a pattern of individual birds in flight. Not only will the stainless steel, which is virtually maintenance-free, maintain its luster but the sculpture will also appear lit by the sun’s natural light throughout the day. As the light changes from dawn to mid-day to sundown, the sculpture will reflect the change in colors of the sky lit from overhead.
Lyles, who lives in rural southeast Ohio, is a tenured professor at the University of Rio Grande. He has taught art history, drawing, design, sculpture, and ceramics there since 1990. He has created numerous large-scale sculptures for public display including Fruit of Inquiry for the Ohio Agriculture and Research Development Center in Wooster, Farmland Forest for the Bob Evans Corporate Headquarters, and his most recent piece, Tranquility, can be seen at the Hocking Hills State Park Lodge.
Dedicated in 2021, the COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove is a tribute to the Ohioans we have lost, as well as the brave frontline workers who provided daily care and service to all of Ohio’s citizens during the pandemic. It is located near the Great Seal State Park campground.