New Ky. COVID-19 Memorial Art nearing completion

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were losing Kentuckians at an alarming rate.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 6:09 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were losing Kentuckians at an alarming rate; Governor Andy Beshear asked residents to turn on a green light as a way to honor the lives lost.

Now three years later a permanent memorial is well underway to being finished to honor the thousands of Kentuckians who died.

Recently, WKYT’s Amber Philpott was able to get an exclusive first look at the memorial art being created and talk with the artist about what she hopes will be a healing space for all Kentuckians.

The farm where Prometheus Art sits, is a tranquil place of creativity, allowing for the art envisioned there to come alive.

Inside, Amanda Matthews is hard at work, racing the clock to finish her latest creation.

“We have had blinders, we have had to keep every and any distraction we can outside of those blinders,” said Amanda Matthews.

In November of 2021, the Lexington artist was chosen to create the Team Kentucky COVID-19 Memorial.

Matthews is no stranger to the state capitol. Her statue honoring education pioneer Nettie Depp was installed last year and became the first statue of a woman to stand there.

But this latest piece will be very different. It doesn’t just represent one person, but rather an entire state.

“The reason for creating something like this is to memorialize a difficult time in history,” said Matthews. “Memorialize lives lost way too soon, but also to show the strength of communities when they stick together.”

Matthews invited WKYT to her studio in the country to get a first hand look at the piece coming together.

Her design, United We Stand, Divided We Fall is a 3D representation of the state seal.

“There is really a rich history involved in that motto,” said Matthews.

The pieces scattered about her studio will come together to embody what that motto came to represent during the pandemic.

A time when Kentuckians had to not only come together, but take care of one another in order to move forward.

“We have lots of concentric circles, which is exactly like our seal,” she said. “We have the motto which of course is part of our state seal and instead of just having two people shaking hands in the center, we wanted to be very inclusive of Kentuckians and kind of show bare their humanity, their strength and their sorrow.”

The piece is comprised of both bronze and stainless steel and perhaps one of the most gripping elements is something missing.

“Each of the bronze figures have a noticeable hole at the base of their neck in the chest which really reflects that loss that feeling of kind of a cold wind blowing through you when you’ve lost someone,” said Matthews.

Matthews and her partner Brad Connell work side beside getting every detail just right.

Taking the idea Matthews had in her head from computer generated art to miniature moldings and finally the life size pieces.

“It starts with obviously the idea and sculpting usually at a manageable scale,” said Brad Connell.

Since last May they have been working night and day.

It is not lost on this couple, the gravity of what this work represents.

“For me it hasn’t just been about the citizens of Kentucky, but about the citizens of the world because it’s just everybody on earth,” said Connell.

And as the final patina is placed on this moving memorial, this artist hopes those who visit it will find beauty in its solace.

“We want to create this space where they can come and reflect and feel not only that they are represented, that they have a community who understands,” said Matthews.

When installed the memorial art site will be encircled by a ring of green lights and will be accessible for the public to walk up to it on the capitol grounds.

The Governor’s office is planning a special ceremony once the memorial art is installed, but no date has been set yet.