Middletown exhibition memorializes local lives lost due to COVID-19

Trenton-based glass artist Darryl Berry felt moved to create his latest exhibition “Souls X10” at the Middletown Arts Center as a way to remember the lives lost in Butler County due to COVID-19.

“I really wanted to create some type of representation of what’s happening here,” Berry said of the exhibit that will be on display through Jan. 31. “How we’re losing family members, friends, neighbors, and I wanted to draw attention to that – that we need to think about these people and their loved ones.”

One of the lives lost is a friend and teaching colleague of Berry’s, Jim Gingrich. Berry spent much of his career as a music teacher, where he met Gingrich at Hopewell Junior School. He retired seven years ago, which has given him even more time to spend on his art.

“When I carried that one up, and he was included in that number, that hurt, but I know it’s hurting a lot of other people, too, so I’ll keep doing it for them,” he said.

In “Souls X10,” one piece represents 10 people. Each is made from recycled auto glass/car windows and it takes more than 54 hours to make one of them.

Even though it’s a long, nasty, often dirty process, Berry said he it’s his most important work to date. When he started with this idea in November, the Butler County losses were at about 135.

“I felt that it’s something that once I started, I knew I couldn’t let it go,” he said. “I have said I will continue this project as long as the state of Ohio keeps up its coronavirus dashboard. I follow that data every day.”

Berry said he’s literally been working around the clock since the initial installation, which opened with 15 tetrahedrons, and it’s been averaging one a week since then. Each tetrahedron is made up of three glass panels that are 22 inches high. He decided on the shape because it’s something that stands up, is noticeable, and is more of a monument.

“People see it as an appropriate tribute to those we’ve lost,” he said, “I’ve gotten some very positive feedback, even from people who have lost family members, people who have lost friends, and to me, that means a lot that they find my work has been a nice honor to their family members. To, me that is really important…I believe as an artist, this is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.”

This exhibit is available for viewing during MAC’s normal operating hours, which are Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are required to enter the facility and strict sanitation and social distancing guidelines will be observed.

“This is a very powerful installation. When you realize that each piece represents 10 deaths of local friends and loved ones, it’s distressing. It has been a very moving exhibit for community members to experience, a loving tribute to be sure. We often hear stories of how COVID-19 has touched their lives. Their dismay and concern at watching the exhibit grow, as the Butler County death toll rises, over the last month has been profound,” said Kate Dykes, executive director, at Middletown Arts Center.

Unfortunately, with the rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths, nearly all of us have been touched by the pandemic in some way, she said, looking at maps, charts, or national numbers may not speak to the personal experience many of us have. Darryl is providing a visual representation for our community of our loved ones lost to COVID-19.

“As the pandemic continues, more pieces are added to this tribute as this tragic number grows. The number has now reached 21 pieces, as Butler County surpassed 210 deaths as a result of COVID-19 this (past) week,” said Dykes.

About the Author