In late January of this year, a homeless man covered in a sheet and blanket was found dead on the steps of Copley Square’s Old South Church.
Members of the church, which prides itself on its strong ties to the homeless community, were hit hard by the news and decided to turn his tragedy into a memorial for the lives lost on Boston’s streets.
Over 15 artists from Old South and common art, an arts program for the homeless run by outdoor congregation common cathedral, came together over several months to create a quilt installation from the man’s blanket and sheet.
As of early August, the community art project can be seen hanging prominently in the tower entryway to the church, where it will remain throughout the fall.
“We knew we had to do something to memorialize the tragic loss of life playing out every day,” said Rev. John Edgerton, a minister at Old South Church. “It was literally on our doorstep.”
Edgerton was present when the man was found, and saved the blanket and sheet from being thrown in the trash, according to Kathleen Simone, an artist and Old South member who worked with Edgerton to organize the memorial.
After Edgerton approached her with the idea for a memorial art project, Simone, who has a background in sewing and quilting, came up with the concept of cutting up the sheet and inviting people to decorate each of the pieces.
The pieces were then sewn onto the blanket to make a wall hanging.
“A lot of [the common art artists] seemed really moved by the project, to have the opportunity to express themselves about death on the streets, and deaths of friends, and the precarious position that they live in day to day,” Simone said.
In addition to serving as a creative outlet for some of the homeless community, the project has already drawn much needed attention from passers-by and tourists in Copley Square, according to Simone.
“I think [homelessness is] often an invisible issue for people who live in the city – like if you walk through downtown everyday, you sort of become numb to it,” she said.
“To create something that was beautiful and eye-catching, and would get them to stop for a moment to read and think about it – that was a big part of it.”