Library partners with artists for portrait project honoring lives lost to COVID-19

Powerful portrait project in NKY honors lives lost due to COVID-19

KENTON COUNTY, KY (FOX19) - A powerful project in Kenton County is designed to remind the community that the lives lost due to the pandemic are more than just numbers.

The latest data from state officials shows that more than 4,500 people have died from COVID-19 in Kentucky.

Staff members at the Kenton County Public Library are spearheading what they are calling the COVID-19 portrait project. Christian Schmit, who is an employee there, is also an artist and came up with the idea.

The library is partnering with 21 local artists who are creating 21 portraits of people who have died from COVID-19. Loved ones of those who died submitted photos and information about them to help the artists with their visions.

Six pieces of artwork have been revealed so far.

“It’s been a unifying experience I think for not only the community, but also the people who have lost loved ones, but also our staff,“ Dave Schroeder, the Executive Director of the Library, said. “The piece of art is an interpretation of the artist, but it’s also the story the artist is telling from their life.”

Schroeder said they have gotten a positive response from patrons, but especially from those directly impacted, like Anna Bailey and Riley Kinsella. Both lost their fathers to the virus, and both fathers were included in the project.

The two hope that the visuals will serve as a heartbreaking reminder that every statistic represents a life lost.

“When I saw the picture, it was just tears. I was just like wow. It was just so realistic, so close to what he looked like,” Bailey said.

Bailey said her dad, William “Bill” Bailey, would have been 73 on Tuesday. The Vietnam veteran died in September. Bailey described him as her rock.

“He was the funniest guy I ever met in my life, very funny,” she said. “He really didn’t let anything stress him out or bother him.”

Scott Kinsella passed away at 56-years-old, just before Christmas. Riley Kinsella said his dad was more than a father, he was a best friend.

“My dad, he was a very faithful man, very strong in his faith, and I think seeing this in the community would bring a lot of joy to his heart,” Riley said.

Both Bailey and Riley Kinsella said they are grateful for the work that went into the project, and they believe they will cherish the act of compassion for years to come.

“Seeing complete strangers reach out and be willing to help the community and do this for people they don’t know, it’s really touching,” Riley said.

Schroeder said they are hoping they can create a second round of portraits, so more people can submit their loved ones to the project.

When all of the artwork is complete, it will be presented to the public at the Independence library branch.

All of the families will get a digital copy and the actual portrait.

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