Karla Funderburk started making the cranes three months ago, stringing the paper swans in pink, blue, yellow and many other colors together and hanging them in her art gallery.
“I was feeling the loss, and one way to process that was I started folding cranes. Cranes are a traditional Japanese symbol of carrying the soul to heaven,” she said.
She tried making 10 cranes each night but when on May 14 the number of deaths ticked to 88,000 she realized it would take her 24 years to complete them and she asked for help.
Now volunteers drop off scores of the elegantly made paper swans daily.
"I started receiving boxes and bags. Sometimes I would get one crane with one name on it, some boxes had 300,” she said.
Hundreds now hang from the ceiling of her Matter Studio with others sitting on tables and stacked in boxes waiting to be added to the sad reminder of the virus’ toll. The gallery's website also lists hundreds of names of virus victims.
“I feel like this space is holding, holding the place, for the remembrances of the souls we are losing,” she said.
Funderburk had 9,300 cranes as of Thursday. More than 165,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.