(Sioux City, IA…Feb. 5, 2024) Soaring from the ceilings at six various locations all across Iowa since Autumn 2020, a renowned three-dimensional crane memorial called “Folding Cranes, Enfolding Community” now travels to its seventh exhibition site, this time in Sioux City. It arrives this week, where it will remain on public display through at least this summer. The massive, magnificent artwork honors the nearly 11,000 Iowans who’ve died of COVID. (10,797 is the last official number of Iowa COVID deaths when the state stopped keeping records.) The exhibit incorporates a variety of colorful, hand-folded origami papers, with each crane honoring the memory of an Iowan who died from the disease. When possible, the cranes include the handwritten names of Iowans lost to the virus.
Thousands have viewed Pam Douglas’ crane memorial at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in West Des Moines, Reiman Gardens in Ames, Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Loras College in Dubuque and a smaller version at the Waukee Public Library. It is traveling this week from its tenure at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in Mason City since June 2023 to Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) in Sioux City. From a 12-foot curtain of cranes in its earliest version, the full display now consists of dozens of these column-like structures and other configurations, evolving to accommodate each new space.
Woodbury County is in the top ten of Iowa counties for the number of COVID deaths. While the State of Iowa kept official COVID records, Woodbury County reported 32,721 cases of COVID and 356 deaths. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (IA HHS) kept COVID-related records from March 2020 until April 2023. As in nearly every county since, there surely have been more.
While the pandemic has passed, nearly 10,000 people died from COVID in December 2023, mostly in  Europe and the Americas, based on shared trend information from World Health Organization. In that timeframe, hospital admissions jumped 42%. The spike can be attributed to holiday gatherings and the spread of the latest COVID variant.
On Monday, Feb. 5, fine artist Pam Douglas began the extremely delicate task in Mason City of dissembling the thousands of cranes that hang on spinners, hoops and in long, cascading lines. The dismantling is a major endeavor, requiring 125 boxes, in which the cranes, which are tied to filament, are meticulously rolled in these boxes, so they don’t tangle. After a team of approximately eight-ten people complete the six-hour effort in Mason City on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the specially designed boxes loaded into a large cargo-style van  to travel to its next location—Sioux City—where it will take another approximate six hours to remount in new configurations.
“In higher education,  we witnessed firsthand the major impact of COVID, says Dr. Terry Murrell, President of Western Iowa Tech Community College.“ It was an  incredibly challenging time for students and for educators, requiring all of us to pivot to continue classes. It’s wonderful that this artwork creates beauty out of a crisis and has become a way for Iowans to remember how far we’ve come, all while honoring  those no longer with us.”
In responding creatively to the COVID crisis while Iowa was in lockdown in 2019, artist Pamela Douglas of
Clive, Iowa wanted to convey these Iowa deaths were not just a statistic—they were people who loved and
were loved. Douglas chose the crane with its broad wingspan because of its deeper meaning. Douglas
chose the crane for her artwork because the bird, with its broad wingspan, carries significant symbolism
in many cultures. For example, in Japan, the paper crane represents hope and passing of the soul into
heaven. She continued to fold cranes as loving works of art as part of the Iowa COVID memorial until the
state ceased public records on COVID deaths and as the pandemic became an endemic.
“Folding Cranes, Enfolding Community” is inspirational in its sheer size, magnificent design, and in its artistic “recording” of the pandemic’s place in our state’s recent history. The exhibit includes a timeline of the pandemic and a guest book for comments, along with an informational brochure for visitors. Hundreds have attended host sites’ sponsored activities to honor these Iowans and written poignant comments in the guestbook that accompanies the memorial.
At WITCC, because of the exhibit’s commanding size, it  will be divided among three entrances:

  • Dr. Robert H. Kiser Building (4647 Stone Avenue)
  • Cargill Auditorium (Parking lot 4, Entrance 14)
  • Rocklin Conference Center( Parking lot 2, Entrance 6).
Established in 1966, Western Iowa Tech Community College serves Woodbury, Plymouth, Ida, Cherokee, Monona and Crawford counties in northwest Iowa. There are 5,000 students from more than 30 different countries at WITCC. Its campuses are located in Sioux City, Cherokee, Denison, Le Mars, and Mapleton, Iowa. WITCC offers 140+ Career and Technical programs as well as Applied Science programs that transfer to 4-year colleges and universities.