The headline was shocking: American babies are 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than babies in other rich countries. The United States’ infant mortality rate is the highest in the developed world. That statistic shocked me. It’s a form of American exceptionalism we Americans don’t like to think about. As the Washington Post put it, Our Infant Mortality is a National Embarrassment.
I thought about the parents of those little ones, whose crushing loss–losing a child before their first birthday–is immeasurable. The loss is emotional, financial, and devastates marriages and families. The cost of 23,000 infant deaths on our country is unimaginable.
The loss cuts deeper because infant mortality is a problem we understand pretty clearly. It is not Democrat or Republican, Red State or Blue state. It’s not about who is President. The causes of infant mortality and solutions to it are well known. It is a problem other countries have solved. And it is something we have ignored.
As a visual artist, I believe in the power of art to change hearts, minds, behavior, and the world. Think about the famous AIDS Quilt, a community art project commemorating the loss of more than 80,000 lives. By ‘drawing’ a picture of a problem, we can see and feel the enormity of it. Our country, our leaders, and lawmakers need to see exactly what infant mortality looks like in America.
My vision for TheMourningProject.com is that each of the infants lost in a given year will be remembered with a unique, handmade, heartfelt little elegy. The fiber art communities and loss families have come together to make 20,000+ pairs of baby booties. This is the number of American infants who die every year before their first birthday.
Whether sewn, knitted, felted, woven, or crocheted, makers donated handmade baby shoes in the colors of mourning: black, white, and gray. Gathered together, these small elegies will literally paint a compelling picture too big to ignore: a 38′ by 38′ image of a heart with baby feet inside. This image requires 14,000 pairs of white booties alone. I love the way this installation plan is like the problem of infant mortality itself: we all need to contribute to solve this ‘puzzle.’
The collection phase of the project has ended, but we will include a pair of your booties in the installation. Make your booties in memory of a lost child, if you wish, and send them with this form (click here).
Here is where we are to date, along with a schedule of upcoming installation dates. Our work will be both a visual reminder of a national tragedy, and what we can do about it.
The Mourning Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Mourning Project must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Cash donations are not deductible. To make an online donation, go to https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/the-mourning-project
Click here to learn all the ways you can get involved.
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Click here to help spread the word online and in person.
Click here to learn more about the US infant mortality problem and solutions.
Click here for a Brief Talking Points handout about infant mortality.
Click here if you need support in grieving the loss of a child.
How many baby booties have we raised to date? Click here.
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heart image courtesy of http://worldartsme.com
7 thoughts on “TheMourningProject.com”
This project is a labor of love, truly! I made my first pair a couple of years ago and dedicated those to my firstborn grandchild, Jake, who lived just 6 days in the NICU. And I got hooked on making these little elegies to memorialize other grandmas babies.
I’ve found if I work in batches of booties, say a dozen all alike, it sets up a rhythm. And then, putting the finishing touch on each pair Nd sending them off to Mary is very satisfying.
I will make booties to send to you
Thanks, Carol! It is great to have you!
I’ll make a pair of booties. I’ll also take this information to our art quilt group here in Santa Fe. I, too, was appalled by the infant mortality statistics in the US. In truth, we have a less effective health care system than many other “developed” countries and this is one of the results. I have to be in Houston during Quilt Festival. My husband is having surgery at MDAnderson. Being able to attend Quilt Festival is the silver lining of spending a month in Houston. I hope to see you there.
Thanks so much Mary Jo! I plan to be in Houston to promote this project, so let us plan to connect before then. I hope all goes well with the surgery. And thanks for supporting the project! There is lots of great ways to share the project, online and in person. Be sure to check out the ‘Downloadables and Sharable’ documents under TheMourningProject.com tab.
Hello, I will make a pair of baby booties and send it to you.
Wonderful Thank you Cynthia! Be sure to make your booties in shades of black, white or gray, or any combination!