Boxes marking each life lost to gun violence to be displayed on the National Mall as part of new project


CHICAGO — A West Coast artist hopes to move people to stop and absorb the sheer number of lives lost due to gun violence as part of a project that’s being felt across the country, including in Chicago. 

The “Soul Box Project” features boxes made to commemorate each life lost, mailed across the country by artist Leslie Lee out of Portland, OR. 

For those who make the boxes, it’s not only about awareness but also healing from their own personal loss. Two Chicago women worked to fold boxes so the faces and names on front would not be forgotten. 

“The numbers are just staggering,” Kathi Eberhardt said. “It’s one thing to say you have thousands of people killed by guns, but to actually visually see a box for each person and how big of a scale that’s going to be unbelievable.”

Opening the latest round of boxes, artist Leslie Lee said you can “just feel the emotion that somebody put into that to honor somebody.”

Then she carefully lays them out on a large panel, 95 in all, before tying each one to the next. So far, she has pieced together more than 230 panels. 

“It’s a way for people who lost someone to gunfire, to process that, to take that grief and actually put it into something physical,” Lee said. 

Each one tied to the next makes up more than 230 panels, with every panel representing the average number of lives lost every day due to gun violence. 

“I just wanted people to have a visceral experience of seeing and feeling how large the numbers are,” Lee said. “If this display changes just one person’s mind about guns; then we’ve done our work.” 

This spring, every one of over 300 panels are slated to be displayed on the National Mall.

“You look at them and you realize, this is somebody’s child. this is somebody’s dad,” Peggy Smutny said as she helped fold more boxes. 

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