The Rose River Memorial art project display during the Monterey County dedication on March 6, 2023 in Salinas, Calif. The national project recognizes the impact of COVID-19 and promote community healing. (SVMHS via Bay City News)

Salinas Valley Health unveiled an art project this week that is intended to serve a memorial for Monterey County residents who have died from COVID-19.

The Rose River Memorial art project includes more than 2,500 handmade red felt roses attached to nets donated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The memorial at the medical center in Salinas was originally intended to have one rose for each of the 827 official COVID deaths recorded in the county, but overwhelming community support exceeded those expectations, according to the organization also known as the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System.

“The emotional impact of COVID-19 was experienced in every corner of our communities,” said Dr. Nadine Semer, a Salinas Valley Health physician who led the effort to create the memorial. “Patients, families, business owners, school children and the list goes on. That’s why we created a Rose River Memorial — to bring people together, to reflect, to support and to heal.”

Los Angeles-based artist Marcos Lutyens helped launch the nationwide Rose River Memorial project. Memorials with the felt flowers have now been installed in dozens of cities across the country.

“Salinas Valley Health is the first medical center to take a lead on an art installation and the result is a beautiful tapestry of people healing together from a global crisis,” Lutyens said.