Portland’s Soul Box project uses art to show the impact of gun violence

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The Soul Box Project art exhibit in Old Town features 40,000 origami boxes, each depicting a victim of gun violence in the United States so far this year.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Inside the historic Overland Building in Northwest Portland’s Old Town neighborhood are thousands of traditional origami boxes made by people from across the United States.

They are part of the Soul Box project, a non-profit that uses art to capture the human impact of gun violence in the country. Each origami box represents a victim.

“This exhibit that’s here in this building is 40,000, which is the number of people killed or injured in the United States so far this year,” said artist and project founder Leslie Lee.

For Lee, the project is to show the extent of gun violence in the United States, including homicides, injuries and suicides, which alone account for more than half of all gun-related deaths.

“It’s a project I started in 2017 after the Las Vegas shootings,” Lee said, referring to the mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in which 60 people were killed. killed and hundreds more injured.

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Lee started with a website, calling on people to make boxes for those killed or injured, named and unnamed. It worked.

“They wanted to do something. And so, people responded. And we started going into these soul boxes.

The project collected 200,000 boxes representing three years of injuries and deaths in the United States due to gun violence.

The current display in Portland covers gun damage so far in 2022. Each box honors a life, and many include the names of victims.

“The name of this exhibit is This Loss We Carry, and it’s because we as a nation carry this loss,” Lee said.

A young woman named Tricia bears the loss of her husband Keion. He was 19 when he was shot and killed in North Portland last December.

“For everyone it’s like seven months but for me it’s like yesterday. I don’t really know how to make sense of it all yet,” Tricia said, as she created a soul box .

Crafting soul boxes is a way to process the pain of people who have lost loved ones in gunfights.

Trica’s younger cousin, Eli, also attended the exhibit in Portland to remember Keion.

RELATED: 19-year-old shot dead in Bridgeton neighborhood

“He says I love you Keion from Eli; I chose these words because I love him so much and I think it should be a fond memory for me, him and everyone who knows my cousin Keion,” the boy said.

The Soul Box project offers people the time to create and make sense of these kinds of tragedies, one box at a time. Beyond that, the boxes are a way for people to better understand the impact guns can have.

“As an artist, I realized what we needed was a visual for people to understand the magnitude of the scale of this epidemic…and when people are affected on emotionally, that’s when they’re driven to action,” Lee said.

People can view much of the Soul Box Project exhibit through the windows of the Overland Building at 205 NW 4th Ave. People can also enter on the exhibition’s closing date of July 27 or make an appointment by emailing [email protected]

Visitors will have the opportunity to participate in grief work sessions and build more soul boxes.

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