Once Was is a memorial for all those lost to the opioid epidemic in the prime of their lives. This 12-foot, 2-sided tower is covered with 3,600 poppies that are stitched and then sewn onto a plush black velvet foundation. Each of the 3,600 poppies represents 200 individuals lost.
As part of Human Impact: Stories of the Opioid Epidemic, I formed a relationship with a single mom who lost her son to a Fentanyl overdose. His story is like so many others, where an unexpected dependence grew from a painkiller prescribed after an accident. The anguish and consequence of such a tragic loss of life is heartbreaking, and the horrifying fact is that this is only one family.
It is striking to think that this monument only captures this moment in time, especially since it required so much time and labor to create. The sad truth is that when this project is complete these numbers will already be obsolete. The crisis is ongoing, and the casualties are mounting.
Human Impact: Stories of the Opioid Epidemic
Since the turn of the millenium, the misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers has swept across the United States, laying waste to cities, suburbs and rural areas. It is the deadliest drug in American history, with overdose fatalities reported as the leading cause of death for adults under the age of fifty. Individuals of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds are affected and New England is one of the hardest hit areas in the United States. Accordingly, efforts to raise awareness of this public health emergency are especially important in this region.
In November 2018, the eleven Human Impact artists met with Brockton's High Point Treatment Center for candid conversations about the drug's devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities. The varied stories shared that day–from losing loved ones to sustaining recovery–fueled the creation of new art forms, with each artist responding to the larger devastation as well as the personal experiences of the interview subject(s) with whom (s)he was paired. –Beth McLaughlin, Fuller Craft Museum