Earlier this week, the memorial sculpture “Infinite Awareness” was revealed to the public during an emotional dedication ceremony at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, KS. The artwork by Jesse Small memorializes the lives of three individuals who were killed when a shooter opened fire two years ago, on April 13, 2014.

The sculpture was fabricated by Zahner and features three organic cutout forms. These forms move around one another gracefully, with the negative space acting as a ‘cradle’ for their curving shapes. Daily movement of sunlight affects the forms, creating shadows along the surroundings in gradual movement to signal the close of each day, but also, the beginning of a new day.

The three elements of the sculpture represent the three victims whose lives were taken during this act of violence: 14-year-old boy, Reat Griffin Underwood, his 69-year-old grandfather, Dr. William Lewis Corporon, and a 53-year-old woman, Terri LaManno.

Overwhelming support was offered to both the families of the victims as well as those at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. Following the tragedy, both the Jewish and Christian communities affected saw overwhelming support and interfaith collaboration.

The dedication of the memorial coincided with Seven Days 2016, a yearly week-long series of events which was created in order to honor the memory of the victims. Words by the Seven Days organization state: “One act of kindness will start the ripple to change the world.” Jesse Small took this concept of a "ripple" to the drafting table, using it as the motivation behind the undulating forms in his artwork.

Infinite Awareness, an artwork by Jesse Small
Infinite Awareness, an artwork by Jesse Small

In a statement from the artist he describes this process:

“The inspiration for this memorial comes from the phrase ‘Ripples spreading in water’. This phrase was in the introduction letter I received from the Jewish Community Center, and it struck me as very profound and visual. The element of ‘Ripples’ in the memorial conveys this community’s conviction that kindness and awareness could spread outward from the violent and ignorant act that occurred here. While we cannot anticipate the tragedies that befall us, we choose how to react to them. Ripples coming in, and going out. It is my sincere hope that this memorial conveys the importance of kindness and awareness above all other reactions to violence.

Through the process of creating this memorial, the idea of ripples, or waves, has taken on new meanings for me. When ripples move through the air we hear a sound. When they have a very  high frequency and velocity, we see light, colors, and shadows. When ripples move through the land, we feel an earthquake. When ripples move through the galaxy, sculpting the shape of our Milky Way, we call it gravity. Ripples, it seems, are the very fabric of reality.

When ripples move through our body, we feel emotions. At times during this project I have felt like a ball of disorganized ripples, crying and confused. The ripples can become massive, lifting us off our feet and throwing us around. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some control over them? Well we do, sort of. When we talk or sing, when  we touch or caress one another, we create ripples spreading outward from ourselves. By focusing on the type of ripples we generate as individuals, we can begin to sculpt the world around us.

When you stand near the memorial, you may imagine yourself in the calm depths below the ripples. We can create that calm for others by listening to them. Then, with education and kindness, we make our positive contribution to the universe. This brace community has endured much to obtain this understanding, and that is why I have entitled this memorial sculpture ‘Infinite Awareness’”.

The dedication on Tuesday honored the memory of the victims, as well as offering hope and healing to their families.

The Zahner team is deeply moved to have had the opportunity to work on this project. We believe that creating a beautiful memorial was not only important but necessary. This sculpture offers space for residents to reflect on the tragedy and is a testament to how individuals can use the ripples created by a senseless act of violence to grow together as a community.