Soul Box Project on display at Valley View Mall through June

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 10:33 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s hard to miss the dozens of hand folded origami soul boxes on the second floor of Valley View Mall. Some are a part of the national project, but if you look below, you might recognize some of the names which were made by the families of Roanoke area gun violence victims.

“It’s a way for people to experience some healing, which is terribly important when we talk about the traumatic effects of gun violence in our community,” said Joe Cobb, vice-mayor of Roanoke and chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission.

The Gun Violence Prevention Commission and Artist in Residence Jane Gabrielle McCadden worked together to have the project on display in June. It aims to bring awareness to the impact that gun violence has on communities. Those who made it possible are hoping the powerful message will catch the eye of mall-goers.

“Empathy is a superpower, right? Anybody can access empathy. And that’s what I’m trying to drive with much of my art is to get people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. If you can reach that empathy, you can increase your capacity to love,” said McCadden.

“Even helping someone spend some time connecting in a different way, folding the origami box, having a conversation about what peace means in their life, where they feel peaceful, where they feel safe, where they don’t feel safe, helps them imagine what it’s like to be someone who’s been affected by gun violence,” said Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the City of Roanoke.

Along with the boxes, there is a sign that shows that around every 18 months at least 98 people are hurt or killed by gunfire in Roanoke. In 2023 so far, that number is at least 30.

“Visibility is important. Oftentimes, when there is an injury or a death, we begin to see the stories of the loss of the person. And as soon as we see that, we know that they have a family, they have loved ones, they have neighbors, they have classmates, they have colleagues,” said Cobb.

The display includes a sign showing where families can get the help they need after these tragedies and that they aren’t alone. The display is located on the second floor of Valley View Mall near Hollister and will be there until June 30.