Grave blanket depicts collapse

Amber Kispert

The lives of the Interstate 35W victims are being pieced together by students in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

The University floral design class, which is part of the Department of Horticultural Science, has taken a new approach to their grave blanket project. This year the grave blanket will be a memorial to the bridge collapse victims.

Tom Michaels, head of the Department of Horticultural Science, said he is excited to see the outcome.

“It is an opportunity to see some expression of what is going on in Minneapolis,” he said.

For the third year in a row, Neil Anderson, professor from the Department of Horticultural Science, led the project.

Last year, students illustrated the Mexican celebration, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, with the grave blanket.

Michaels said he was very pleased with how spectacular the blanket was last year and equally pleased with the students involved.

“They got some notoriety,” he said. “More people knew about it and took advantage of it.”

The decision to use the bridge collapse as the theme this year was overwhelmingly agreed upon by the students, Anderson said.

Environmental horticulture sophomore Megan Brown said she is pleased this was the theme decided upon.

“I think we wanted something a little more sincere and not just focusing on a holiday.”

The blanket is constructed by attaching the materials to four burlap sacks, which will then be interconnected on a chicken wire backing.

This year the materials range from leaves and flowers to moss. It’s up to the students to decide how to use these materials and turn nature into art.

Graphic design junior Bobbi Beito enjoyed the project because of the ability to be inventive.

“My favorite part is being able to be original and be very creative,” she said.

Students in the class were divided up into four groups of five, each group working on a different panel.

“There’s certain benefits to students working on a team,” Michaels said.

The students decided to depict the actual bridge on the center two panels. The outside panels show the I-35W logo and Minnesota on one and the other will honor the rescue workers.

Each of the four panels has at least three images of different victims.

Grave blankets have become a thing of the past. There is currently no literature out about them despite their frequent use since the 1800s.

Environmental horticulture junior Beth Christofferson said it was interesting to learn that not many people do anything with grave blankets anymore.

“The University is one of very few, if not the only institution, that does anything with grave blankets,” she said. “That is the really interesting part for us.”

“We’ve inadvertently become a source for this type of design,” Anderson said.

Environmental horticulture senior Karen Gordenier spoke out to the class, urging them to change the position of the pictures so there would not be any images of the victims on the center two panels depicting the bridge.

“Trying to maintain sensitivity to the victims is the biggest concern,” she said.

Anderson said he hopes to display the blanket in Coffman Union and perhaps even lay it at the bridge site.

“It’s dramatic, it’s large, it’s skillful,” Michaels said.