CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly 30,000 Illinoisans have died of COVID-19 – including children, grandparents, neighbors, and friends.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, one artist is using the Maker Lab of Harold Washington Library to bring humanity to statistics.

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Faith Humphrey Hill is a conductor, and her instrument is yarn. Her audience is people she has never met – and her muses are the ones she never will.

“When I started, I really just wanted to put a face to the pandemic – beyond the numbers and stats – and really think about the people,” Hill said.

Hill uses mixed media composed of digital sketching, knitting, and spray paint to bring art to life, and life to art.

“Sometimes the stitches get stretched and pulled and imperfect, and for the artwork, I like it – because it’s symbolic for how we as people can get pulled and we can be tense,” she said.

Parra asked Hill if she ever gets emotional while creating her art.

“Oh definitely yes – especially when I start the drawing. I’m mirroring their expression to draw them so I’m feeling the same feelings as the person,” she said. I’m really zoned into the details and intricacies of their face and really getting to know them. That phase is a little difficult.”

Any artist knows the lines of a face are part of a biggest picture. They tell the story of the life they lived – frozen in time through image and memory.

For instance, although Hill had never met Yessica Arenas and won’t be able to meet her father, she spent a lot of time getting to know him by creating his portrait.

“I’ve spent about nine hours on him,” Hill said. “He seemed like a lively person, so I wanted lots of colors in there.”

Arenas said to Hill: “He liked to make jokes. You did a nice job capturing that

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Like all the faces Hill is depicting, Jose Luis Arenas died from COVID-19.

“One minute, he’s sitting there at his favorite chair, the next minute, he’s intubated at the hospital,” said Marco Cambroni, Jose Arenas’ son-in-law.

“My dad didn’t want to be in the hospital He’d call me saying, ‘Please take me out of the hospital,’” added Yessica Arenas. “Those were some of my last words with him before he died last summer.”

As the family comes to grips with Jose Arenas’ death one year later, they cling to every piece of him they can.

“It means so much to us that someone is taking the time,” Cambroni said. “It was so painful, and it’s been so hard to find closure.”

“We’re feeling honored his picture is part of the exhibit,” Yessica Arenas added.

“I was honored to draw him,” Hill said.

Beyond how the people she is presenting died, Hill said what ties these faces together is what ties us all together – that common thread of humanity.

“I hope that people who are strangers see in the faces their own families; that they appreciate it was a pandemic,” Hill said. “It could happen to any family, so there’s more empathy towards each other and the situations we go through.”

Hill said after she was inspired to do the project, she saw our CBSN Chicago “Faces of COVID” special. She is doing about a dozen portraits and choosing from the people we highlighted.

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You can stop by and watch Hill at work on the third floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. Her exhibit will go up in the library’s windows on State Street from January to March.