WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — After the Las Vegas strip shooting in 2017, Leslie Lee began researching statistics about guns and shootings in the United States. That’s when the Portland-based artist founded the Soul Box Project.

“These numbers are so huge, there’s no way people can comprehend these types of numbers,” Lee said. “I mean, we’re talking about 70,000 people a year who are killed or injured by bullets, by gunfire.”

Portland-based artist Leslie Lee founded the Soul Box Project (Nexstar)

She decided to depict the problem visually with origami projects she calls Soul Boxes. Each one represents a person killed or injured by gunfire.

Lee said she did this as a response, “which is I don’t want to be a a part of this problem.”

The Soul Box Project has a second purpose. People who have been impacted by gun violence and participate in making the boxes say it’s helping them heal.

Lily DiGiacomo, a surgeon in northern California who works with gunshot victims, said she heard about the Soul Box Project from her sister.

“If that person loses their life, there’s not a lot of time or opportunity in the workplace to acknowledge that lost life,” she said. “It just obviously resonated with me.”

Soul Box Project

DiGiacomo said she and her coworkers are able to process through their emotions by folding the boxes.

“I think the exhibitions are life changing,” she said.

Artist Leslie Lee plans to take the Soul Box Project on the road — once she’s able to travel. Those plans are on hold due to the pandemic.