Over 350 employees from Ruppert Landscape’s Maryland, DC and Virginia branches came together from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16 to bring a public art installation to fruition, commemorating all the Americans who have died due to COVID-19.
Maryland artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg conceptualized the installation, In America: Remember, to be a memorial that is also a physical manifestation of empathy. More than 660,000 white flags were installed on 20 acres of the National Mall at the base of the Washington Monument. The installation is open to the public from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, 2021.
During the exhibition, community volunteers and visitors have the opportunity to plant a flag in memory of a loved one.
Firstenberg reached out to Craig Ruppert directly through mutual friends to see if they were interested in helping.
“We decided early on that we wanted to participate and also decided that we wanted to donate our efforts to the cause,” says Mike Felts, VP of HR and IT for Ruppert.
Ruppert assisted with bringing this installation to life by using a combination of aerial mapping and design software to create a grid that covered the National Mall.
There are 143 sections to the art installation. The majority of these sections are 60’ by 60’ and contain 5,329 flags. From helping with layout and logistics to project management and support, Ruppert dedicated over 1,200 hours to this project, despite it taking place during the busiest part of their season.
The design called for two levels of layout. First, the 60′ by 60′ blocks were separated by 8 feet wide pedestrian aisles. Ruppert’s crews did this with a layout team working ahead of the installer by starting at 2 a.m. each night.
The second layout was installing the flags on 10″ centers. To ensure symmetry, teams used a custom-made grid tool to install the 4” by 5” white flags.
“When people say, ‘We couldn’t have done it without you,’ they are usually speaking figuratively,” says Firstenberg. “Without Ruppert Landscape, I literally could not have created In America: Remember. From the start, Craig (Ruppert) and his team have been all in — creating two unique systems for planting this massive array, helping with logistics and organization, and working tirelessly to create a layout that meets the needs of the National Park Service, while also allowing for the ever-expanding number of flags. Ruppert Landscape models corporate goodness, setting the bar high for other companies.”
Some of the challenges Ruppert faced while installing this project included temperatures above 90 degrees for two days and then a line of thunderstorms that dropped four inches of rain in two hours on the third day. Because the site had to remain accessible to the public throughout the installation process, materials used for the layout had to be removed each afternoon.
“Motorized vehicles for which we had use permits, had to remain on paved surfaces and weren’t allowed on the lawn,” says Chuck Whealton, a region manager with Ruppert. “This complicated distribution of 10 tons of flags and moving resources across the project.”
At the beginning of conception, the projected flag count was near 600,000, but Ruppert built in contingencies for higher quantities. The total number ended up surpassing 690,000.
This is the second installation of In America the Ruppert has helped with. The first one was in the fall of 2020 at a four-acre site at RFK Stadium. They were able to install 267,080 white flags before they ran out of space due to the rising toll of the pandemic.
“We are always glad to be involved with projects that bring visibility and awareness to important issues or underserved populations,” says CEO Craig Ruppert. “When Suzanne brought this to us, we knew it was a project that would enable us to put our skills and teamwork to good use and we were glad to get involved.”
The exhibition also exists digitally, allowing families to submit messages to personalize flags for their loved ones at Inamericaflags.org.