The Floral Heart Project

Artist: Kristina Libby
Location: New York City, USA
Year: 2020
Researcher: Jen Krava

A Floral Heart manifests as a temporary arrangement of fresh cut flowers sculpted in the shape of a large heart. The installations are intended to memorialise people lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. The works are placed in areas of specific importance to people in the COVID community, and/or areas with the highest levels of people traffic; parks, memorials, hospitals, cemeteries, city centres and/or other locations significant to and easily available to the public. A single flower in a Floral Heart is intended as a representation of a life lost. The works are intended to encourage reflection, healing and unity.

Artist Kristina Libby began putting together the memorials as an offering to create space for communal grief and healing. The work originated in New York, beginning in April 2020. Initially, Floral Hearts were installed as guerrilla tactics, but later became later city-approved.

More than one hundred Floral Hearts we laid by volunteers across the US. Press coverage, including (TV, print, radio, social media) may have reached up to 95% of the population of the United States.

Kristina writes:

During the early days of the pandemic as I looked out my bedroom window in Brooklyn watching ambulances constantly rush by, I had a deep unsettling feeling that we were not doing enough to grieve those we had lost. During 9/11, there were places to mourn together, to lay flowers and to see pictures of those missing. And, those mourning places helped to reinforce communal support... I wanted to do something that could create a safe, socially distanced way to process our trauma and begin to heal.

In those early days of the pandemic, it was hard to get access to resources. But, in New York but there were still flowers being delivered daily to my neighbourhood grocery store and I had at one point long in the past been a florist. So it was a material I knew how to use. But, more than the available medium, they had a historic symbolism in the grief and burial communities. Flowers have been found at grave sites going back at least ten thousand years. It was a nice synergy of my skills and resources.I played around with a few iterations before landing on floral hearts which I created using an intricate floral weaving technique. The hearts were a visually simple symbol of our love for each other that could resonate in any language. And, they were temporary lasting around seven days or the length in which most religions and communities recognise our grief as being at its most intense. Each heart is made of at least four-hundred flowers and each flower is meant to represent someone we lost. The hearts are then curated site-specifically to make the most impactful impression.

The Floral Heart Project has inspired a sense of connection and empathy in communities across the world and has been featured in the media as a poignant symbol of resilience and empathy in the face of the pandemic. It continues to be a tribute to those who lost their lives to COVID-19 and a reminder of the importance of unity and compassion during challenging times.The Floral Heart Project comes out of the pop-art, contemporary and street art disciplines with a less violent and pro-positivity approach to engaging people with art. (Libby)

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The Floral Heart Project directly influenced the development of an act of congress in creating a national day of COVID memorial In the United States. More than 10,000 people worldwide took part in Floral Heart installations, establishing places for communal grief.

The Floral Heart Project has been recognised by numerous cultural organisations such as the Arizona Historical Society and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

For more information on The artist, and the Floral Heart Project, click here.

Progress Agency