Living Flowers

Floral Heart Project comes to Milwaukee on March 1 day of COVID-19 mourning

Floral Heart Project comes to Milwaukee on March 1 day of COVID-19 mourning

The Floral Heart Project, which was started in New York City as an art project and morphed into a COVID-19 memorial movement, is coming to Milwaukee.

As part of a National Day of Mourning on Monday, March 1, The Floral Heart Project will install a large heart-shaped wreath at Museum Center Park at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The wreath will be made on-site by Scott Rusch, who was raised in Mequon, with 2,000 fresh-cut carnations.

It is one of 85 such installations planned for March 1 as a commemoration of those who have died due to COVID-19.

Rusch, who is general manager of the Chicago-area BloomStudios, which will provide the flowers, will use fuschia and orange carnations (pictured below) to create a 16-foot-wide heart in the plaza next to Mark DiSuvero’s “The Calling” sculpture at the foot of East Wisconsin Avenue, beginning at 8 a.m.

“We chose bright colors as we think there will still be snow on the ground so we wanted bright colors that will stand out,” said Rusch.

“I’m going to be preparing the flowers here at our greenhouse in Elburn, Illinois over the next two days and driving them up on Sunday. Monday morning I’ll start laying out the heart-shaped design. It’s in roughly one-foot segments, a total of about 90 pieces to make the outer heart and the inner M, for Milwaukee.”

The flowers were sourced from Kennicott Brothers, a flower wholesaler in Chicago, Milwaukee and other U.S. locations, according to Rusch.

The Floral Heart Project was started by artist Kristina Libby, who wrote on her website, “If we do not mourn, we will carry the grief in our hearts and that will hurt us. Recognizing those who have left us, healing ourselves and caring for our community will instead create a richer, happier and healthier world.”

BloomStudios Cut Flowers, a family-owned business founded in 1905, partnered with Libby to help spread the initiative across the country by collaborating with flower growers, florists and others.

“So much of our daily lives have been impacted by the pandemic,” said Rusch. “I wanted to get involved to give all people an opportunity to reflect over the loss, talk through and share the collective grief we have all felt.

“Many friends have been directly impacted. One person I would like to specifically celebrate through this installation is Ellen Leypoldt Atwater, who sadly passed away due to COVID-19 in December 2020. Ellen was lively, fun and caring; her kindness left a lasting impact on me as I grew up in Mequon with her son, John, my best friend.”

Rusch expects the heart to be ready for public viewing around noon.

Please maintain social distancing and wear a mask if you visit.

You can follow the installations, including Milwaukee’s, on social media at #FloralHeartProject.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker’s Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV’s “Party of Five” and “Dawson’s Creek,” and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He’s produced three installments of the “OMCD” series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti’s (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his “Urban Spelunking” series of stories.