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Meet a Few of the Winners of the 2022 Flag Project at Rockefeller Center

By Noah SilversteinApr 11 2022

In the realm of semiotics, flags are among the most common and often most meaningful representational symbols. Examine the flag of any country around the world; the colors, designs, and imagery hold such immense national sentiment and history.

The designs submitted for this year’s Flag Project — a crowd-sourced art exhibition at Rockefeller Center that calls upon public submissions for flags to be displayed on the flagpoles surrounding The Rink — hope to invoke feelings of awareness and inspiration. For the Flag Project’s third annual iteration, Rockefeller Center collaborated with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate Museum, asking the public to submit flag designs that represent this year’s World Environment Day theme, “Only One Earth.”

Miranda Massie, the director of the Climate Museum, acknowledges the power art has to influence the conversation around climate action. “Even those among us who are not artists can recognize the agency we have in the face of a crisis that leaves the majority of American adults overwhelmed and shut down,” she says. “By raising our voices to break the climate silence and using our platforms to call attention to the climate crisis, we can catalyze a wave of collective action.”

On what she hopes people will take away from the work of the Flag Project’s winners, Massie stresses the importance of taking immediate action and how this display at Rockefeller Center is sounding the alarm. “The time is now to come together to fight for a climate-safe future. This exhibition reminds us that everyone can become a climate protagonist and contribute to climate progress.”

The Center Magazine spoke with some of the 2022 Flag Project winners about their creations and inspirations. Meet some of them below, and visit The Rink at Rockefeller Center during the month of April to see their eco-friendly flags on display.

Note: The Flag Project flags will not be flown April 14 - 17, 2022, due to the grand opening of Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace at The Rink.

Johanna Columna, New York City

“My flag design is called ‘Column Ozone.’ I wanted to create my flag using some of my personal favorite colors: orange for the sun, purple for the harmful ultraviolet rays (which is blocked by the ozone layer), and green for the grass and fertility impacted by the greenhouse gasses. All of which is to highlight that over time we have not only hurt our natural environment but severely impacted our ozone layer. Now it’s up to us to protect our ozone…”

What’s one action you'd like to see everyone take in order to ensure a more prosperous global environment for the future?

“The most basic action that we’ve seen everywhere, especially in NYC, is the call to action in our usage of plastic, starting with the ban on plastic bags to straws.”

Tijay Mohammed, Ghana

The artwork for my flag is made with 100% paper scraps, collected across the USA and Africa. The symbol ‘Asase Ye Duru’ in the middle is an Adinkra symbol from Ghana that represents power, divinity, respect, providence, and [the] importance and preservation of the Earth.

The composition captures the environment in various forms and seasons, including food, water, and animal[s].”

Ameera Abdel-Kader, Jersey City, New Jersey

“My flag [demonstrates] how we should care for the Earth. I wanted to show how we should be kind to the Earth and appreciate it.”

What do the environment and sustainability mean to you?

“I think it’s important to care for the Earth and reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. The environment means everything to us, and we need to respect and show our appreciation daily.”

María Verónica San Martín, born in Chile, immigrated to the USA

I created this image in collaboration with my 8-year-old son, Salvadaor, in March 2020, when we were quarantined... We strongly united our hands as the shape of the Earth and placed our arms on top of the Atlantic Ocean horizon in Long Island. We thought about how our hands are made for help and to reconstruct. We reimagine and mentally reconnect with the idea of combining human life with nature through softening our impact on climate to protect mama Earth.”

Elle Levine, New York City

“My flag is a picture of the Earth with a thought bubble that shows the earth thinking about ways we can help the environment.  If the earth could think and speak, I believe it would tell people to make more effort to support our planet.”

What’s one action you’d like to see everyone take in order to ensure a more prosperous global environment for the future?

“I would like to see everyone walk and ride bikes when they are traveling short distances, rather than driving cars.”

Michael Steed, Ossining, New York

“My flag is meant to represent Earth and how we should treat it for future generations. The hands show what everyone should do: embrace the earth and care for it.  The arrows show how everyone can do this by recycling, reusing, and reducing.”

Claudia Pluas, White Plains, New York

“With my flag, I wanted to show how simple everyday things we do, such as recycling, have an enormous impact on the environment. As depicted in my flag, you can see how the right choices we make all flow into Earth, leading to one cleaner and stronger Earth. Humanity is holding the Earth strongly with two arms, because every person has the power to make the environment cleaner.”

Explain how the environment and sustainability are linked.

“Environment and sustainability go hand in hand. It's fresh, clean air for all of us. Nature being able to grow healthily and wildlife living freely and harmoniously with humans. Sustainability is actions that are needed to protect our environment, so it’s like a cycle. With this project, I’ve gotten inspired with so many ideas to live sustainably!”

  • Johanna Columna
  • Tijay Mohammed
  • Ameera Abdel-Kader
  • María Verónica San Martín
  • Elle Levine
  • Michael Steed
  • Claudia Pluas


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