A Monumental Conversation: Up Close with In America: Remember Creator Suzanne Firstenberg

Friday, October 1, 2021
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT via Zoom

The National Mall is a place where America comes together for commemoration, reflection and expression. Please join WUSA9 Evening Anchor Lesli Foster for The Trust for the National Mall’s Monumental Conversation featuring artist Suzanne Firstenberg and her work, In America: Rememberthe exhibit that currently covers the National Mall with a blanket of 670,000+ white flags in remembrance of lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States.

Suzanne will talk in-depth about her poignant and powerful exhibit on the National Mall, where each white flag represents one American lost to the pandemic. She will talk about what inspired her to create the installation and how she mounted the campaign to bring this temporary commemorative exhibit to the National Mall, America’s premier civic stage. Learn more.

Award-winning journalist Lesli Foster will bring us into some of the stories behind the flags and share how this exhibit allows viewers to honor loved ones — both in person on the National Mall and from afar — and talk with Suzanne about the healing power of commemorative art installations.

Trust for the National Mall CEO Catherine Townsend will join the conversation to talk about how the Trust helped bring this important exhibit to the National Mall as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure that the National Mall remains a vibrant, engaging and evolving civic stage. Learn about the Trust’s work.

Suzanne will take questions from the audience and encourage viewers to share reflections and talk about their experience visiting the In America: Remember exhibit on the National Mall.

This special virtual event is open to the public, but space is limited.

Click here to register to attend.

The event link will be distributed following registration. If you have any questions, please contact information@nationalmall.org.  

If you can’t attend this special lunchtime event, you can watch the program later on-demand on the Trust for the National Mall website or sign up for our mailing list to receive updates and event invitations from the Trust.

About the Speakers

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg

Artist, In America: Remember

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg was born in western South Dakota. Via a circuitous route that included Kentucky and Puerto Rico, she earned an MBA, worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and finally arrived in Washington, DC, to a job in the United States Senate. 

She accidentally discovered she was an artist during an adult ceramics class. She immediately began learning materials and methods—painting, drawing, welding, neon-tube bending, stone carving. In 2016, she added ice sculpting to her skill set as she and a fellow sculptor represented the United States at the Harbin International Ice Sculpting Competition (China). They were awarded the Creativity Prize.

Her installations include one at American University’s Katzen Museum in 2016 that featured 10,752 red and blue paper airplanes from a year’s subscription to The Congressional Record; a series of seven large-scale installations in 2017 called The Empathy Fix that promotes a more empathetic response to drug addiction; and an installation at DC Armory Parade Ground in 2020 ultimately composed of 267,000 white flags representing the toll of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Firstenberg created an opportunity for teams of ceramics students from 15 area high schools to create and semi-permanently install their sculptural totems at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station. She has been a guest lecturer at George Washington University on drug addiction and drug policy (2018).  At the Smithsonian Museum (2015) she gave a talk about using art to defend the dignity of Native Americans.  Other artworks have been exhibited in shows from Maryland to California.

Lesli Foster

WUSA9 Evening Anchor

Lesli Foster is an award-winning journalist and mainstay of Washington news as a weeknight anchor for WUSA9 evening broadcasts Monday through Friday. She is also part of the WUSA9’s Special Assignment Unit – leading our “Impact” coverage that aims to tackle community issues. Lesli joined the station in 2001 and has covered the major events of our times across the area.

Known for her warmth, and ability to share impactful stories that have an effect on our wider community, she thrives on work that touches everyday living. While her work has allowed her to interview many local, national, and international luminaries, she most enjoys talking with ordinary people who use their lives to do extraordinary things.

Her career work has been recognized with Emmy, Edward R. Murrow, and Associated Press Awards. Lesli received an Emmy Award for Best News Anchor in the Washington, DC market in 2012, and has been nominated for Best Anchor for three consecutive years since 2010. Lesli also earned two more Emmys for reporting on a series on the 40th Anniversary for the March on Washington, and Jeep Gas Tank Fires. All totaled, she has been nominated for nine Emmy Awards. Lesli also received two Edward R. Murrow Awards for stories on the case that helped to coin the term “car jacking” about the case of Dr. Pamela Basu, and Stray Voltage: A Silent Danger. She also won three Associated Press Awards for a series on Jeep Gas Tank Fires, a series on HIV/AIDS and the “Down Low,” and the social impact of Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas.

Catherine Townsend

President and CEO, Trust for the National Mall

As the President and CEO of the Trust for the National Mall, Catherine leads a dynamic team to bring critical resources in support of the organization’s mission and programs, focused on restoration and sustainability, educational engagement and volunteerism on the National Mall. With over 30 years of experience in fundraising, strategic partnerships and organizational management, Catherine and the team have ambitious plans to develop new initiatives and strategic philanthropy to meet the Trust’s vision by the year 2026, which is the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and a celebration that will showcase the National Mall.  Before joining the Trust, she was a consultant to non-profit leaders, served as the President of the DC Public Education Fund for two years, and was a founding director of Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry for 18 years.

In her spare time, Catherine enjoys cycling and is the director and lead coach for HoopGirls DC, a girls youth basketball and empowerment program she founded on Capitol Hill in 2005.  Catherine lives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and is the mother of four children. 

About Monumental Conversations

A Monumental Conversation is the Trust for the National Mall’s virtual event series featuring dynamic conversations with distinguished panelists about the history and influence of the National Mall. From diversity and sustainability to history and culture, join us as we tackle current topics in American life and reflect upon the role America’s Civic Stage has played in history. To learn more and view recordings of past Monumental Conversations, please visit our website at: nationalmall.org/monumental-conversations.

About the Trust for the National Mall

As the leading nonprofit, philanthropic partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring, preserving, and enriching the National Mall, the Trust brings expertise, private funding, and in-kind support to time-sensitive restoration and sustainability projects. The Trust also mobilizes a volunteer operation to provide educational opportunities to ensure that the National Mall endures and evolves as a vibrant civic stage for all. With over 36 million annual visits, the National Mall’s aging infrastructure and outdated visitor amenities are in urgent need of repair and improvement as we prepare for America’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The Trust is also the philanthropic partner of President’s Park, adjacent to the National Mall. To learn more and to support our mission please visit/contact us:   www.nationalmall.org | information@nationalmall.org

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