Hopkinsville resident Brad Kirkman has never been to New York City, but a flag he designed is flying over the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
Kirkman’s rainbow scene was selected for “The Flag Project,” a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design the iconic flags flown from all 193 flagpoles” at the center in Manhattan.
“I’m enjoying my 15 minutes, you know,” Kirkman said, laughing.
Requests for submissions started in May and ended June 30. The challenge invited New Yorkers and the general public to show their love for the city, its diverse culture, vibrant energy, strength and resiliency. The event attracted more than 1,000 entries from all over the United States and the world.
Officials notified Kirkman by email that his design had been selected while he was on vacation last week. At first, he thought the email was spam.
“A couple of days later, they posted on the Rockefeller Center website the designers that were selected with the thumbnail of all of the flags. Mine was one of them,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was legit.”
The winning submissions are being displayed together as 8-foot-by-5-foot flags until Aug. 16. Normally, that location displays the 193 flags of the countries in the United Nations.
“The designs were hand-crafted, star-spangled, brilliantly bold, and digitally decorated — and they expressed a true love of the city and demonstrated a sense of community that is at the core of all Rockefeller Center does and believes in,” according to www.rockefellercenter.com.
Kirkman’s wife Lori said creating art provides stress relief for her husband but also a method of self expression.
“He enjoys art; he always has,” she said. “It’s a way that he can express his faith.”
Kirkman created his rainbow design using a free app on his iPad. His artwork evolved shortly after the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the racial conflicts that followed and continue today across the nation.
“The design that I had submitted was one that I was tinkering around with to work through some of the unrest myself,” he said. “When I heard about the (flag design) theme, I thought this would fit right in.”
Kirkman said the colors of his rainbow — white, tan, brown and black — represent diversity.
“As a person of faith, I see God in nature,” Kirkman said. “I think about how God makes everything. Everything is connected. Everything is dependent on everything else.”
In a Facebook post, Kirkman described his design meaning further.
“God created all people to live in harmony. In harmony there is hope. We are different and we are designed to work together for good and ultimately point others to Him,” he wrote.
The Kirkmans believe in the need for harmony and faith in this diverse world. For eight years, the couple has been neighborhood ambassadors at Challenge House No. 3, a nonprofit organization that seeks to revitalize Hopkinsville’s inner-city by building relationships between “families of faith,” pairing those who have resources with those in need.
“As people we are called to make the world a better place, even if it’s just on your street corner,” Kirkman said. “You have to decide that you want to make the world better … and lift other people up. When you lift other people up, you feel better yourself.”
“The Flag Project” display is arranged alphabetically around the rink according to the names of the artists. Kirkman’s flag is flying next to one designed by American artist Jeff Koons. Koons’ stainless steel “Rabbit” sculpture broke the record in 2019 for the most expensive work sold at auction by a living artist at $91 million.
“That’s kind of cool. Little Brad from Hoptown is right next to that guy,” Kirkman said. “I’m as excited about being next to that guy as I am having a flag in New York. What are the odds of that?”
In addition to having his flag exhibited at Rockefeller Center, Kirkman will receive a catalog showing all of the flags chosen for the Big Apple display. The catalog includes Kirkman’s name, hometown and a quote he submitted with his entry.
“In harmony there is hope,” he wrote. “I’m a simple man with a simple faith.”