Wednesday, May 13, 2009

THe SToRY Of TiLeS FoR AMeRiCA

Tiles for America was started on September 12, 2001, by me-Lorrie Veasey, in response to the events of September 11th. I live in Chelsea, with a clear view down 7th Avenue to where the towers once stood. On the day of the attacks, my husband and I walked down the street to the corner of 7th Avenue and 11th Street, where St. Vincent's Hospital is located, with the intention of donating blood. We owned a store located across the street-a paint your own pottery shop called OUR NAME IS MUD.

One of the many reasons I started Tiles For America is that I am not capable of describing in words how effected I was by the events of September 11th. Eight years later, I can still only say that I shared the desire of millions that day: to be able to dig. Because I was not able to dig, I used my hands for what they do best, and I fashioned close to 500 ceramic angels and American flags--all inscribed with messages of hope and inspiration. I attached these to the fence of the MTA parking lot across from the hospital, with hopes that these would be missives of good will--tiny clay "Get Well" messages for the victims we hoped would be found and brought to St. Vincents.

Spontaneous memorials popped up all over the city. The walls of St. Vincent became covered with MISSING posters as did every streetlamp and bulletin board across the city. I made large standing angels that I left in Union Square, which was covered with symbols and messages of shock, sadness, patriotism, love, anger, fear and hope. At the corner of Seventh Avenue and 11th street, changes occurred every day. Some days flowers would be left, candles would be found melted to the sidewalk--other days it became clear that the angels and flags were disappearing at a rapid rate. I did not mind their loss. I felt grateful to be able to provide some small comfort to whomever needed it.

We allowed OUR NAME IS MUD customers to create tiles in our shop, and donated the profits to the Fireman's Widows and Children Fund. I think many people found the experience of creating and contributing cathartic, and before long we had amassed a large group of tiles. We attached these to the fence with metal wire. (Later, the actor Mathew Modine would visit the shop and suggest zip ties-which is what we now use.)

I had several friends who also owned Paint Your Own Pottery shops. They also allowed customers to paint tiles for the memorial. On September 11, 2002 studios from the Contemporary Ceramics Association helped to grow the memorial to encompass almost two city blocks. Patti from Glazenfyre in Virginia, Meredith Malaga from Art & Soul in Connecticut, Deb Bellica from Garden City, Wendy from the Pottery patch in Florida, and Angie Verberg from the Ceramic Association are just some of the girls who originally helped to make the memorial what it is today, but MANy paint your own pottrey studios across the USA participated. We formed friendships that last to this day. I am incredibly lucky to know them, and to have been part of such a fine association.

In addition to the Ceramic association, Tiles For America has united artists and actors, photographers and videographers, painters and children. Its visual message is one of UNITY and COOPERATION.

For the first four years, I received help and support from The Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association in the care and upkeep of the memorial. Because the tiles are attached to an MTA fence that has a gateway built in, damage occurs on a daily basis. Weather also takes a toll on the installation-and often tiles chip, crack and break. Over the last eight years we have refurbished the memorial numerous times. A tile created 9/21/01 may hang right beside a tile that is just a year old. For me: this is the unique thing about Tiles For America. As it's curator I have been able to really see the progression of emotion and feelings over the course of time. The tiles that were created in 2001 have a quality to them that is very different from tiles created recently. I love that you can see the passage of time on the installation itself.

In 2006, I strove to completely restore the names of all victims of 9/11 on the fence. Studios who were members of the CCSA participated in numerous ways in making tribute tiles. Their participation and contributions were very greatly appreciated.

In 2009, a group of Ceramic studio owners journied again To New York to do a major refurbishment to the site. Sadly, I was not included in the plans for this event, as my name had been removed from the site www.tilesforamerica.com by the leadership of the association. This was greatly upsetting: particularly since I had given them the website domain as a favor so that they could direct people to local studios in 2001. The fact that I was excluded from this refurbishment lead to a great deal of controversy. It created a huge division between myself and the association I once loved.

It is so sad that a project that was started to encourage healing and expression has to be associated with any negative feelings. I would like to be involved with the domain www.tilesforamerica.com in the future to avoid additional misunderstandings. If you would like to help me either have the domain returned to me, or help me make the story on it more accurate, please email the Ceramic Association at email@ccsaonline.com. Maybe they will respond to you. To date, they have not responded to my questions --including when I asked why tiles that had great meaning for the families of certain victims were removed to accomodate tiles that said things like "paint Your Own Pottery.Net."

For me- this was a little bit like sticking some advertizing up on a gravestone.

However: I do not blame the participating studios who were well intentioned. A participating member who helped to organize this cleanup has written a beautiful blog post about his experience at this address:http://tilesforamericacleanup2009.blogspot.com

A portion of the memorial is on display at The WTC Tribute Center. Another portion travels the country in an exhibition that was seen at the Philadelphia Constitution Center. There are some wonderful photographs of the progression of the Memorial by various talented artists, in particular Tony Cesare. A GOOGLE search for TILES FOR AMERICA will show you the site from a million different perspectives.

The neighborhood and community (thanks Mimi!) have been huge supporters of the Memorial and often weed the area around it, and pick up broken and damaged tiles; they are Village Angels. Community Board Two has been trying to have a park built on the site of the MTA parking lot, and would incorporate the tiles into a more permanent fixture if they do so. This means that the last surviving spontaneous memorial may soon be removed and placed in storage when construction begins. I have been promised involvement in the project by the curator for the WTC Museum.

I have stated in recent newspaper articles that I made the memorial for other people. I know I cannot own its destiny. If it is fated to be archived, moved, or even destroyed, then that is what should happen--that would be part of its story.

I will try to update this blog with both pictures and additions to the story with time. The comments you leave below are very much appreciated. Please contact me with any specific questions regarding the memorial at LVMud at aol dot com. I enjoy hearing from you.

Lorrie Veasey

11 comments:

  1. Oh, Lorrie, I'm so sorry.

    What you did was a wonderful thing and I'm sure healing and cathartic for so many involved.

    What others do with it after can;t change that.

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  2. Lorrie: I had seen the 'Tiles for America' link on your blog but had NO IDEA what this was about. I did some google searching and the images I found are beautiful. I got that dreaded lump in my throat. I help back tears. I'm sure that these tiles have meant so much to people in NY and even visitors. I wish that this could be here forever, as a reminder. As you said, their fate is what it is - but I hope it's something that still provides this wonderful memorial.

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  3. That just blows. Seriously. I cannot believe that they are doing this to you. That is wrong on so many different levels I can't even count that high.

    I sincerely hope that this whole situation is rectified and they do the right thing.

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  4. I'm very glad that someone took the time to do a cleanup on the site - it looks so much better.

    I had seen it frequently over the past year or so and it had fallen into sorry state of disrepair that made me sad for all the people that donated their creativity and their passion to create the memorial.

    I painted a tile through my local pottery studio and was honored to do so; but I never would have known about their event had it not been for a notice in the local paper. There was no charge for this event - anyone could simply come in and paint a tile for free.

    Marketing & advertising are simply a way of life in today's society. How can you fault other studios for advertising a Tiles For America event when you yourself have benefited so greatly from doing the same thing? And if a studio didn't charge anything to paint a tile, what money did they collect that you would like them to donate?

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  5. Well the tile that read, "for the real story, visit tilesforamerica.blogspot.com"
    really stuck out so I am now going to blog it for you!
    Too bad about the way things turned out...what you started was a really beautiful, heartfelt project.
    If you visit my blog you will see a badge on the left sidebar that will take you to my flickr account, I've posted more pics there.
    xo

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  6. I was visiting NYC over the July 4th weekend, and noticed a tile that said "if you want to know the truth about this memorial go to this website", I took a photo so I'd remember the site, and I'm glad I did!
    I wish you all the best and I will help spread the word by putting the picture up on my own blog.

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  7. I just read an article about you in The Villager (I read the online edition since I live in Ohio but love NYC).

    I was so surprised to see your name as I only know you from your other blog.

    My husband is a police officer and very involved with the memorial society that comes to NYC every year. I am sure I have seen your tiles and never knew that you were responsible.

    I cannot even imagine the thoughts and feelings that New Yorkers have. Every year when we come to the city I am still shocked at what I see.

    Yes, it happened to all of America but New Yorkers are a family, albeit a large one;)

    I was so sad to read the article. It was as though someone wants to move on and not recognize what happened.

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  9. I was blessed and honored today to be able to assist in rehanging many of the tiles that were lovingly removed due to hurricane Irene's potential damage. I was also blessed to see the dove you made that had my dear friends name on it: William Martin Jr. It saddened me to read the post that you were removed from the website. Thank you for your love, support and creativity.

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