Friday, September 21, 2012

Where Is Tiles For America?

The tiles have been removed from the fence located at 7th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue because the site - which is owned by the MTA - is going to be the site of a new subway ventilation plant.  City planners originally drew up sketches and plans that included the tiles in them: unfortunately there has been big drama involving several parties and that does not look like it is going to happen now.

The tiles have for a long time been in the care of a group of individuals who live in the neighborhood.  They have removed broken tiles, moved tiles as needed, cleaned around the fence, and done various other good deeds.  One individual in particular, Dusty Burke, spearheaded efforts to preserve and maintain the memorial including organizing an effort to remove and protect the tiles when a hurricane was impending. 

My understanding is that Dusty teamed up with the CCSA (Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association) when the date for ground breaking on the site was decided upon, and the tiles would absolutely need to be removed.  There was discussion about creating a non profit organization for the preservation of the tiles, and the possibility of a donated site near the original site to display them in.  The MTA was dealing directly with the CCSA regarding the tile removal - and the CCSA negotiated a storage space for them in Albany.  The CCSA sent a representative to NYC to meet with Dusty and discuss plans, but in the night prior to that person's arrival...


Drama follows.  Accusations Fly.  Both parties feel they are the rightful "owners" of Tiles for America.  Stuff is posted on Facebook.  Reporters find my home number.  Emails. Tweets. All of this is enough to just make you want to lay down and take a nap.

Isn't it ironic that a project that was meant to embody a spirit of cooperation and healing has been so fraught with politics? 

I will post my feelings here as the person who started this Memorial. 

In the days following 9/11 spontaneous memorials popped up all over the city.  T4A was never meant to be a memorial that lasted forever.  In fact, at the heart of it from an artistic point of view and what I always loved about curating it was that it clearly showed the passage of time.  A tile made September 26, 2001 looked physically very different from a tile made September 26, 2009.  What the fence showed in addition to the passage of time was the journey away from some of the emotions that ran strong around September 11.  Tiles then had very strong emotions and messages-- they were cathartic and meaningful and their aesthetic reflected that- while as later tiles may have held similar sentiments but still showed a slight shift away--an artistic distancing that was apparent to me.  We cannot hold onto our grief and our sorrow and our loss forever.  The people we love who we have lost want nothing more than for us to move onward-- towards joy, towards happiness-towards light. 

I do not own the tiles.  The CCSA does not own the tiles.  Dusty Burke doesn't own the tiles even if they are in rubber made containers in her apartment ( I don't know if they are.)  Those tiles belong to a moment in time.  They belong to a memory.  They belong to whomever took comfort from them.   To fight for "rightful ownership" is such an insult to why they were created and what purpose they served.

The official 9/11 Museum has tiles, the Memorial Center has tiles, The Constitution Center has tiles that travel around to museums around the world.  The fact is that a ginormous section of the memorial has already been properly preserved and archived by people who are experts at doing just that. 

I find it ironic that this small little effort at healing following 9/11 has mirrored some of the politics that swirled around the creation of larger memorials.  What a shame that a project begun to promote cooperation and healing may have as its legacy some petty drama.  I will continue to update this blog as I become aware of any additional events.

Thank you to the MTA who housed those tiles for over a decade without complaint- who did their very best for them.  The MTA are true heros.

Thank you to the Village angels who cared for the tiles for so many years and made so many great improvments.

Thank you to the CCSA for their participation and support and for continuing to host the website that I gave them for the tiles.

Thank you to everyone who has ever passed by the fence and sent me an email, a photo, or linked to a poem on a blog a snippet of text.  Knowing that the project touched you reminded me how beautiful it can be when we all connect behind a common purpose.

Thank you to the heroes of 9/11-- from the firemen to the police, to the children and parents who struggle every day because the people they love are not with them now. 

And thank you for reading.