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.

Monday, October 26, 2009


These lovely recent images were photographed by Nicola Lidgett.

Friday, October 23, 2009


These recent photos were sent in by Nicola Lidgett.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recent Pictures 10/22/09

These recent photographs were taken by Nicola Lidgett.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


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 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 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 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:

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

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Welcome to the TILES FOR AMERICA blog!