Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Twin Towers disaster affects NY art world," by Julie Mehta,

November 1, 2001, Art Business News, "Twin Towers disaster affects NY art world," by Julie Mehta,

NEW YORK--The destruction of the World Trade Center not only pierced the financial heart of the nation, but also claimed among its casualties a talented emerging artist, a unique studio space and a wealth of public art. Artist Michael Richards had worked late and slept over in his studio space on the 92nd floor of the north tower the night before the Sept. 11 attack and was killed. He was a participant in the World Views artist-in-residence program, which provided artists with the chance to set up their easels high in the Twin Towers since 1997.

"It was an absolutely amazing view" said Carl Scorza, whose hunt for studio space inspired the idea for World Views. "There were no other really tall buildings around. From my studio I could see midtown, the George Washington Bridge, even the airports. There was nothing like it."

The program was run by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, whose offices in Five World Trade Center were also wiped out in the attack. All of its employees were accounted for. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey provided the studio space for World Views. Scorza painted more than 50 cityscapes while in the program, working alongside both established and fledgling artists in a colossal, raw space.

One of his fellow artists was Marjorie Portnow, who had focused her career on painting landscapes until she joined the program in 1998. She got so hooked on the challenge of painting city panoramas from her studio on the 91st floor that she tried repeatedly to win another stint in World Views. She was finally accepted for the current semester and would have been at the studio the day of the collapse had it not been for a prior teaching commitment. "I'd already staked out my spot and put my name on the window. I still have my key and security card," she said. "It's very eerie."

Over the years, World Views had expanded to include artists who work with photography, sculpture, film, video, new media and technology. Richards, a Kingston, Jamaica native, was a 38-year-old sculptor who was previously an artist-in-residence at Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer, Minn., and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Ironically, one of his most noted pieces was "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian" (1999) which features a full body cast of himself in the uniform of a Tuskegee Airman. Tiny airplanes pierce the figure instead of arrows.

Despite the tragedy, Scorza hopes the World Views program can be resumed at another location. "With commercial space, some space is usually kept vacant so the opportunity is always there. And what it costs a corporation to lend space is no big deal compared to what artists would have to pay to get their own studio."

World Views was not the only artistic influence in the corporate environment of the World Trade Center. An estimated $10 million worth of public art on display throughout the complex was lost. Some of the better-known pieces included a painted wood relief by Louise Nevelson, Joan Miro's "World Trade Center" tapestry, a 25-foot Alexander Calder sculpture and a painting from Roy Lichtenstein's "Entablature" series. Many companies in the towers also displayed private collections, including the global securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost hundreds of its employees in the attack. The firm's "museum in the sky" on the 105th floor of the north tower had included sculptures and drawings by Rodin.

Museums in the surrounding area, however, fared remarkably well, apparently not losing any employees or sustaining any physical damage. But Ed Able, president and c.e.o, of the American Association of Museums, expressed concerns about the effect of the smoky, dusty air on collections and the long-term impact of the decrease in travel on museum attendance.

But many in the New York arts community are still too staggered by the human losses from the World Trade Center disaster to be too concerned about the artistic ones. "That Nevelson piece was very beautiful, but to talk about that in the same breath as the people who died ... the human loss was just so huge," said Scorza.

There are a number of ways for arts groups and businesses to help. Materials for the Arts [(718) 729-3001 collects and distributes used arts/crafts items and office supplies to arts organizations, schools and hospitals in need. The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (www.artistcares.org) has organized therapeutic workshops for families of victims and firefighters. Web sites with disaster-relief clearinghouses include www.npccm.org and www.nycityartscoalition.org.

Mehta, Julie. "Twin Towers disaster affects NY art world. (news)." Art Business News. 2001. HighBeam Research. (October 3, 2010). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-80192121.html

No comments: