10 years after 9/11, "a nice story of recovery" for the arts in Lower Manhattan

The Wall Street Journal, 8/29/11

The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council was located in the World Trade Center until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when it lost its offices, a performance venue, 30 years of archives, and Michael Richards, an artist-in-residence working in a studio on the 92nd floor. But in the 10 years since, thanks to corporate partnerships, philanthropy and a recharged, collaborative environment of ingenuity, LMCC has enjoyed unprecedented development. "There was a spirit of rebuilding and regrowth that really drove lower Manhattan for the 10 years since 9/11," said the council's president, Sam Miller. "LMCC took advantage and was catalytic in moving it forward." Highlights include LMCC's annual River to River Festival, which was launched in 2002, and the $5 million grant from the September 11th Fund in 2005. The organization also took part in re-imagining -- and claiming -- open space for use by artists, thereby addressing the perennial issue of affordable work spaces. "That's been in demand from the day we offered," Mr. Miller said, "and it's grown exponentially."  Post-traumatic cultural growth isn't unprecedented -- Mr. Miller recalled witnessing "a group of artist-leaders committed to re-activating the scene in New Orleans" after Hurricane Katrina. He also cited examples in other cities, like Berlin and Liverpool, where artists and arts advocacy groups took great advantage of, and helped spur, the renewal of an urban core. But he couldn't come up with an equivalent to what's happened in lower Manhattan for LMCC since 9/11. "I think we've shown pretty good fortitude," he said. "It's a nice story of recovery and re-animation."


For Sept 11th anniversary, artists rise to an occasion for reflection

The New York Times, 8/25/11

Samuel Beckett might have been right about the fundamental tension between human frailty and the expressive instinct of human culture. "If you really get down to the disaster," he once observed, "the slightest eloquence becomes unbearable." But it has never kept humans from seeking refuge in art and turning to it to try to comprehend tragedy. And in the coming days and weeks surrounding the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the outpouring of music, film, visual art, theater, books and public forums revisiting the events and the victims of that Tuesday morning will be not only immense but also powerful and richly diverse. Some of the offerings approach the anniversary obliquely. Most of the cultural events return more directly to those days and their aftermath: a play about a fire captain and one about a South Asian family's 9/11 losses; a documentary about two men who gave their lives to save others in the North Tower, and another about the lives of some of the more than 3,000 children who lost parents. Perhaps the most affecting responses will be those that have seemed simply to rise up from the city's streets, like a series of Jacob Lawrence-inspired collages, to be shown publicly for the first time, created by a group of Upper West Side students who experienced the disaster on their first day of eighth grade and reached out for mere paper and glue as a way to rebuild their crumbled city.

> A guide to these cultural events is available here.


Commentary: Should we still have commemorative concerts for 9/11?

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 8/26/11

At times of mourning, classical music comes into its own. We respond to tragedy with music. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, bore a flood of tribute concerts in their wake, and they return this year in notable proportions to honor the 10th anniversary. The question is, how many commemorations do we need before we're ready to move on, how many performances of Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony?  It's a question without a clear answer. A big institution like an orchestra unquestionably does have a civic as well as an artistic function. [And] we do need commemorations. But it's hard to turn on the spigots of emotion on command. To feed the soul, music has to come from the soul, and big institutions don't always have the emotional connection with their communities that fuels a meaningful memorial. Indeed, individual communities - local choruses, amateur orchestras - are responsible for many of the 9/11 anniversary concerts around the country. One particular community in New York City is hoping to offer a striking tribute of its own. The musicians and composers who lived in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attacks are joining in a free marathon concert called Music After, starting at 8:46 in the morning and lasting until after midnight. It will unite a wide range of luminaries including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Meredith Monk, Rosanne Cash, David Lang, David Del Tredici, and dozens of others. The point of this event is not only commemoration, not only nostalgia, but a reaffirmation of the resiliency of the creative spirit. It will be, that is, if the organizers can raise the funding. Everyone wants commemoration; but not everyone, especially 10 years later, is eager to pay for it.


Report: Dozens of 9/11-related charities "failed miserably"

Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly, 8/25/11

This Associated Press story reported last week on an investigation of 325 charities that were created as responses to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Some of the 9/11 charities "failed miserably.... There are those that spent huge sums on themselves, those that cannot account for the money they received, those that have few results to show for their spending and those that have yet to file required income tax returns. Yet many of the charities continue to raise money in the name of Sept. 11." The AP team uncovered lots of pretty shameful stories including the American Quilt Memorial, whose founder raised $713,000 in donations, took $270,000 for himself and relatives and never delivered the quilt, and Urban Life Ministries, which raised $4 million to help victims and first responders and could only account for $670,000 of its expenditures before its tax exemption was pulled by the IRS. One of the slimiest, the Flag of Honor Fund, generated little for 9/11 charities but plenty for the for-profit business run by the charity's founder.


In post-9/11 era, an artist's depiction of a bank going up in flames draws police

The Los Angeles Times, 8/28/11

Alex Schaefer's depiction of a Chase branch going up in flames drew the attention of L.A. police, who asked if he was a terrorist. Standing before an easel on a Van Nuys sidewalk, Alex Schaefer dabbed paint onto a canvas. "There you have it," he said. "Inflammatory art." The 22-by-28-inch oil painting is certainly hot enough to inflame Los Angeles police. Twice they've come to investigate why the 41-year-old artist is painting an image of a bank building going up in flames. "They asked if I was a terrorist and was I going to follow through and do what I was painting." No, Schaefer said. He explained that the artwork was intended to be a visual metaphor for the havoc that banking practices have caused to the economy. He is actually doing a series of paintings depicting banks ablaze. "The flames symbolize bringing the system down," he said. "Some might say that the banks are the terrorists." Although police elsewhere have occasionally challenged photographers taking pictures of things like refineries and governmental buildings in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, questioning an artist slowly creating an oil painting "is a horribly Orwellian act," said Andrew McGregor, a photographer who sometimes displays his work alongside Schaefer's. Gary Kishner, a spokesman for Chase Bank, said his institution isn't sure what to make of Schaefer's work. "It's a situation we don't take lightly. Hopefully, this is not what his actions are. It's kind of scary -- you don't know what other people are thinking. We have to look out for the safety of our customers and employees."

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