“Tiles for America” is not an institution, but rather an ongoing arts project, constituting a memorial. It is meant to express each “artists’ thoughts of sadness and hope in the face of this American tragedy,” which is 9/11 [INT 01]. What is interesting about the statements on the homepage, supported by the Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association, is the emphasis on optimism and community, which was prevalent in other memorials and events around the anniversary, too. It, so it is stated on the website, “shows that the American people will pull together in times of national disaster” [INT 01], which is interesting because it is supported by ceramics studios worldwide and people from all nations can contribute, yet this statement makes clear that it is a memorial mainly for Americans. This is not meant to be exclusive and I do not wish to present this emphasis in a negative manner, it is just striking to see that the description on the website stresses “Americans,” since the attacks of 9/11 are often regarded as a trauma for the nation – witnessed by people from around the globe, who have been affected by what they saw, yet not traumatized, due to the spatial and cultural distance. However, this article is not meant to be an exploration into the question of “whose” tragedy 9/11 is, but rather it is meant to present one way amongst many that this event is remembered.
What is unusual about this memorial is its location. The tiles are attached to a chain link fence at the corner of 7th Avenue and 11th Street, far from the WTC site and the busy New York center. The reason for this is the history of this memorial:
Tiles for America began on September 12, 2001. In the aftermath of the tragedy, crowds gathered in large numbers in front of Saint Vincent’s Hospital, located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 11th Street. This was the hospital that was prepared to receive the thousands of survivors that many people were hopeful they would be. Lorrie Veasey, owner of OUR NAME IS MUD, also located on 11th Street, began to create what she hoped would be an inspiration to recovering victims. From raw clay she fashioned approximately 5000 small angels and American flags, which she and friends attached to a fence that faced the hospital on September 14. The angels and flags were attached with ribbon, and before two weeks had passed, most of them had been removed from the fence[INT 02].
Ms Veasey’s idea soon spread to other pottery studios across New York, member of the CCSA, who started to contribute and, in the beginning, studio owners even delivered the tiles themselves, sometimes driving hundreds of miles. The site is now nearly full with about 6,000 tiles from all over the United States, but also from Europe and Japan and more tiles keep coming, which is why Tiles for America is currently looking for further sites.
[INT 01] “Tiles For America New York City Memorial.” Tiles for America. 2008. Web. 28 January 2011.
[INT 02] “History of the Site.” Tiles of America. 2008. Web. 28 January 2011. http://www.tilesforamerica.com/NYC_history.html
Last updated: February 17, 2011