I have been moved to tell an important story and to set a GoFundMe Campaign: http://gofund.me/ArtAID to correct an injustice that is affecting my husband and his legacy through his artwork over the last 15 years. Many of you are already familiar with the beautiful artworks and memorial installations created by my husband Keith in the name of ArtAID in response to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that took over 3,000 innocent lives and changed the world forever.
I am referring to the 1st Ground Zero Memorial installations, the Never Forget posters and banners, and the Guardian Angel Tributes for the first responders, which were created, produced and distributed freely for years. First responders, friends and families of the victims of the attacks, firefighters and police officers and countless others received these artworks as part of a graphic artist’s humanitarian mission to help console, heal and lift their spirits during dark times after the attacks. This unique, iconic artistic response is very recognizable and now hangs in many firehouses, police precincts and homes across the nation. Many of you already have some of these artworks.
As the 15th Anniversary approaches an important story needs to be told, for a certain truth to be revealed and and try to correct an impasse that the National September 11th Memorial and Museum has not addressed.
Firstly, it needs to be told is that this work has never been sold or commercialized. The posters were given out at Ground Zero to family members, first responders and uniformed officers at the site during the recovery effort and for several years at the various September 11th Anniversary ceremonies, without asking for anything in return. As many of you who personally know my husband, he’s an artist who dedicated years of his life to this cause, but never had the inclination or desire to profit off it in any way. In fact, for years it was done in complete anonymity.
It also needs to be told that this body of work, collectively known as “ArtAID, Art in Service of Humanity,” includes the very first Ground Zero Memorials on the viewing platforms at the World Trade Center site, the first place of a formal memorial honoring in name those who perished that day, installed when there was a great need for such a memorial in the months shortly after the attacks, when remains were still being pulled from the ashes, when thousands of tourists lined up every day to catch a glimpse of the still smoldering pile to take a photograph who seemed to be oblivious to the sanctity of the site. In response, urged by family members and first responders, my husband felt compelled to create a memorial to remind those visitors that this was a sacred site, a mass grave, a place where thousands were murdered. Without realizing how truly important it was at that time, without asking permission to install the artworks, when no other City agency had the capacity or resources to apply at the time, history was made with the first Ground Zero Memorial listing all the names of the victims, as well as could be determined at that point. Over the ensuing months on public display, thousands viewed this memorial every day until the platforms were dismantled. Many people left flowers, memorial cards, messages, flags, poems, etc. as personal offerings to their lost friends of family members, or symbolic signs of their visit, that over time became a substantial collection of artifacts that would eventually be preserved by my husband at his personal expense for several years until a formal September 11th Museum could be created, where my husband always intended to be the final repository for this work.
It now needs to be told that in good faith, from the earliest days of the of the formation of this Museum, when it was still just a concept, my husband shared with family members and friends, who eventually went on to become Curators and Board Members at the 911 Museum, that he was preserving this collection for the future museum at his personal expense, which all along he intended to donate the entire collection to the museum with one very simple and reasonable requirement: That he would receive the reimbursement for the cost of the storage to preserve the collection, which over the years became a significant amount of money. With an implicit understanding of the importance of this collection of art and artifacts, of his personal work and legacy, my husband had no choice but to pay the storage fees, preserve the collection and hope that the future Museum would have the resources to make him whole and address this outlay.
Years later, when the Museum was finally in a position to finally begin accommodating the collection with it’s own storage facilities, the acquisition process began and a truck load of original artworks, banners and artifacts was delivered to the Museum for them to begin sorting and deciding what they wanted for the collection. In effect, they were getting first right of refusal to include what they wanted in the Museum collection, and return everything they didn’t want, or was duplicate, an extensive process that to this day has still not been completed. In a very significant leap of faith that he would eventually be made whole, he formally donated a portion of the collection to the Museum on July 30, 2015, in celebration of the 1 year anniversary of the opening of the 911 Museum, with the understanding that once the ArtAID designs were in the collection, it would make sense for the Museum to proceed in earnest to develop the projects previously discussed.
For years there have been discussions of how to address this issue, such as commissioning an ArtAID exhibition and accompanying catalog, a project to recognize the 1st Ground Zero Memorial by recreating the installation, which was suggested for the 15th Anniversary. We are still waiting for these projects to materialize, but have received no assurance from the Museum, despite appealing to them on the highest level on more than one occasion.
I strongly believe that the time is long over due to assure this legacy where it historically belongs, in the permanent 9/11 Memorial, now the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. I have taken up this task on behalf of my husband, who needs your assistance to complete the process, but has been too humble to ask your support himself. The purpose of this GoFundMe campaign is to ask your support to finance the cost of preserving this collection over 15 years, to start the process of editing and digitizing the work, and commence work on a book about this fascinating story. Once we reach this goal we will be in a better position to proceed to donate the complete collection, including the First Ground Zero Memorial banners to the museum. The historic and cultural value of the content for this book project cannot be underestimated. We are truly at a loss why the Museum hasn’t offered to fund it, which would have made perfect sense in connection with an exhibition of the work.
For those of you who I have already met I am proud to say that I have truly found an extended family in the 9/11 Community and I’m beyond thankful for embracing me and Nina as part of this loving, healing, solidary group of souls who know about resiliency and hope.
Adriana De Cesare
PS. If you are unable to contribute at this time, please share this with people who can. If you have any personal experience or testimonial to offer in support of this campaign, please share your comments along with the name that you would like listed in the acknowledgements. Some family members have already asked to contribute “In the name of” their loved ones. All the donations made to this campaign are going directly and exclusively to Keith. There are not other people involved. So please feel free to make your donation with the assurance that it is going directly to him and his purpose of preserving the First 9/11 Memorial created and installed by my husband at Ground Zero in 2001.