On July 18, the Tribute Center will open the first of many changing exhibits in Gallery 5. Created in conjunction with the New York University Child Study Center, Coming Together: Our Children Respond to September 11th with Hope for the Future will explore children’s feelings and responses. The new exhibit will convey children’s feelings of fear, compassion and hope expressed through paintings, quilts, collages, videos and quotes. Meriam Lobel, curator of Coming Together, hopes that the new exhibit will create a dialogue between children and their parents.
“Many families and schools from around the world visit Tribute,” she explains. “We want young people to be able to express their feelings. One of the primary goals of the Tribute Center is education.” Adults will also find many of the predominant feelings that children express to be their own. “I think people will be encouraged by the hopefulness that children express for a more peaceful world,” Lobel says, adding, “Visitors will see once again how honest children are in their artistic expressions, and how they get to the depths of emotions that we all feel and bring them to the surface.”
Wendy Aibel-Weiss, Director of Exhibits and Education, says the exhibit took on new meaning as it was being developed. The initial intent was to show how children reacted. As artworks came in for the project, they were surprised and touched to find that the grief and confusion that they had expected to find was tempered by many other emotions in a large number of works.
“We noticed a common thread of hope for the future. There was very little expression of hatred or punishment; there was, in fact, an enormous amount of compassion,” Aibel-Weiss said. 11-year-old, Lucas Berstein, created a unique collage in honor of his uncle, killed in the attacks. It is made entirely of postage stamps, with one stamp for every soul lost. A quilt, donated to a firehouse by kindergarteners, bears messages of compassion and hope. Quotes throughout the exhibit express the simple eloquence of youth. A student from P.S. 22, Staten Island, Miguel, conveys one of the most powerful messages, saying, “What the terrorists wanted is us to be scared, to go in our house and never come out. But we didn’t do that. We didn’t hide in the shadows. We went in the sun.”
Throughout the exhibit, there is a strong presence from parents and teachers; many of the projects selected were guided by adults in order to help the children heal. Teachers Gregg Breinberg, Leslie Johnson, and Jeanne Burns, from PS 22, had this very goal in mind when they created a video presentation that is featured in the exhibit.
“We were forced to put our fears and grief on hold. We knew our obligation was to safeguard the children from the overwhelming fright associated with the day,” explains Breinberg. “We were compelled to seek out a way to instill in them the focus and drive that it will take to make a better tomorrow.” The video features poignantly direct interviews with the students. To teachers and students, the video represents a way to heal and grow.
Coming Together: Our Children Respond to September 11th with Hope for the Future will run from July 18, 2007 through January 18, 2008. Worksheets and other helpful materials for children, parents, and teachers are available at the exhibit and on the Tribute Center website, www.tributewtc.org, to open a dialogue about September 11th between generations.
In addition, a series of family-oriented programs will run at the Tribute Center from August to December, centered around the same idea as the exhibit: children’s need to understand, come to terms with, and grow through the irrevocable changes that occurred in their world.
Schools and groups of 10 or more who wish to visit the exhibit may contact Visitor Services 1-866-737-1184.