Tribute in Light

Photos: Robert Vizzini

It was one of the most profound pieces of public art I’d ever seen.  The tribute first appeared on the night of March 11, 2002, six months after the World Trade Center attacks: twin beams of light, pointed to the heavens, emanating from close to the site.  It literally stopped me in my tracks. I remember standing on the sidewalk—five or six miles away—looking up at the lights slicing through the clouds, disappearing into infinity, thinking: this is the ultimate memorial.

Tribute in Light—designed by John Bennett, Gustavo Bonevardi, Richard Nash Gould, Julian Laverdiere and Paul Myoda, with Paul Marantz as lighting consultant—became an annual event, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, appearing at dusk every September 11 and fading with the dawn of the following day. It has remained remarkably powerful, largely because of its impermanence.

For the past ten years, the cost of the annual tribute, roughly $500,000, has been covered by a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grant. The LMDC has been in the process of disbanding for the past five years, but it turns out (no surprise) money-dispensing government agencies are hard to kill. Nevertheless, the grant for Tribute in Light expires this year, so MAS has launched a fundraising campaign to secure its future.

Photo: Robert Vizzini

The tribute—which consists of 88 7,000-watt light cannons—is assembled on a rooftop near the World Trade Center site, but given the vicissitudes of New York real estate that spot might not be available two or three or ten years from today. “There are a whole range of infrastructure issues related to the project,” Christine Krische, Vice President Public Programs at MAS. “But in the end I have no doubt we’ll be able to raise the money.”

Click here if you’d like to contribute to Tribute in Light (and pony up, Goldman Sachs!).

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