I’m in The Wall Street Journal today–a special unscheduled appearance on the Leisure & Arts page.
Last week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center site, announced the names of the four cultural organizations it has offered space at Ground Zero: the Joyce Theater, the Signature Theater Company, the Drawing Center, and an as-yet-nonexistent “Freedom Center” that will present “exhibitions centered on humankind’s enduring quest for freedom.”
I wasn’t exactly impressed, least of all with the Freedom Center:
The Freedom Center is one of those self-evidently silly ideas that only an underemployed committee could have conceived, a portentous-sounding Museum of Nothing in Particular destined to present blandly institutional, scrupulously noncontroversial exhibitions. No doubt the center will draw plenty of squirming grade-school kids sentenced to compulsory field trips, but I’d bet next month’s rent that tourists will steer clear.
The three other groups to be offered space are serious and respectable, but they simply don’t add up to anything remotely approaching a world-class center for the arts. “The vibrant mixture of dance, theatre and fine arts in one cultural complex will serve as a powerful cultural and economic engine for Lower Manhattan,” Gov. George Pataki proclaimed last week. Who’s he kidding? Like the Freedom Center, this particular choice of institutions stinks of committeethink. It’s modest and safe–the inverse of the magnificent cultural opportunity afforded by the coming reconstruction of Ground Zero….
I was especially disappointed in the fact that New York City Opera, which had proposed to build a three-theater complex at Ground Zero, got the brush-off. I wrote in the Journal last year wholeheartedly endorsing City Opera’s proposal as the kind of large-scale project worthy of the site and the occasion. Alas, the LMDC apparently thought it too major–and, I’m disturbed to say, too highbrow:
“By building a New York City Opera House on the ashes of the World Trade Center,” I wrote, “New Yorkers would be making the boldest possible declaration of faith in the power and glory of Western culture. A year and a half ago, 3,000 innocent men, women and children were murdered by sworn enemies of that culture. I can’t imagine a more inspiring way to honor their memory.” Instead, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. chose to think small–very, very small….
Read the whole thing here.