First Responders: A 9/11 Tribute Art Exhibition
First Responders: A 9/11 Tribute Art Exhibition
Help AAAC pay tribute to the 343 first responders who gave their lives on 9/11 with five paintings by local NYC artist Yang Yi.
Help AAAC pay tribute to the 343 first responders who gave their lives on 9/11 with five paintings by local NYC artist Yang Yi. Read more
About this project
“FIRST RESPONDERS”, a solo exhibition featuring the work of artist Yang Yi 杨亿, opened on September 10, 2016. It was mounted by Asian American Arts Centre in collaboration with Chinatown Soup in Lower Manhattan. This was a special exhibition AAAC was proud to have presented, a body of work that is both a commemoration and celebration of the American spirit. It is fitting that as Americans we should find an immigrant whose remarkable skills and devotion gives to us the fruits of his heart and his labor.
Yi’s pentaptych took five years to complete, with the portraits of all 343 faces of the first responders who were killed at the World Trade Center 15 years ago. Asian American Arts Centre welcomes the opportunity to share his work with all Americans, New Yorkers, visitors to the city, and the Asian American community.
Yang Yi, 59, came to the United States from China in 1995 where he soon made a living painting portraits in Central Park. Meeting daily those who posed for him, he got to know New Yorkers through our faces. Following the 9/11 terror attacks, many people asked Yang Yi to make a portrait of their loved ones from the photos that remained. In 2010, Yi saw a mural on the side of a Flushing firehouse near his apartment. That inspired him. These were his heroes. He realized photos of the firemen’s faces were not enough. He could paint them and enable us to see as deeply as he.
Despite his consummate skills, Yang found that much more time would be needed than he thought. His domestic life suffered. He became the single father of his two boys and still found time to continue painting. Working out of his small apartment in Queens, raising his family, Yang kept to his goal for five years to complete the five canvases.
To watch an exclusive interview with artist Yang Yi, recorded by AAAC's own Weigang Song, please subscribe and check out our YouTube Channel here.
Here are press articles that have been written about Yang Yi's work:
Our Project Mission and Vision:
Our mission for this project is to share the paintings with you of the 343 firemen who endure as the heroes of 9/11. And also to share this timely story of Yang Yi, his story as an immigrant to the USA. Yang Yi endured his own personal hardships to complete his goal – paintings of who he found to be heroic – real heroes. His story reflects today's immigrants, particularly the face of this new generation of Chinese American immigrants. Yang Yi’s special gift to America renews the dream for us all.
This exhibition, with your support, may continue. Current plans are for the show on an expanded scale to travel next year to Sumei Arts Center’s firehouse, a larger venue, in Newark, NJ if funding is forthcoming.
About Asian American Arts Centre:
As a local community arts non profit founded in 1974, exhibiting and archiving Asian American artists since 1983, Asian American Arts Centre held its first contemporary public art exhibition in 1988 sought to find art with the potential to transform the image of Manhattan's Chinatown and Chinese Americans for mainstream Americans. Yang Yi’s exhibition, in revealing himself, a Chinese immigrant to the USA, has this potential.
During four decades of activity and through to today, a picture of Asian American art continues to emerge from the Art Centre’s work; the roles of family, community, identity, tradition, folk sources, spirituality, the marketplace and politics of art and innovative personalities have all been essential in shaping the past and current cultural presence of Asians in the US in the 21st century.
With very little time to prepare and few supporters, the exhibition managed to open on September 10th 2016 with the support of Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation - CPLDC. Now, the goal is to keep these paintings before the public so that during next year’s anniversary the exhibition will find a wider audience. The long-term goal is a permanent home/exhibition site, potentially in New York's Chinatown, so these paintings can continue to be accessible to the public in Lower Manhattan. If funds exceed our expectations, these can go to start a fund so these paintings can be acquired and displayed permanently.
When was the last time you met a real hero? It can be a meaningful experience. To affirm in your own mind who and why a person is such a person - a hero. After November 8th elections, do you still believe in what this country has stood for? Does it change how you regard these 343 firemen? Have you thought about the significance of an immigrant - Yang Yi – in having devoted himself to these portraits?
What do you affirm and support, what do you believe? Who are your real heroes? Not just fictional ones.
Americans both left and right can see and decide if the portraits of First Responders as painted by Yang Yi means something. Yang Yi has continued to focus on the portraits of firemen. These will be exhibited next year.
As a country we may be divided. The 343 may point us to a place of unity. Remember, it is an immigrant who takes time to think through this, and has gifted these paintings to us.
What makes this project most unique? "A portrait painting does not do the same thing as a photograph exhibition of the first responders - it has the capacity to revive a way of seeing, to draw from memory and imagination a different way of feeling. See the quotes from Ben Hom and Jay Jonas. Such feelings may not have happened if these were not painted by hand." - Robert Lee, Executive Director and Curator, AAAC
About Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center:
Sumei Multidisciplinary Arts Center is a nonprofit organization, located in downtown Newark, whose mission is to provide a space for artists of diverse backgrounds and disciplines to interact through the arts and humanities with the local, statewide and regional community utilizing performance, exhibition, and education, to create an exchange of cultural ideas and practices. Sumei's Prospect Street Firestation is a community based and supported gallery dedicated to exhibiting a variety of artists, from emerging to established, including local, regional and international artists. It is a place for people to come together to talk, see films, performances and lectures – a place to learn from both professionals and peers, to be creative & to get inspired, and a place where opportunities for new ideas and new ventures can be developed and supported.
Here is our Kickstarter budget breakdown:
Our targets for this budget are the following--
- Preparation for the First Responders exhibition to expand and travel to Sumei Art Centre’s Prospect Street Firestation Gallery
- Research to find a permanent exhibition site for these artworks
- The publicity and support of the public’s knowledge of these artworks, including outreach to firefighters who remember
- Operating costs for the display of Yang Yi’s paintings in Chinatown Soup’s exhibition space
AAAC's Limited Edition Exhibition Poster:
This poster, designed by AAAC's own Hal Laessig, is a visual representation of the commemorative exhibition mounted by AAAC in Manhattan's Chinatown during the month of September 2016. It depicts all five Yang Yi artworks, each measuring 5' feet x 7' feet and showing great detail and care for each individual person and object. As a thank you for your support, AAAC will be sending you a version of this poster.
Limited Edition Yang Yi Art Print:
These are some of the faces of 20th century famous figures, crafted with Chinese dry-ink techniques. Yang Yi's portraiture series displays his consummate skill as a portrait artist. Pledge $300 and a limited edition art print of your favorite historical figure can be yours!
Risks and challenges
The goal of this project is to assure that the next exhibition of Yang Yi can be realized. The budget for this campaign will go a long way to plan and support this upcoming exhibition as well as underwrite the initial effort to bring Yang Yi to the public. However, it will take more funds to make this next exhibition stronger - either through a catalogue or more media exposure. This will entail fundraising efforts over the next several months.
The challenges of putting on an exhibition as an arts organization that has over 36 years of experience is always new and different, but we are likely to have the knowledge and experience to tackle these as they come. Sumei Arts Center is also an experienced veteran as a nonprofit arts organization.
Finally, this is also our first Kickstarter campaign, so we are aware of the challenges that may come with distributing rewards in a timely manner. We will be working around the clock to ensure that we rightfully thank all of our campaign supporters. The items that are being produced as a part of this campaign, such as the limited edition Jacquard Art Print, are of professional quality and will hopefully serve as further marketing materials to enrich all of our efforts.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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