About this project
Are You Down? A Tribute to Artist Michael Richards @ Franconia Sculpture Park
You can help create a permanent tribute to artist Michael Richards' legacy of confronting oppression by helping establish a permanent installation of his moving sculpture Are You Down? at Franconia Sculpture Park. Your contribution today provides the funding needed to finish and install this work by September 11, 2012.
Are You Down? was originally created by internationally recognized artist Michael Richards, who perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks while working in his studio at the World Trade Center. During his tragically short career, Michael’s work challenged oppression and addressed issues of social injustice. Michael was a FSP/Jerome Fellowship Artist at Franconia Sculpture Park in 2000. He completed the sculpture Are You Down? while in residence at Franconia. As he completed his original sculpture, made of fiberglass resin, he discussed with John Hock, Artistic Director, his vision for eventually casting it in bronze. Are You Down? is a multi-layered sculpture that raises awareness of the Tuskegee Airmen’s impact on World War II and the history of achieving civil rights for African Americans.
The permanent installation of Are You Down? restores and preserves the work and provides our community access to a deeply important sculpture created by an artist who was a victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The sculpture not only memorializes the artist and preserves Michael’s artistic legacy, but also carries with it the weight of the tragedy in this pivotal moment in U.S. history.
As a supporter of this project, you will be invited to join us for the dedication of Are You Down? at Franconia Sculpture Park on September 11, 2012. Thank you for investing in this deeply moving project!
ABOUT MICHAEL RICHARDS
Michael was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He graduated with honors from Excelsior High School and went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Queens College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University. After his residency at Franconia in 2000, Michael was selected as artist-in-residence for World Views, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's residency program in the World Trade Center. Michael was working in his studio and tragically killed during the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
ARE YOU DOWN?
Michael Richards' work Are You Down? raises awareness of the Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots whose heroic contributions to World War II were recognized only in the past few decades. The sculpture also takes an autobiographical role as it the figures are cast from Michael's own body. The work pays tribute to the Tuskegee pilots—and to all who suffer intolerance.
Are You Down? is composed of a tableau of three life-sized human figures, parachutists who have fallen from the sky and sit disconsolate on the ground in what appear to be puddles of tar. Backs turned to one another, the figures form a triangle within which is a large bulls-eye representing the target where the men had aimed to land. Their heads clad in close-fitting leather aviator helmets, their shirts torn from the drop, the figures represent three downed aviators from the storied, all-black Tuskegee Airmen’s Squadron of the Second World War, men whose images Richards returned to in his work repeatedly. The work speaks not only of the exhilaration of flight but also of the dreams of freedom that have crashed to the ground.
The back story of Are You Down? is haunting and pertinent to the events that transpired on September 11, 2001. The work itself, in effect a self-portrait, is a commemoration of the artist’s life and talents and a memorial, of sorts, to those that perished on September 11, 2001.
Funding to cast the figures in bronze and to fabricate the bases is supported, in part, by the East Central Regional Arts Council with funds provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. Thank you!
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