Responding to tragedy with creativity

9.11 Artists Respond NYC Victim Relief Project
Savage Gallery through Oct. 27

Our recent national tragedy has left artists and art lovers questioning the use of that which guides and inspires them. In the wake of Sept. 11, the endeavors of artists everywhere has come under question. There is a bumper sticker that reads “ART SAVES LIVES,” but sadly no art could save the lives of those whose tragic end we are left to mourn.

Art does, however, have the power to heal. It’s no wonder that people have come together to use art in hopes of making sense of the tragedy and looking to humanity’s collective muse for consolation. All of the arts can work to this end. This goes beyond glitzy, megastar-studded network television fundraisers and MTV’s attempts at hard news coverage. Rather, it speaks to each American’s hunger for solace, the need to mourn and hopefully, eventually, find closure.

The use of art to these ends can be found everywhere. The New York Times reported on Monday that poetry has found itself thrust to the forefront of the healing process. W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939,” written after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, has proved extremely popular. Auden’s classic has found new meaning on the streets of New York City, where it is quoted at numerous impromptu memorial displays.

Not only has famous poetry found itself utilized by those in mourning. The Web site, a site where poets both casual and serious are provided a forum at which to post their work, has seen a huge response to the attacks. As of Monday, 11,638 poems had been posted in response to the events of Sept. 11. Titles ranged from the hawkish “Cowardly Dogs,” posted by a woman from Alabama, to the pacifist “We’ll Drop a Bomb,” courtesy of an Ohio man.

The visual arts must also respond to the tragedy. After all, New York is arguably the capital of the art world, and great art can be counted among the city’s losses. London’s The Guardian reported the loss of a large Rodin collection housed on the 105th floor of one of the WTC towers. Thankfully, the private firm that held the collection is not concerned with the loss as it focuses on accounting for the missing 600 of its 1,000 employees.

Closer to home, Portland’s Savage Gallery, 416 N.W. 10th Ave., has postponed its scheduled Oct. exhibition in order to host “9.11 Artists Respond NYC Victim Relief Project.” This project brings together artists, volunteers, and the community-at-large for the purpose of joining “in reflection, support, observation and personal expression,” according to a press release.

Local artist Stephen Hayes has donated his press for the project and anyone (artists and non-artists alike) can go to Savage and make prints. The prints, on display through Oct. 27, are being sold throughout the event. All proceeds are set to go directly to the KGW and Red Cross Relief Fund.

This good cause should prove to be a powerful and healing experience for artists and viewers alike.