RIO GRANDE — Coping with catastrophic trauma is something most Americans thankfully never experience. The 9/11 attacks changed that for millions, including a generation of children who lost loved ones.
Through America’s Camp – a fun and supportive summer camp for children who lost a parent or sibling in the attacks – artistic expression became a powerful coping mechanism. The large-scale collaborative works generated through the camp were first exhibited at the Pentagon in 2012, and began Wednesday, Sept. 11 will be on display throughout southeastern Ohio thanks to the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College.
The exhibition, high-end reproductions of the original works to be permanently displayed at the 9/11 museum in New York, were gifted by the Pentagon to former America’s Camp Artistic Director Traci Molloy “so that I could take it to people who could not see the show otherwise.”
Consisting of 34 panels, the exhibition is on display in three locations: Bob Evans Farms Hall located on Rio Grande’s main campus, Rio Grande’s Meigs Center in Pomeroy and the Lillian Jones Museum in Jackson.
“America’s Camp was the first place where many of (the 9/11 children) felt like they could be kids again,” Molloy said. “The work is what it is because they felt safe. These pieces are depictions of grieve and loss, and they’re also celebrations of hope and love. There is a power to this that you just can’t explain.”
The exhibition was made possible through Rio Grande’s ImagineArts Endowment, and School of Fine Arts Chair and Professor Benjy Davies.
“I went to grad school with Benjy and last fall he was in New York bringing his students on a trip,” Molloy said. “We got together then and things just sort of worked out.”
Molloy was originally scheduled as a visiting artist at Rio Grande through the endowment to work with Portsmouth High School students on a project about identity, which will result in an Arts Education Workshop for teachers in March.
The 9/11 exhibit was not originally planned for southeastern Ohio. Following its premiere at the Pentagon, the exhibition traveled to DePauw University in Indiana. Its third scheduled destination was canceled, however, and Davies seized the opportunity.
“Our first installation at DePauw took a year to make happen,” Molloy said. “But Benjy made it happen in less than a month. The fact that he did this, my brain is just boggled. But this is exactly where it should go. In talking with Benjy and (Lillian Jones Director) Megan Malone, a lot of people in this region have never been to New York and otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience something like this. This is exactly why the show was created.”
Aside from the pieces on display, Molloy will host a pair of lectures. A Gallery Talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30 at the Lillian Jones Museum in which she will focus on America’s Camp and specific pieces of the 9/11 installation. An Artist Talk is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1 in room 118 of Bob Evans Farms Hall in which Molloy will discuss her entire career.
“I hope people are able to come and see how the arts are able to play such a vital role in someone’s life, and to get a sense of what it was like for the children to deal with the 9/11 attacks and how we as a society try to process something like that,” Professor Davies said. “It’s a moving tribute to the power of art to process deep emotions.”
Molloy said high school and college students, in particular, have strong emotional responses to the exhibition due to the visceral memories associated with the fact they are roughly the same ages as many of the artists, now and at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
The Lillian Jones Museum also offers the public unveiling of the first video project created by the children of America’s Camp.
“We have decided to share it because it explains America’s Camp in a way that I can’t,” Molloy said. “You can watch this video for eight minutes and understand how much it meant. … It’s all there; all the emotions.”
Molloy acknowledged that anything pertaining to 9/11 can be difficult for many people. But she said anytime the America’s Camp art is displayed and celebrated the children “feel like it keeps their parents alive.”
For more information about the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College visit rio.edu or call 800-282-7201.