Anne Pasternak: Tower of Lights

Anne Pasternak: Tower of Lights

Anne Pasternak has been the executive director of Creative Time, Inc., a non-profit public arts organization dedicated to commissioning and presenting public art projects that enliven and foster an appreciation its urban landscape since 1994. A 2002 Fast 50 winner, Anne contributed to "Tribute in Light," a breathtaking display of two beams of light that rose near Ground Zero to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Here is a rough transcript of her remarks:

How many of you are in the nonprofit arena? Can you believe these chairs? They're plush. It's really an honor and a privilege to be included in this conference. For those of you who were here last night, you'll remember Alan and Polly saying that Fast Company was like a mentor in a magazine. I've always turned to Fast Company for lessons that I should have learned in other places.

I did take away some lessons from my father, who was a really, really smart guy. The first lesson was never stop learning. The second thing was to work hard and work harder. And the third lesson was to enjoy yourself.

Luckily, I've found myself in the perfect profession. I'm a curator. I organize exhibitions. Artists always challenge you. And because the exhibitions I curate are about timely themes, I often have to learn more than I thought I would otherwise. I've done shows on genetics. Imagine that.

In 1994, I got a job at Creative Time. And the skills I learned as a curator were perfect to bring to the nonprofit world. At Creative Time we've worked with artists, musicians, fashion designers, and other creators to make New York a better place. We've done billboards and bus posters, media screens in Times Square, even the skies.

The truth is that I'm an issues-oriented girl. The possibility of creating a more productive dialogue incorporating art in the public spaces of the city really excites me. When 911 happened, rather than continue to feel depressed and useless, I thought about how my professional skills could be useful in the face of this tragedy. One way that Fast Company has helped me is that fast culture requires fast change. To me, that meant that we just experienced vastly rapid, devastating change in our city. What can I do to help artists immediately respond.

Fast forward, I got a call from the New York Times Magazine asking whether I knew any young artists who might have an image that they could use on the cover. They were on deadline. I thought of two artists that had been working on a luminescent project on the top of the World Trade Center Tower One. When the image ran, people started calling to see if the project was real. Was this really happening? People wanted to see that image. Within six months, Tribute in Light became a reality.

I felt at some times that I was really out of my league. And some of the external communications were really painful. But reading some of the letters I got, I couldn't pull out. I couldn't allow the artistic integrity of the project to be compromised. I wanted it to happen, and I wanted it to happen on my terms. I wanted the world to know that creative people did this for them. I also wanted to preserve the public interest and make sure that they were delivered a meaningful project.

The image of Tribute in Light has been on the cover of Newsweek and Time, countless books, and my favorite fireman poster. As you walk around the city, you'll see people selling posters. It's become a real icon for millions of people around the world. But for me, it's the personal responses that I've received that are the most important.

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