Back to Square One at Ground Zero
Published: June 6, 2004
T once seemed possible that the debate over ground zero's cultural activity would be less contentious than the debate over its office buildings. City planners, commercial interests and creative figures all agreed that art could help bring life back to the site of so much death. But discussions about which kind of programming can attract more visitors or generate more revenue or satisfy more neighborhood residents have obscured a larger burden: the World Trade Center is no ordinary site. What artistic idea would be sufficiently bold and soul-stirring to lead ground zero into its future?
The competition appeared to have come down to two imperfect contenders. The New York City Opera is a world-renowned, innovative institution with a loyal following. But a 2,200-seat opera house does not guarantee daytime activity or mass appeal, may be difficult to fill and does not directly serve the needs of local residents. A combination of the Joyce Theater, which presents dance, and the Signature Theater Company, which features the work of a single playwright each season, could add up to a multidisciplinary performing arts center. But the modest stature of these two institutions may lead to fundraising difficulties.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city and the state were supposed to announce their decision in April. None has been made, and recent signs indicate they may be headed back to the drawing board. If so, now is the moment to rethink the entire project, to search for the best answers to the most trenchant questions, rather than the most expedient compromise. To jump-start the discussion, here are eight suggestions from the chief critics of the New York Times.
More Studios, Less Propaganda
Back to Basics: Twin Towers II
A. O. SCOTT
Not Another Lincoln Center
A Home, at Last, For World Music
Wanted: One Resident Genius
In Defense of City Opera
More Power to the People
An American Pompidou Center