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Through art, a greater understanding of 9/11

Following the shock and horror of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Massachusetts-based graphic designer Robin Masi knew she wanted to help others reach a better understanding of those inexplicable events through her art.

Since that day nearly 10 years ago, Masi has visited Ground Zero numerous times, producing charcoal drawings that depict the architecture surrounding the site—and convey not only the devastation but also the hope and rebirth that exist there.

“The perimeter had a powerful, mournful presence that I wanted to respond to in some way,” Masi said. ”I wanted to portray the physicality of the site.”

Masi’s drawings are part of an installation coming to Northeastern’s Gallery 360 later this month to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The exhibition, named “The Witness Project,” is sponsored by the university’s Spiritual Life Center, in collaboration with the Boston-based Sacred Threads Women’s Spirituality Center.

“This installation will offer a unique opportunity for the Northeastern community and others to reflect on the ongoing impact of 9/11,” said Shelli Jankowski-Smith, director of Spiritual Life.

“Looking at it through someone’s artistic vision and considering the spiritual impact along with the physical and emotional impact of the attacks is really important at this moment in time,” said Jankowski-Smith.

Gallery 360, located on the 2nd floor of Ell Hall, provides a venue for art exhibitions that enrich the intellectual life and creative expression of Northeastern students, faculty and the broader community.

The “Witness Project” installation will run from Aug. 22 through Sept. 13, with a special open house on Sept. 11.

The exhibition will also feature video footage from Masi’s site visits and audio interviews with neighbors and rescue workers. Garments such as shoes, gloves, a priest’s vestments and firemen’s gear—which heighten viewers’ sense of the human toll on 9/11—will also be on display.

The charcoal drawings, which range in size and scope, include a new piece Masi created for the installation of the New York City Freedom Tower currently under construction, which she says exemplifies the site’s rebirth. Another drawing shows St. Paul’s Chapel, which served as a hub for rescue workers and once had powerful memorials lining its fence.

“Each time I go to Ground Zero, I find a real sense of hope and [spirituality] that counterbalances what one would expect to see,” Masi said. “That is what I’m trying to create with this installation.”

“I‘m not just documenting the tragic aspect. I was moved by the duality that exists, and I wanted people to experience this in their own way.”