AVT Professor to Create 9/11 Memorial in Maryland

Posted: June 22, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Tom Ashcraft, associate professor of art and visual technology and coordinator of the sculpture program, has been commissioned to create a public outdoor sculpture in memory of five people from University Park, Md., who died during the attacks on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Ashcraft, who has been a member of the University Park community for many years, was asked by the mayor to create a memorial for Sheila Hein, who was inside the Pentagon during the attack, and the family of Charles Falkenberg, Leslie Whittington, and their two daughters, Dana and Zoe, who were on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon that day. Ashcraft at first declined to help create the memorial. “It’s not that I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said. “It was just too close to the event. I thought if I did, it would be more about my emotional feelings than being objective, and I couldn’t do that.”

The opportunity to work on the memorial came up again two years later, and this time Ashcraft agreed. Community support for the project poured in, and more than $50,000 was raised in donations. “The people in this town are amazing. They thought of all kinds of unique ways to raise money. Its amazing how the simplest ideas can create such a momentum of goodwill.”

Ashcraft chose the town’s park as the site for the project. “I wanted it to be in a public place where lots of activity happens. But I also wanted the memorial to be off to the side, in a quieter place.”

Using rings of river stones, cobblestone walkways, white oak logs, and landscaping, Ashcraft ‘s design is simple, he says, and is centered around a theme of trees and circles. “I have a huge oak tree in my studio, and I started to think about the rings of trees and how they signify growth. The memorial will be nested in an area of trees.”

9/11 memorial
A model of Ashcraft’s 9/11 memorial
Photo by Tom Ashcraft

About the size of half of a football field, the area will be a place where the community can go as a place of discovery and reflection, Ashcraft hopes. A plaque in memory of the victims will be imbedded into the walkway.

Ashcraft received his MFA at Indiana University, his BA at the University of South Florida, and his AA from Miami Dade Community College, Kendall Campus. His public commissions include BOOKWORKS, a conceptually designed functional bookstore for the Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.; the Mt. Rainer Roundabout Project, a Maryland State Highway and Department of Transportation project; and the Andros Island Art Project Program, three student-community-oriented collaborative projects on Andros Island, Bahamas.

Ashcraft hopes to complete the memorial by fall of this year.

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