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Sculpture with St. Louis origin will have spot in 9/11 museum

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"9/11 Grogger" designed and created by artist Micah Roufa. The sculpture has been accepted into the permanent collection of the national 9/11 Memorial Museum CQ in New York City. Roufa grew up in west St. Louis County and is an artist and architect now living in Brooklyn. His work encompasses sculpture, architecture and construction. He has taught glass art at Washington University and in Jerusalem. He has a master's degree in architecture from Columbia University and a fine arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design.

When the 9/11 Memorial Museum opens in 2012 at ground zero in New York, St. Louis will have a special artistic presence.

The permanent museum collection will include a piece of art with ties to Creve Coeur resident Naomi Fishman and Micah Roufa, a former St. Louis artist now working in New York.

The sculpture, 20 inches long by 10 inches high and 10 inches wide, is partly made of steel from the mangled twin towers of the World Trade Center. More than 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attack.

The sculpture has been shaped to re-create a "grogger" — a noisemaker that is part of the Jewish celebration of Purim. (The grogger is used to blot out the name of the Purim villain when it is spoken.)

Fishman and Roufa hope this sculpture — the "9/11 Grogger" — will prompt an exploration in people's hearts and minds of what it means to be enemies, how hatred can develop and how people can respond.

Last month, Fishman and Roufa received word that the work had been accepted into the museum's collection.

In accepting the sculpture, Jan Ramirez, the 9/11 museum's chief curator and director of collections, wrote: "It is unique among the many examples of transformed WTC steel that we've seen."

The spark for the 9/11 Grogger came when Fishman, who grew up in the Bronx, read an article last year about a naval ship being made of 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the remains of the World Trade Center.

At the time, Fishman was putting together an exhibit on groggers for a museum she had founded in 2008 in west St. Louis County called the "Museum of ImaJewnation." As part of her work, she wrote to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting WTC steel for one of the grogger sculptures.

A port authority official replied that her idea was one of "the most creative" proposals they had received for using the steel.

Later, Fishman wrote to the 9/11 museum to find a permanent home for the sculpture. "One day there will be a need to make the defiled space of Manhattan whole and holy again," Fishman wrote. "The grogger may be an expression of that possibility."

Fishman said the sculpture's message goes beyond Purim or any religion, philosophy, ethnic or national group.

She said, "There are wars all over, and I want people to look at this and think about 'the enemy.' What is the definition of enemy? How do we decide who is our enemy? Is there something we do to create an enemy? How do unresolved issues over time result in 'eternal enemies?'

"My goal is that we have a conversation ... and ask the question 'What kind of sound can ease an angry heart?' "

The 9/11 Grogger features a hollow blown glass ball with an inside reflective mirror surface. When the grogger is shaken, WTC steel inside the ball chips away at the mirrored surface changing it from reflective to clear, a metaphor for the clarity people can gain from reflection. The 9/11 grogger is cradled in angular WTC steel.

Roufa designed and created the piece. He said the forms combine to create the image of a hammer crushing steel, with the glass orb a reminder of the glass towers and their reflective surfaces. The grogger's concrete reinforced steel handle represents the steel of the crushed towers.

"Despite history and the lessons of the past, mankind has yet to understand how to negotiate self-destruction," write Roufa, who grew up in west St. Louis County,.

Roufa hopes that museum visitors will contemplate opportunities for peace in contemporary conflicts.

"There is optimism in persistence and hope for a future of peaceful existence," he said.

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