When you walk into 7 World Trade Center, dazzling LED lights not only greet you, they speak to you. Literally. The lights are inspired poetry written by 826NYC students — words brought to life 18 years after 9/11 touched the lives of every American. 

Indeed, acclaimed artist Jenny Holzer recently commissioned 18 826NYC students to include their poetry in her permanent installation at the building. 

“I needed to fill the space at 7 World Trade Center with writing that reflects the joy of New York City,” Holzer said. “I invited young authors of 826NYC to offer their voices to the project so their texts would appear with the programming by William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Walt Whitman, and distinguished others.” 

On September 10, 2019, Holzer along with Larry Silverstein of Silverstein Properties, developer of the World Trade Center, asked the students, parents, and members of the 826NYC community to gather and see their words in action as they floated across a screen, letter by letter.

“We are deeply grateful to Jenny Holzer and her team as well as Silverstein Properties, for giving our students this amazing opportunity to share their talent with so many people,” says Joshua Mandelbaum, executive director of 826NYC.

Mandelbaum calls the collaboration with Holzer “a high point in 826NYC’s history.”

“Students from three programs in three boroughs are now paid poets with work incorporated into a permanent installation at an iconic New York City building,” he says.


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826NYC is thrilled to announce the eighteen of our students, ranging from 8 to 18, have their writing featured in artist Jenny Holzer’s LED installation for 7 World Trade. Our young authors, as well as their families and a few of our board members, had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Holzer as we all Larry Silverstein, the developer of the rebuilt WTC. Along with a personal tour, our students had the opportunity to view their work along with other various programming by William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Walt Whitman and distinguished others. For more than forty years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including the Guggenheim Museums in New York, and the Bilbao and the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. Poems from students in our Park Slope, South Williamsburg, East Harlem, and Concourse Village programs were selected to be included in her permanent installation at 7 World Trade Center, which can currently be viewed publicly. 826NYC valiantly strives to cultivate confidence in creative competence, which constructs a culture of curiosity and courageous contribution both in and outside of the classroom. Thank you, Denisse, Erik, and all the authors who contributed so beautifully. And thank you, @jennyholzerstudio , for courageously paving yet another avenue for our students to write their paths forward!

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The young authors – ranging from 8 to 18-years-old – represent the light and hope that emerged from a generation born into a post-9/11 world:

“When you were a child You

had all the freedom Weren’t as strict

In your own district but That all ends

When the torch burns out Your freedom is gone Like when the night

Turns to Dawn.

When the dawn Comes leaves fall From trees

But when Leaves fall Other leaves Grow.” – Untitled by Husam M, age 12

“It really helps them see that their voices and their stories matter,” Aarti Monteiro, director of education at 826NYC told WNBC. “I think that they’re often siloed at their schools and they’re writing — and it’s not really to a larger audience.

Given that the installation at 7 World Trade Center is open to the public, all of New York City can read what a new generation has to say. And Holzer certainly believes in their voices. The students “represent the vibrancy and vitality of this great city,” she said. At 826 National, we couldn’t agree more.

Read the poetry written by 826NYC students here. 


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