As a member of the
Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), Elyn Zimmerman is
seeking to promote a strong relationship between Washington and Africa through
Zimmerman played a pivotal role during the construction of
the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after a terrorist attack in 1998. She
told VOA that she enjoyed playing a role in the rebuilding of the U.S
was invited to do a sculpture for the American embassy in Dar es Salaam and I
had not been to East Africa. So I started doing some research and thinking
about it," Zimmerman
During the construction,
contemporary artist Zimmerman used African red-granite to create a beautiful sculpture that combined
Tanzanian and American cultures.
Described as Mksuanyiko wa Marafiki, which
translates to "Assembly of Friends," the sculpture was designed to help bridge
the gap between the Tanzanian and American diplomatic
Zimmerman said using
traditional materials from Tanzania to work on the embassy was fulfilling.
"I was hoping to work with
an African stone…and I was lucky enough to find some very handsome red granite.
So having found the material, I began thinking about what kind of place I could
create…there was a small pool of water and having these forms to stand around
ten pools of water would somehow evoke the idea of a gathering place," she
Zimmerman said it would have
been perfect if she had visited the old US embassy after it was attacked by
terrorists before putting her thoughts together on the new building.
"Everything had been ideal.
I probably would have gone to Dar es Salaam before designing the piece and
would have looked around to see where the old embassy was and talked more to
the people who were constructing the new embassy," Zimmerman said.
She said reviews about the
work she did during the construction have been encouraging.
"When I was there for the
dedication and the final construction of the piece, there were a number of
artists from the area around Dar es Salaam, and them seemed very favorably
impressed," she said.
Zimmerman described her work
with FAPE as wonderful.
"I have enjoyed working with
FAPE very much and in getting to know the people who work there," Zimmerman
FAPE is a public-private organization that works with noted American
artists and architects to create and donate custom-made artwork to US embassies
around the world. It is
reportedly the leading non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the US
image abroad through American art.
Founded as a
partnership in 1986, FAPE works closely with the US State Department enable the
fine art to reach American embassies.
that donations include works by more than 145 preeminent American artists
placed in more than 70 countries.
headquarters in Washington DC, FAPE has raised more than $42 million in art and
monetary contributions to date.
FAPE says it
hopes the custom-made pieces – created through collaboration between artist,
architect and government -- will revitalize the US image abroad to transform an
image which some have described as the bunker of imperialism into an center of
culture and art.
FAPE, all of the artists it deals with donate their works of art to US
Embassies abroad. These artists' gifts are tremendous, as they would normally
sell for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on the market. But instead,
artists donate them for free because of their vested interest in renewing the
world-view of America and American culture.
FAPE says during
the next several years, a large number of US embassies will be constructed, and
the State Department has asked FAPE to commission site-specific works by
American artists for many of them. In commissioning work, FAPE is assisted by
an advisory committee of prominent arts professionals, chaired by Robert Storr,
dean of the Yale School of Art.
Once an artist
has been selected and has agreed to create a work, the embassy architects, the
State Department, FAPE, and the artist work together to ensure that the art is
sensitively integrated within the building and its grounds.
The works are all
donated by the artists, and FAPE provides the funds to pay for their
fabrication and installation. Artists in the Collection include Lynda
Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Martin
Puryear, Dorothea Rockburne, Joel Shapiro, Michael Singer, and Elyn Zimmerman.