St. Olaf alumna’s 9/11 artwork featured in exhibition to honor 20-year anniversary
St. Olaf College alumna Brenda Berkman ’73 was among the New York City firefighters who rushed to the World Trade Center in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Since that day, Berkman has found solace and hope in art — specifically, in printmaking. Twelve years after 9/11 she began to focus on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, an exhibition featuring a collection of Berkman’s lithographic print series Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade Center will be on display at St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum from Sept. 10-Oct. 15, 2021.
The exhibition, “Altered Skyline: Brenda Berkman’s Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade Center,” features prints that were produced over the course of three years that document the gradual construction of the One World Trade Center in New York City from familiar points around the five boroughs and New Jersey. As someone who lost both friends and colleagues on 9/11, Berkman weaves the nation’s collective memory of the Twin Towers and that day with her personal observations of the changing skyline.
Berkman hopes that the collection will provide a starting point for discussion about 9/11 for St. Olaf students — most of whom are too young to have any memory of the country’s anguish in the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks.
“This series is all about the resiliency and hope that we here in New York City, the United States, and around the world have after enduring a terrible event,” she says. “I’m hoping St. Olaf students and faculty and the people who look at the Thirty-Six Views series see that in the work. It’s not about destruction — it’s about coming back from destruction.”
Berkman will host an artist’s talk about rebuilding and healing through the creative process on Thursday, Sept. 16, from 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., in Flaten Art Museum’s north gallery. She will also be part of a panel conversation, “Reflections at the 20th Anniversary of 9/11” on Friday, Sept. 17, beginning at 4 p.m. in the college’s Viking Theater. On-demand streaming is available for the panel. The panel will be followed by a public reception from 5-7 p.m. in the Center for Art and Dance main corridor.
After 25 years of service to the New York City Fire Department, Berkman began her career as an artist in 2006. She honors her friends and colleagues lost that day by volunteering for the 9/11 Tribute Museum and giving tours of the World Trade Center site, which includes a memorial to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Thirty-Six Views series was acquired for the Flaten Art Museum’s collection through a generous gift from Greg ’77 and Lisa Nave Buck ‘77, and St. Olaf Art and Art History Department members Christie Hawkins and John Saurer. The exhibition was curated by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Christina M. Spiker. View selected works from the exhibition here. A full-color book about the lithographic series published in 2021, Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade Center: Stone Lithographs by Brenda Berkman (ISBN: 978-0-578-95001-3), is available for browsing in the museum’s galleries, and can be purchased online and at the St. Olaf Bookstore.
About Brenda Berkman
In 1982 Brenda Berkman won a landmark sex discrimination case against the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and became one of the FDNY’s first women firefighters. For 25 years, she served the city as a firefighter and fire officer, rising to the rank of Captain. Berkman was a first responder at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Her career is featured in the PBS documentary “Taking the Heat.” Berkman continues to mentor girls and young women both in firefighting and other non-traditional work and is also a volunteer tour guide at the 9/11 Memorial. Her fire service career is the subject of the 2021 children’s book “Send a Girl!” authored by Jess Rinker and illustrated by Meg Hunt.
On retiring from the FDNY in 2006, Berkman began to study printmaking at the Art Students League, where she quickly fell in love with stone lithography. Berkman has always been eager to collaborate with other artists. She created a collaborative art project commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 involving 12 other artists. In 2013, she began the series of lithographic prints “Thirty-six Views of One World Trade Center” to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and document the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. Drawing and printing hundreds of stone lithograph prints of 36 iconic views of the new One World Trade Center over the course of three years, Berkman’s series has been collected by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, St. Olaf College and a private collector. View a short video about the Thirty-Six Views series and browse her artwork at brendaberkmanartworks.com.