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Downtown 9/11 Art Exhibit May Go to Washington for Health Bill Push

By Julie Shapiro | September 16, 2010 1:42pm | Updated on September 17, 2010 6:15am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — There are times when art speaks louder than words.

That’s what Financial District resident Ro Sheffe thought when he saw Aggie Kenny’s watercolors of 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, now on display at the New York City Police Museum.

The 25 paintings are so powerful that Sheffe suggested that the entire exhibit travel to Washington, to help convince Congress to pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide health care to first responders and others who were sickened by the toxins at Ground Zero.

“You cannot look at those images without feeling strong emotions and a desire to help those who need it,” Sheffe said.

The bill has languished in Congress for the past nine years and failed to pass the House earlier this year. The House is slated to take another vote next week, and politicians and 9/11 responders rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The Senate still has to vote as well.

After Sheffe suggested moving the art exhibit to Washington and Community Board 1 passed a resolution supporting the idea this week, Police Museum Executive Director Julie Bose said she is working on it.

Bose said several DC venues have expressed interest in the show, called “Artist as Witness: The 9/11 Responders.” The paintings could move to Washington as soon as February, she said.

“It really puts a spotlight on a side to the story not often told: the important work the responders did in the aftermath of 9/11,” Bose said.

Kenny, an Emmy-winning courtroom artist from Nassau County, spent over 100 hours at Ground Zero in the spring of 2002, sketching the recovery workers as they went about their gruesome, grueling task. She also captured them in rare moments of downtime, eating and napping before returning to work.

“I wanted to sketch the immediacy of what I saw,” Kenny said this week. “I was just consumed by what I was experiencing at the moment.”

After she left the site, though, Kenny wasn’t sure what to do with her drawings, so they sat in boxes in her garage for eight and a half years. She only recently unearthed them when a fellow courtroom artist helped her arrange the Police Museum show, which opened last week.

Kenny said she would be glad to move the paintings in Washington if it could help the 9/11 responders get the health care they deserve.

“Anything I can do for them, I would be happy to do,” she said.

“Artist as Witness” is on display at the New York City Police Museum, 100 Old Slip, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, through the end of January.