Media Advisory

(Journalists: Leaders of PEN America will be available for media interviews from 7:30 pm on Wednesday evening before the installation launches. Interested journalists should meet at the statue of Prometheus at the Channel Gardens of Rockefeller Center). 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057

(NEW YORK)⁠—At a time of widespread attacks on free expression, the renowned artist Jenny Holzer will celebrate PEN America’s century-long defense of the freedoms to write, speak, and read with a large-scale public art installation illuminating three buildings in Manhattan’s iconic Rockefeller Center with authors’ writings, nightly at sunset (at 8 pm), Wed., Sept. 14 through Sunday, Sept. 18.

The facades of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and 610 and 620 Fifth Avenue will be lit with selected passages from writers and artists who have supported PEN America’s vital work since 1922 to protect free expression.

The outdoor installation, titled SPEECH ITSELF, will include quotes from more than 60 authors in a visual tribute to the right to express ourselves freely. Among the authors whose writings will be projected are Ayad Akhtar, Salman Rushdie, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Margaret Atwood, Ron Chernow, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Joy Harjo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Yoon Ha Lee, Toni Morrison, and Alejandro Zambra.

Examples include:

“In a world where independent voices are increasingly stifled, PEN is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”—Margaret Atwood

“Free speech has long been a potent weapon for disenfranchised groups, used to expose repression and prevent the powerful from silencing dissent.”—Suzanne Nossel, PEN America CEO

For a century, PEN America has defended imperiled writers such as Salman Rushdie, a former PEN America president, who was savagely attacked in August after living for more than three decades under a fatwa issued by theocrats in Iran calling for his murder.

WHAT: SPEECH ITSELF, large scale public art installation by Jenny Holzer

WHO: Jenny Holzer installation celebrates PEN America’s Centenary (founded 1922)

WHERE: Rockefeller Center (facades of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and 610 and 620 Fifth Avenue)

WHEN: Wed., Sept. 14-Sun., Sept. 18, after sunset (8 p.m.)

More Details

PEN America’s yearlong centenary celebration includes PEN America at 100, an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society through Oct. 9, highlighting the concerns that have engaged PEN America’s writers in activism and community through the decades. PEN America at 100 shines a light on free speech, inclusion and diversity, censorship, government intrusions in the free flow of information, digital and press freedom, and the exclusion, silencing, and persecution of writers and “Free speech has long been a potent weapon for disenfranchised groups, used to expose repression and prevent the powerful from silencing dissent.”—Suzanne Nossel

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.