Leave it to Diane Von Furstenburg to give Lady Liberty a makeover.
On Thursday the fashion designer, philanthropist and Belgian-immigrant joined surprise guest Bill de Blasio and Steve Briganti, CEO Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, to break ground for a grand new museum and plaza on Liberty Island slated to open in 2019.
Due to restrictions put in place following September 11, 2001, only about 5 percent of the 4.3 visitors who come to Liberty Island each year can get into the small museum inside of the statue itself, where her original torch is displayed. And even fewer are able to go up to the observation area in her crown.
The new museum will accommodate every person who steps foot on Liberty Island. The renderings of the 26,000 square foot museum and the outdoor space, depict a glass enclosed torch exhibit that seems to rise from the ground. One of the most exciting museum features will be on the inside: A virtual reality film that allows visitors to fly around the interior of the statue, and look through Lady Liberty's eyes onto the struggles of others fighting for freedom throughout history and today.
Von Furstenberg has been dubbed “the godmother” of the new Statue of Liberty museum for undertaking the fundraising of the nearly $100 million project, for and providing her priceless creativity. And as an icon of a successful American-immigrant she found this project to be especially salient – though at first she resisted.
Furstenberg came up with the idea for a tremendous mural for the museum’s entrance consisting of 50 stars (inspired by the American flag) forged from engineer Gustave Eiffel’s original wrought-iron bars that had supported the statue for 100 years. Each of the stars is financed by donors including Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, David Geffen and George Lucas.
“I first hesitated, I did not need another project, my husband ciuld divorce me,” she joked at the groundbreaking ceremony."
“Indeed lady liberty is the symbol of what everything American is about. Freedom hope possibility and resilience. It is her that million of immigrants saw first, their hearts full of dreams for a brighter future,” she said.
Phelps Construction Group will be doing the actual building. And the interior of the museum will be designed by ESI Design.