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Hartsdale Actor Creates Empire State of Pennies

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – A Hartsdale actor needed more than just a penny for his thoughts. He needed 10,000.

Inspired by the events of Sept. 11, 2011, Ricardo Zamudio has spent the better part of the last decade collecting thousands of the copper coins and carefully crafting them into an 8-foot replica of New York City’s second tallest building.

The message of his Empire State Building sculpture is simple, Zamudio said. One penny is meaningless but when put together, pennies, like people, can create something special – a needed reminder after the 2001 attack, he said.

“I wanted to show that if we all come together and work together we can build something that will be amazing and make us feel stronger,” Zamudio said. “I needed to do that to represent that for me, that I can put myself back together.”

Two months after the attack, Zamudio said he was walking from his work at the 27th street Spanish Repertory Theatre to the Empire State Building, hoping to catch a glimpse of ground zero from the observatory deck.  Along the way, Zamudio passed through a sea of 8X10 pictures family members had posted of missing loved ones.

“Walking between the pictures of those missing people, it breaks your heart,” he said.

Lying on the street, in the midst of the pictures, Zamudio saw pennies scattered around the sidewalk and began picking up the coins.  By the time he had gotten to 34th street, he had collected roughly a dozen pennies.

Standing atop of the Empire State Building, looking out over the city, Zamudio said he was inspired to create the art.

“When I was on top of there, I believed the only thing we had to represent us New Yorkers was the Empire State Building,” he said.

For the next decade Zamudio began collecting pennies from his family, the street and the top of deli counters, gluing them together in his home workshop. In the end, he added a King Kong doll to the top at his daughter's request.

On Tuesday, the coin creation was put on display at the Greenburgh Public Library where it will remain for the next three months. Despite a few offers, the sculpture is worth much more than its weight in copper to Zamudio who said the piece is not for sale.

“I just want to display it,” he said. “I didn’t do it to make a profit.”

Zamudio hasn’t ruled out creating future penny sculptures, however.  Already he has even been approached by officials at the French embassy, wondering if he would be able to craft a similar sculpture of their famous monument – the Eifel Tower.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked if he was going to do it. “I don’t know if I have the time.”

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