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The Family Man

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With his career gaining momentum, Schlossberg used money he had made writing books on computer games to finance a design company. "My father worried that I would starve pursuing the poet's life," Schlossberg recalls. In 1977, ESI started with a staff of 2; today it employs 50.

A snowstorm threatens to dump two feet of snow on New York City on the day of the opening of Schlossberg's retrospective at the National Arts Club. But by six in the evening, the threat has diminished. It's the first time works from his 30-year career have been brought together in one place. Schlossberg stands near the entrance to the gallery, looking every inch the Artist in a tailored black leather jacket that recalls Vienna in the thirties.

"It's nice seeing this early work again," says Caroline, who has arrived late dressed in a black pantsuit, pointing to a Plexiglas art piece created in the late seventies. She has moved away from Schlossberg and is surrounded by a few friends. For someone allergic to talking to the press, Caroline assumes her role as wife of a media-worthy personality with a sporting detachment. But Andrew Cuomo, who is married to Caroline's cousin Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, quickly steps in to ask where the children are.

"You have to show them the Tiffany-glass ceiling in the other room," Cuomo advises. She says she'll bring them into the gallery when it is quieter.

"Ed is a unique creative genius," says Larry Bellante, project director of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which developed and funded the history center. "He is a bit of an artist and a bit of a philosopher. He is able to describe and work with people, stimulating them into being as creative as possible and also forcing them to follow along with what his ultimate vision for the project is. He says, 'This is what I want it to be,' and his staff steps in and makes it possible. I've never known anyone better at this, and I've worked with a lot of designers."

The Ellis Island project is not only his most visible project but also his most personal. He grows visibly excited as he describes how he felt when he located on the center's database the ship's manifest for Abraham Hirsch, a grandfather who arrived in New York Harbor in 1903. "It was an awesome experience to see that name pop up on the screen," he says. "My whole life began on Ellis Island.

"I knew that we didn't want to turn the center into a roller-coaster ride," Schlossberg goes on, recalling how it felt to walk through the Immigration Museum. "When you are there, the feeling is reverential, knowing the struggles that these people went through. The challenge for us was to create something that didn't detract from that quality.

"We call it a celebration of the American family," Schlossberg says about the Ellis Island center. "The idea was that this would be a place for Americans from all places. We created a whole set of different experiences for people to re-up their citizenship and explore the ethnic diversity that they were part of.

"Like an official family-reunion place," Schlossberg says, voicing his ambition for the project. "We hope that once it is under way, people will want to come out to the island with their families and make a day of it. I'd like to call up my cousins and sister and go out there with them and put together our family tree."

If his extended family hasn't made the trip yet, the Schlossbergs -- Ed, Caroline, and their kids -- have; they took a tour of Ellis Island when Ed first signed on to the project. I suggest that maybe the history center will finally show his kids -- and everyone else, for that matter -- what he does for a living, but he shrugs.

"There's a lot in our culture no one thinks anyone actually invented," Ed says of his children's understanding of technology. "They look at a computer screen and do not understand someone actually spent a great deal of time trying to organize all of the information that they are viewing."


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