Columnist: Art offers oasis from mean streets of inner city

Published 10:29 am Monday, July 27, 2009

CLEVELAND ROCKS, Ohio – Forty years ago man – Neil Armstrong of Wapakoneta, Ohio – set foot on the moon.
This event from the summer of ’69 merited some mention on the news, since Walter Cronkite, the onetime Most Trusted Man in America, anchor for Apollo 11 coverage and a guy I thought was Walt Disney when I was little, passed away at 92 on July 17 at his Manhattan home.
Something else that happened in 1969 was the Cuyahoga River catching fire. It’s kind of given Cleveland a bad rap ever since, though Drew Carey did what he could to buff its image.
A 16-year-old boy was arraigned June 23 in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court on rape and kidnapping charges stemming from an abduction at the Cleveland Museum of Art. He was charged with rape, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in a Sunday morning attack on a 22-year-old Case Western Reserve University graduate student.
“An aberration,” a campus policewoman assured this Buckeyewitness reporter.
The incident began about 11 a.m. as the woman sat on the steps of the art museum. We were seated on a bench by the art museum steps and could see the lagoon as Sue talked on her cell phone July 20.
We intended to tour the museum, but learned it’s closed on Mondays.
The woman told police she was talking on her cell phone when the attacker threatened her with a knife and forced her to the nearby lagoon area, where he raped her.
Cleveland police on park detail the next day found the youth sleeping in a parked car at Rockefeller Park, near 1150 East Blvd., and arrested him on suspicion of rape.
Juvenile court records showed the teen was arrested last year for unruliness and for strong-arm robbery, theft and fleeing in 2007.
We had just finished examining a very damaged original reproduction of Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
There are 25 castings of the 72-inch enlarged version. Less than 10 were cast and patinated during the sculptor’s lifetime. Two are in Paris, one directly over Auguste Rodin’s gravesite.
One of the last Rodin-supervised casts is the one we’re looking at directly in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art, which is across the street from Savannah’s dorm and the CIA (Cleveland Institute of Art, an apparent green oasis in the inner city).
This cast was acquired in 1917 – just after the museum opened to the public.
At about 1 a.m. on March 24, 1970, a bomb vandalized The Thinker. The bomb was placed on a pedestal that supported the enlargement. It packedĀ  the potency of about three sticks of dynamite.
No one was injured, but the blast destroyed the statue’s base and lower legs. Remaining sections of the cast were blown backward to form a plume at the base. The entire statue was knocked to the ground.
It was reported that this attack was undertaken by a radical political group, perhaps as a commentary on continuing military action in Vietnam or the elitism of the American government.
No one was ever arrested or charged with the destruction.
Such dramatic damage left the museum unsure how to proceed. One idea was to create an entirely new cast to replace the ruined work.
Another notion was to restore the sculpture by recasting elements of Rodin’s original. Finally, it was decided that the statue should not be repaired, but shown outside the museum in its damaged condition.
I concur. What didn’t kill the art makes it stronger.
“Andy Warhol Prints: 1974-1986 – Works from the Cochran Collection,” is right at the CIA.
The 36 pieces cover the “Myth Series” and “Cowboys and Indians,” plus Mickey Mouse. Mick Jagger appeared to have been signed by the Rolling Stone.
This is the first time the collection has been viewed in Ohio.
The free exhibition continues until Aug. 16, but no soup can – despite what the clip from Vanity Fair tacked up in the hall claims.
Founded in 1882, the Cleveland Institute of Art has 500 students, including our daughter, who just returned from orientation.
The CIA is situated in University Circle, an international center of culture, education and health care (Cleveland Clinic).
University Circle is said to be one of the principal cultural centers between New York and Chicago.
And why not? The Reinberger Galleries are on campus.
Within walking distance are such world-class attractions as The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Little Italy district, featuring an array of galleries, shops and eateries as well as the church Savannah selected.
More than 7,000 college and university students call University Circle home, which makes it larger than Dowagiac.
First-years (it sounds like Harry Potter!) live in Taplin Hall.
I saw McCullough Center, CIA’s main studio building, which was originally a Ford Model T factory. It has windows on all sides and a 40-foot-long skylight.
This visit I didn’t make it to the 25-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but I did see the Plain Dealer, “read by 1,305,203 in print and online each week.”

John Eby is editor of the Dowagiac Daily News. Email him at: