Thursday, April 07, 2011

Art for everyone's sake

A few days before the LePage Maine public mural uproar ensued, I toured the Intermuseum Conservation Association in order to research this article for Fresh Water.

The Snake Dancer

The ICA conserves and restores art and notable objects. Sounds staid, but that is hopelessly inaccurate. Walking among the conservators and their work was nothing short of magical.

From the edges of the Civil War
Every item in the building entranced me. And when the conservators chimed in with the stories behind the objects, everything in this mystical place came alive.

When my buddy Jane Hammond displayed a Civil War cloak she's restoring, carefully pointing out the frayed knit edges, I felt as if the woman who originally knit it and her war-torn soldier were standing right behind us.

If the cloak haunted me, the salvaged public murals simply took my breath away.

Just watch as the ICA clan unfurls this to-be-restored Louis Grebenak piece. The WPA funded this work and many others for installation at a (now-demolished) public housing project here in Cleveland.

Look at the giant hand, the muscled forearms. I love this thing--love love love it. The full view starts at about 2:04.

Yo Lou? Baby, I'm receiving your broadcast loud and clear.

Every day, the staff of ICA makes a beautiful contribution to the human experience. In the instance of vintage public art, it's about everyone from the WPA clerk who drew up Grebenak's paycheck some 75 years ago to the people who will pass this mural every day when it's fully restored and installed at the new Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority administration building.

This is about all of us, whether you abhor or detest the impetus of the murals or their content. This is who we were and who we are. When a community comes together to celebrate that, it shapes who we will be.

Hey Governor LePage?  Lou Grebenak and I think you're a big turd. 

Yeah, yeah.

I guess I'll stay here in Cleveland and hang out with the good guys.

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Anonymous said...

That mural reminds me of Diego Rivera's "Man at Crossroads" from the same WPA era. Thanks for sharing that.

Bill said...

ICA is mostly privately funded! That's good.

alphadog said...

Dammit Erin, you get to go to all the cool places.
I propose a contest, where the winner gets to tag along and do Erin stuff for a day.

Vince said...

It's not a tapestry, but it's in that tradition. It looks for all the world like lino that the image is applied. What is it.

Leslie Morgan said...

I'm with Alphadog re: the tag-along. If I win, Erin, please make mine the museum.

Anonymous said...


Now send someone to get "Abraham and Isaac" by George Segal back to Kent State from Princeton.


sarahm59 said...

Who does that governor in Maine think he is... the Rockefeller family? next on the list is Rosie the Riveter. Way too workery (word).

danb said...

Erin, you have really hit on the essence of what I enjoy the most about my job. Having been in the museum field for the past 15 years, I have had many, many experiences similar to what you wrote about with the shawl. I just wish that artifacts could talk; what would they tell us?

As usual, an excellent post. Thanks.