It may be the cotton-wool his tender feelings are wrapped in.
The headline read, "Sculpture Will Be Moved After Tragedy," and I was thinking that some of the taxpayer-funded public art with which the city is increasingly infested had managed to hurt someone, but oh, no, the connection is far more tenuous than that.
--Come to think of it, so's the art; but I'll get back to that.
Start with the tragedy, such as it is: A young man, a Purdue freshman, was at a party in an apartment building along Indiana Avenue last month. There might have been drinking; things may have been loud. Whatever, complaints were made, police showed up and the young student decided he'd be better off elsewhere. Via a fifth-floor balcony. It didn't work. He slipped and fell to his death, as sad, senseless and far-too-early a passing as any newspaper writer could find.
In front of the building where he died -- "a few hundred feet away," as the Daily Mail has it -- there is a sculpture. It is of a young man breakdancing: upside down, arms and legs akimbo, the art held a few feet in the air on a steel pole so passing drivers can appreciate the entire thing. If looked at it with an eye to recent history, a complete lack of good sense and a predisposition to taking offense, it could possibly be taken as an image of a young man plunging to his death from high up on the building.
Except it isn't. --It's also kind of askew to the neighborhood: Indiana Avenue, once upon a time, was a center of music and dance in Indiana, a street of clubs and nightspots in an African-American neighborhood, the cradle of some great musicians and home to a distinctive jazz sound; men like Wes Mongomery had their start along the Avenue. By the 1960s, the glory was gone; by mid-decade, the historic (and since restored) Madame Walker Theater, one of the few surviving examples of African Art Deco architecture, was largely boarded up. Even after the theater was spruced up and brought back to life in 1988, it was still a long, slow recovery for the area and it is only in the past decade that attractive, trendy development -- apartments, restaurants and nightclub, mostly -- have shown up. So when the artist tells us he chose a breakdancer to represent the neighborhood's cultural past, he's either insanely racist (in the "it's all stuff those people do" way), has failed to do even the most cursory of homework, or both.
While I think it's foolish to remove the sculpture because it might upset people who erroneously associate it with a college student's death, or because the family could so associate it, if they wanna get it out of there and replace it with one of a Black man playing an early electric guitar or something similar, I'd be all in favor of it -- especially if the city'd ask for donations instead of raiding the public purse.
But for pity's sake, taking it away because anyone would seriously think -- even for a second -- that it represented the moment right before impact? Preposterous!
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
8 months ago