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BY THE WAY

You should be grateful, Fort Wayne; arts are alive and well around us

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - 12:01 am

Those of us who live in Fort Wayne truly are lucky people. The fine arts accessible to us are plentiful and admirable. Let me tell you what inspired the appreciation — this time.

Time magazine of Sept. 23 had a long article on “Legends at Work.” It focused on what it named “some of America’s greatest — and oldest — living artists.” Among those included is Faith Ringgold.

Those of us who have lived here had the pleasure of meeting Ringgold when her quilts were on display at our Fort Wayne Museum of Art some years ago. At the conclusion of her exhibit, the museum bought one of her quilts. It is part of our permanent collection.

So in addition to owning some of her prints, we have an amazing work of art she designed and created. And what is a wonderful coincidence is that starting Oct. 19 the museum will have an exhibit of several of Faith Ringgold’s prints. You can see them here.

Also written up in the Time article is Mark Di Suvero. It sums up this great artist with the following: “Di Suvero, considered America’s constructionist sculptor, continues to weld and cut steel at age 80, 45 years into his career, despite nearly being crushed by an elevator in the 1960s — an accident that left his back injured.”

“The beauty of the human spirit is what you find in art. I believe art can change society for the better and make the world a much more intense living space,” he is quoted as saying.

In 2010, President Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts.

Emily Kass was the director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art when we purchased our Di Suvero sculpture, and the sculptor was here for its dedication in 1986. It was recently damaged by a car, as you know, but it is being repaired under Di Suvero’s guidance.

Incidentally, the museum owns another of his sculptures, though a much smaller one, and several of his drawings. And we here, in our Fort Wayne, are fortunate that we don’t have to make a trip to some other city to appreciate his work. It is here.

The world of dance was recognized magnificently just a few weeks ago by a large financial donation to the Fort Wayne Ballet’s endowment fund. And the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s season opened Sept. 28 with a glorious concert. The Resphighi Suite was a delightful opening number; the Mozart concerto and the guest pianist were a special treat; and the guest’s fantastic encore thrilled the audience. Then after the intermission came a splendid rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.

The audience was spellbound, then gave a wildly enthusiastic standing ovation to the orchestra for its rendition and masterful musicianship. It was a long ovation, meant to say, “We appreciate you. We are fortunate to have you. Thank you for a memorable evening.”

To those of us who remember our city’s early symphony orchestra and Gaston Baihle, its conductor, it was the conclusion to a long, progressively growing — finally topnotch professional orchestra. Under conductors like Hans Schieger, Tom Bricetti and Ron Ondrejka, it grew to be a professional orchestra we could thoroughly enjoy. And in the last few years and with other excellent conductors, it has grown to be a musical group we are intensely proud of. And it is here, where we can easily drive to it and conveniently park.

The arts are alive and well all around us — on the universities’ campuses, the Heartland Chamber Chorale, small galleries, ArtLink — even Fort Wayne Community Schools’ magnet fine arts elementary and middle schools. We are some lucky, we Fort Wayners.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher in Fort Wayne.