Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 23, 2006 · Page 112
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 112

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Thursday, March 23, 2006
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Page 112
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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE ■ THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2006 ■ WWW.POST-GAZETTE.COM W-35 1 6 8 10 11 ‘Walking to the Sky’ is a bold statement for CMU The dialogue concerning the role of public art (and the process for its acquisition and installation) has been lively at Carnegie Mellon University, as it is likely to be anywhere an artwork is introduced into a public arena (Patricia Lowry’s “CMU crafts a compromise on artist’s controversial sculpture,” March 15). As head of the School of Art, a member of the University Public Art Committee and an artist for three decades, I careen between joy and distress over the reactions I observe: joy that the dialogue attests to the power of art; distress at the lack of understanding about the nature of art in general, much less contemporary public art. Artworks essentially make propositions about reality, thus their power to please or provoke. Embodying the artist’s perception, experience and interpretation, art may reflect the world as it is, should be or perhaps never can be, might identify with or distance ourselves from the world that is revealed, the language in which it is conveyed, or the context of it presentation. The degree to which it meshes with our own take on the world often determines the intensity of our reception. Our responses will never be uniform, nor should they be. How we approach art reveals much about ourselves as individuals, a community, a culture. Can we allow ourselves to indulge our senses, let our minds roam, contemplate reconfigured or invented realities? Do we entertain the unfamiliar, trust our own instincts, rely on experts, dismiss the difficult, savor the mystery? Are we enslaved or propelled by tradition? Should we operate from or leap ahead of scientific conclusions or aesthetic principles of the past? However we answer these questions, do we respect the visionaries among us and beyond? As the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon enjoys its centennial year and Pittsburgh approaches its 250th anniversary, the time could not be more propitious to celebrate our leadership in creative disciplines. Questioning ourselves is one way to move forward, and art asks a lot of questions. Making the arts visible is about showing us who, why, where and how we are as a human beings. Such questions can be examined with rigor or pleasure at home and in the classroom, on campus greens and in city parks, or in less predictable places. Recent gifts to Carnegie Mellon have multiplied the places for such contemplation, from the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery to the Kraus Campo. And now we have the dramatic “Walking to the Sky” by prominent alumnus Jonathan Borofsky. This soaring sculpture reflects our aspirations of transcending the ordinary. The people represented, in their diversity, dress and gait, appear to go about their normal business toward a destination that is anything but normal. The sculpture merges the workaday with the wonderful. Given such symbolic resonance, the sculpture’s proposed site near the Forbes/Morewood avenues intersection is optimal. There it can offer a bold statement to first-time visitors and passing traffic and daily encouragement to all. It can also create an asymmetrical and dynamic focus for a campus that has a somewhat amorphous foreground. Hornbostel’s elegant elongated expanse would remain a deep sweep into campus, announced by a contemporary herald. As we rush toward our studios, labs, classes or offices, “Walking to the Sky” stands as an open invitation to ignore the laws of gravity, walk a little taller, reach a little higher, live a bigger dream. Susanne Slavick Head of the School of Art Carnegie Mellon University Outbreak of rudeness My husband and I recently attended a production of “Wicked” at the Benedum. We enjoyed the play very much; it was funny and great entertainment, and we thought the cast was really good. Now to the audience: Beside us sat a woman with a crinkly water bottle and a great thirst who surreptitiously took photos with her camera phone; her husband read his program with a small flashlight, not just checking on a performer or a song but really reading, and the light was bright enough to be very annoying; we sat behind an adult who couldn’t sit still and changed positions so often that it was difficult to see; and a man behind us carried on a lengthy conversation with his companion. The tickets were not inexpensive, to say the least, and what might have been a very enjoyable experience was ruined by the rudeness of our fellow theatergoers. One seems to encounter this sort of rudeness wherever one goes these days: loud cell phone conversations; loud conversations in restaurants where overhearing cannot be helped and the subjects are not what we would want to hear in any case; children running through stores and restaurants as though they were at the playground and parents doing nothing about it; and teenagers at the mall walking six abreast and not giving an inch of ground to others. Courtesy and civility are nonexistent in our present culture. Perhaps there are so many of us that we are reacting as rats do to crowded conditions. Nancy McFarland Reeser Freeport All seats good for PSO It saddens me to think of the fiscal state of many arts organizations in Pittsburgh these days. What saddens me more, however, is how some PSO subscribers tend to take the only American symphony ever to play for the pope for granted. While some longtime subscribers never write in praise of concertmaster Andres Cardenes, they have no problem sending angry letters about how they no longer have their aisle seat (“Seat switches for new ticket packages anger some symphony subscribers,” March 15). These tend to be the same people seen making for the exit because God forbid they have to wait in line at the parking garage rather than participate in a standing ovation for PSO favorite principal oboist Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida. Who knows? Perhaps even dining at one of the fine restaurants within walking distance to Heinz Hall (with your former symphony neighbors) would be nicer than sitting in the garage breathing car exhaust after the concert — but then again they haven’t been doing that for 25 years so I suppose that would constitute a change in routine. The bottom line is that along with Pittsburgh’s aging population come fewer ticket holders. The PSO is too great of a commodity to be subject and reduced to juvenile bickering over seat assignments. I happened to be in the last row of the balcony for Mariss Jansons’ final concert in Pittsburgh, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the dynamite Mendelssohn Choir, and I assure anyone that it sounds just as good as being front and center (as long as it’s on the aisle). Meanwhile, let’s all support our struggling arts organizations as best we can. Carson Connor Zajdel Tallahassee, Fla. (formerly of McMurray) Were they Seen? Once again, the Post-Gazette missed an opportunity to highlight the achievement of African-American youth. In your “Seen” column on March 20, you highlighted Dr. Lee Jones as keynote speaker at the NEED Dinner and said that seven college presidents were in attendance. What about the 37 young people who received scholarships that night? Don’t they deserve recognition? Brenda E. Lee Wilkins FEEDBACK Diether Endlicher/Associated Press “Walking to the Sky” is a sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky that is planned to be installed on campus at Carnegie Mellon University. WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK Send letters, along with your real name, neighborhood and daytime phone number to: E-mail: letters@post- gazette.com. Fax: 412-263-1313. Mail: Feedback, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

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