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THE BUZZ: THIS WEEK'S HOT STORY

The great 'What is art?' debate, again

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

When 23-year-old Colton Adamonis allegedly crashed his car into the abstract sculpture Helmholtz on the west side of the Performing Arts Center Sunday, he did more than earn a felony drunken-driving charge and cause an estimated $750,000 in damage. He reignited the whole debate over what is and is not art that raged in 1986 when the sculpture was dedicated.

Some reacted with dismay. Fort Wayne Museum of Art Executive Director Charles Shepard II said the incident was “the most dramatic and shocking art incident I’ve ever seen.” Art dealer and City Council member Tom Smith said he found the sculpture “easy and natural to like.”

But as our columnist Kevin Leininger noted, Helmholtz “did not always enjoy the kind of acclaim its misfortune has inspired.” To some, that “twisted mass of tangled metal” does not look “all that different than before it was hit by a vehicle.”

Helmholtz was created by acclaimed sculptor Mark di Suvero, who Smith describes as a “natural risk-taker” whose work “has been anything but safe.” Rea Magnet sponsored the commissioning of the artwork as a tribute to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. Some think the large, red stainless steel piece is a fitting tribute to the city’s wire magnet past. But some simply don’t see the connection.

Whatever art is or isn’t, it should probably at least get a reaction and get people talking. By that standard, Helmholtz surely qualifies.