Kent’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities start early this early — 4 days early to be exact — with a special musical visit by the Bass Ale Bagpipers on Thursday March 13th at 6:30 p.m. at the Home Savings Plaza. The Bagpipers are being sponsored by Annhaueser Busch who brought us the Clydesdales last Fall so get your green on and head downtown to start your St. Patrick’s Day in true Irish style!
If you follow Kent news much you would have seen some interesting discussions recently about the city’s interest in creating a new white water park in downtown Kent. The whitewater in the name gets all the attention but the whole concept is really about creating more passive and active recreational opportunities for everyone to reconnect and rediscover the mighty Cuyahoga River. The fact that we would actually want to get people in the Cuyahoga (and likewise they would actually want to get in it) is a testament to one of the most amazing river turnaround stories in the country. What was the national symbol for everything that had gone wrong with polluted rivers has reemerged as everything that is going right with environmental stewardship. Kent is proud to have helped rewrite the ending to the Cuyahoga’s story which is being featured nationwide with a new PBS documentary titled the “Return of the Cuyahoga.”
THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA (56:46)
Diane Garey and Lawrence R. Hott of Florentine Films/Hott Productions
CLICK HERE for WVIZ/PBS ideastream® national broadcast dates and more information.
THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA is a fascinating look at the life, death and rebirth of one of America’s most polluted rivers. Perhaps best known as “the river that burned,” the Cuyahoga is, in fact, an emblematic waterway. Its history is the history of the American frontier, the rise of industry, and the scourge of pollution. In 1969, when the river caught on fire, the blaze ignited a political movement that not only saved the Cuyahoga and its communities, but continues today with the current environmental movement. THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA will air nationally on PBS on Friday, April 18th at 10PM (check local listings.)
The Cuyahoga caught fire as far back as 1883. In 1914, a river fire threatened downtown Cleveland, until a providential shift in the wind turned it away. In 1918, a river fire spread to a shipyard and killed seven men. The Cuyahoga burned again in 1936, 1948, 1949 and 1952. Then on June 22, 1969, the polluted Cuyahoga, slick with oil and full of debris, caught on fire. The river didn’t just burn in Cleveland — it burned in the nation’s imagination. Along with the rise of other social movements in the late sixties, the country was also beginning to take note of our damaged environment. The fire started a chain of legislation and events that continue today, including the creation of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, Earth Day, and the Environmental Protection Agencies at the federal and state levels. The Cuyahoga is America’s best example yet of a watery success story. The dead river came clean — and back to life again.
“This is a truly national story,” says filmmaker Larry Hott. “Rivers in industrial cities across the country were catching fire due to the build up of oil, waste and debris. The Rouge River in Michigan, the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, and the Chicago River all burned as often and as drastically as the Cuyahoga.”
About the Cuyahoga River
When the United States was a new nation, the Cuyahoga marked the western frontier: beyond it, all was unclaimed land — Indian Territory. But by 1870, the river was on a frontier of a different kind: the industrial frontier. On the river’s banks arose the country’s pride and joy — a burgeoning multitude of smoking factories in a booming display of what was called progress. But, as it flowed through Akron and Cleveland, the river became a foul-smelling channel of sludge, with an oily surface that ignited with such regularity that river fires were treated as commonplace events by the locals.
After many fires, the river burned again in 1969 just as a third kind of frontier swept across the nation: an environmental frontier. And the Cuyahoga River became a landmark on this frontier too, a poster child for those trying to undo the destruction wrought by the rampant industrialization of America.
“This is a good news story, something we don’t often hear about the environment nowadays,” says Hott. “The river was a mess forty years ago but it’s getting better now due to the efforts of a coalition of organizations and businesses. For the Cuyahoga, and perhaps other rivers in America, there’s reason to hope.”
The Cuyahoga’s story is a particularly apt example for future environmental efforts, because the river can’t just be “set aside” as a pristine wilderness park — it runs right through Cleveland, after all. And, like most American rivers, the Cuyahoga has to serve widely varying needs — aesthetic and economic, practical and natural, human and animal. The challenge sounds impossible: how to maintain industrial uses of the river, encourage recreation and entertainment, and still preserve the nature in and around the river…a seemingly impossible challenge and yet one that much of our nation is facing today.
Diane Garey and Lawrence R. Hott of Florentine Films/Hott Productions produced and directed THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA. The pair has received numerous honors including an Emmy, the Peabody Award, two Academy Award nominations and in January 2008, a duPont-Columbia Journalism Award.
Funding for THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA provided by Peter B. Lewis, The Cleveland Foundation, McDonald Hopkins, LLC, The Lubrizol Foundation, The Abington Foundation, The GAR Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, The Akron Community Foundation, The Ohio Humanities Council and the Davey Tree Company.
MORE RIVER IMPROVEMENT NOTES
According to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, for the first time ever, the lower Cuyahoga River has attained one of the State’s expectations for an “Exceptional” warm-water habitat, another sign of the health and vitality returning to this once polluted river.
Final results from the recent electrofishing surveys indicate that the fish community has achieved the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality score of “Exceptional.” The index is a specific water quality indicator that ranges from very poor to exceptional.
“Exceptional”…it doesn’t get any better than that.
I’m trying to be mature about today’s forecast for up to a foot of snow but I have to be honest I really just want to throw a temper tantrum and flop around the floor over the prospect of not just a little more snow but an outright blizzard. I know…I know…welcome to northeast Ohio. In anticipation of that white stuff who’s name we will not use, Gene Roberts, Service Director, put out an advisory last night announcing the very high likelihood that the City will be in a Snow Emergency today which includes a parking ban from all City streets. Gene sent the information out to the news media early in order to give residents a heads-up so they can make plans for off-street parking. Needless to say the last words I want to hear in March is Snow Emergency but since it appears unavoidable I thought it was a good idea to let people know what’s coming and share Gene’s announcement.
Oh yeah, and just to add a bit of an ironic subplot to this whole story, don’t forget to set your clocks ahead an hour this weekend because despite what you see outside your window it’s actually time to start the spring/summer time schedule.
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 6, 2008
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE FOR THE CITY OF KENT HAS ANNOUNCED THAT A SNOW EMERGENCY PARKING BAN WILL LIKELY BE PLACED INTO EFFECT DURING THE AFTERNOON HOURS OF FRIDAY, MARCH 7TH, 2008.
THIS ANNOUNCEMENT IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE THE PUBLIC SUFFICIENT TIME TO REMOVE VEHICLES FROM CITY STREETS AHEAD OF THE FORECASTED STORM EVENT. DURING A SNOW EMERGENCY, PARKING ON ALL CITY STREETS IS BANNED TO PROVIDE FOR SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL.
VEHICLES THAT REMAIN PARKED ON CITY STREETS MAY BE TICKETED OR TOWED. A SNOW EMERGENCY EXISTS DURING ANY 24-HOUR PERIOD WHEN TWO OR MORE INCHES OF SNOW HAS ACCUMULATED.
City of Kent , Ohio
Eugene K. Roberts
Director of Public Service
Yesterday I posted a blog about the fine line between arts and graffiti and I wanted to follow up today with some more discussion about the topic from a slightly different angle. Here’s the deal — Kent has an artistic advantage right now. We’re known for being a bit more over the top with our artistic expression than most of our homogenized suburban peers. We’ve got an edge and a very cool fashion design museum that puts Kent in the same breath as the exceedingly fashionable New York City. The bad news (as I talked about yesterday) is that bohemian edge prefers chaos over control which can make it hard for all the parts to come together as neatly as they do in some of our peer cities. And worse than that the lack of control can produce collateral damage like graffiti. So how do we take that artistic advantage and focus it positively?
At a time when cities are all looking for an advantage to attract people to their city, the arts is a great advatage to have. Thanks to galleries in Kent and Kent’s reputation people already travel many miles to come experience a piece of our art world. I know that at the recent shows at McKay Bricker and the Kent State Gallery visitors came all the way down from Cleveland to enjoy Kent’s artistic vibe.
But here’s what I worry about. All’s fair in love and economic development and right now as I write this our peer cities are busy planning ways to steal the arts out from underneath us. Remember when downtown Kent was the shopping haven — well they stole that from us too, first with their suburban malls then more recently by trying to build historic downtowns from scratch. The funny thing is, apparently if you spend enough money you can buy your way in to a position of advantage.
I know we haven’t had the kind of money that places like Hudson or Chagrin Falls have, so we really haven’t been able to compete with them head-to-head which is probably why they’ve been able to replace us as the place to go enjoy a downtown experience. It’s sort of like the cola wars — we’re still the real thing but our neighbors have been able to spend enough money to take what we have and create newer copy-cat versions that are good enough to bump us out of first place in terms of market share.
We need the Kent arts community to work with us to ensure the future of the arts in Kent. We probably also need to talk about coming up with funding for the arts. Money is indeed tight but it seems to me that a little investment can go a long way in securing our arts advantage. If we don’t we need to be prepared to watch our advantage diminish as our peers are coming up with plans right now to fund the arts in their community.
Don’t take my word for it, read this recent article from the Chagrin Valley Times for yourself.
Arts funding urged as part of Chagrin budget
By BARBARA CHRISTIAN
The Chagrin Foundation for Arts and Culture withdrew its request Monday for $20,000 from Chagrin Falls Village Council and instead recommended that a budget item be added for support of the arts. No dollar amount was suggested.
Budget hearings are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. March 6 in Village Hall.
Foundation board President Stephen Thomas said council must decide if village government should support culture and arts and, if so, to what degree. His comments were made during the village arts commission meeting prior to the regular council session.
Letters of support from the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, the Chagrin Light Orchestra and commercial property owner Patty Hridel were passed out to commission members. Mr. Thomas said a letter was not included from the Valley Art Center, which is undertaking its own fund-raising efforts. The VAC letter stated its support for the foundation but suggested that the village find an equitable procedure for funding requests.
Mr. Thomas said the foundation “has been unable to connect with the Valley Art Center,” but Chagrin Valley Little Theatre has seen growth through the foundation’s activities. If council sees fit to set aside funds for the arts, all of the groups will benefit, he said. Instead of a process in which funding would be divided among the arts and cultural groups, he said, they could get together and agree on how to put them to the best use. One example would be advertising Chagrin Falls arts and cultural activities together, he said.
Included with the letters of support was a 10-point plan published by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which says that the arts are “critical to the quality of life and livability of America’s cities.” It adds that “governments which support the arts on average see a return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 the government appropriates.”
“It’s not a waste of money but an investment,” Mr. Thomas said.
“The audiences being brought to town mean a lot of people are here and spending money,” commission member Donald Edelman said. Cities like Parma and Lakewood always have budgeted funding for the arts, he said, “so there must be a reason.”
Cleveland Heights budgets $300,000 for its summer festival season, Mr. Thomas added.
“A 7-to-1 ratio is a real thing,” commission member Scott Lax said. “It’s not just a financial return but an intellectual one. I recommend council try to find some money. If it’s $5 or $5,000, it will show our village supports the effort.”
Councilman Dwight Milko, council’s representative to the foundation, said he will not be in town for the budget hearings but will write a memo to council regarding the budget request.
“There are tough times ahead” for the village, Mr. Milko said, because of the Smith Barney brokerage and Windsor Hospital leaving. But the new South Franklin Circle retirement complex nearby in Bainbridge will soon bring between “300 and 400 new residents at the village doorstep,” and said, and retirees “have been supporting the arts for a long time.”
Commission chairwoman Jean Hood said public-private partnerships are not a new idea, and it was something the commission wanted to support from its conception a year ago. “We are very much a work in progress as well,” she said.
Mr. Milko said there was no way that the village could have operated the foundation’s successful Chautauqua series on its own and credited the foundation for “pulling the groups together to make it happen.”
Mr. Thomas described the Chautauqua series as the “kindling” toward increased profits for everyone involved, including the village’s tax base. “If council does not want to participate, we are going to have to think of something else,” he said.
As we look to secure Kent’s position as a destination city and be an all around great place to hang out, we see the value of embracing Kent’s bohemian roots and trying to take advantage of our artsy, eclectic nature — but the trouble is those same roots are one of the reasons we’re having such a tough time with graffiti. To some extent there’s some truth to the adage that one man’s art is another man’s graffiti and as we celebrate our multi-cultural diversity we bump into those free-wheeling anti-disestablishmentarianists who point to graffiti as an act of personal expression which is a core Kent value. In effect we’re pitting two core values against each other — the right to artistic expression and the right of property owners. I think there’s room for both and here’s an interesting article from the New York Times about the same problem half-way around the globe in a part of Berlin Germany that much like Kent is a haven for post-hippies.
One Wall Down, Thousands to Paint
SPRAY cans clink in Ali’s bag as he walks down a cobblestone street in Berlin’s post-hip neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. He stops in front of a grocery truck parked near a children’s playground and pulls out a can. With a fluid motion, he strokes his name in bubbly, bright red letters, before leaving his mark on a telephone booth, a dozen doors and a concrete wall next to the train tracks.
“It’s a great feeling doing a piece at night and coming back the day after to look at it,” said Ali, 31, an industrial designer who was dressed in baggy pants and a black hoodie and didn’t want his surname used to avoid prosecution. “I also see it as reclaiming the city and shaping my urban environment.”
Apparently, many Berliners feel the same. The city’s skyline might be defined by a Sputnik-era TV tower, bombed-out churches and the ghost of a certain wall that once split the German capital. But its streetscape is largely molded by graffiti.
Nearly everywhere you go, from the cafe-lined streets of Kreuzberg to the leafy schoolyards in Grunewald, hastily drawn “tags” stream across the sidewalk and crawl up the side of buildings, in an elaborate zigzag of cartoonish graphics, puffy letters, photo-like wheat pastes and bold stencils. Parts of the city look as splattered as a New York City subway car from the 1970s.
And it’s not just no-name graffiti writers who are contributing to the visual assault. With no shortage of vacant buildings, weedy lots and creative nomads, Berlin has become a blank canvas for graffiti artists far and wide, turning the German capital into arguably the most “bombed” — slang for graffiti-covered — city in Europe.
Banksy, the art world mystery, has left his mark, including a stenciled rat in a police uniform along a curb in Mitte. Os Gemeos, the Brazilian twins whose cartoonish works have commanded $20,000 at the Deitch Projects in New York City, have spray painted a five-story-high mural of a yellow man in an orange shirt on a building on Oppelner Strasse. And the shaking fist of the Berlin artist Kripoe swings from traffic signs, elevated train tracks and, perhaps most spectacularly, a piling in the middle of the Spree River.
“It’s like everyone grabbed a can of paint at one point and just went for it,” said the New York-based photographer Peter Sutherland, who has exhibited his work in Berlin. “It’s become a real paradise for writers.”
The roots of graffiti culture can be traced back to West Berlin in the early 1980s, when the American-occupied sector was the reluctant melting pot of anarchist punks, Turkish immigrants and West German draft resisters. Kreuzberg, a neighborhood surrounded on three sides by the Berlin Wall, blossomed particularly well, with miles of wall space and little police scrutiny.
The first so-called writers were heavily influenced by the New York City scene. Works about the time, like the 1983 film “Style Wars” by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, and the 1984 book “Subway Art” by Mr. Chalfant and Martha Cooper, enjoyed a cult following.
But while the west face of the Berlin Wall was blanketed with graffiti, the east face was orderly and gray. The notorious Stasi police kept graffiti under wraps, and writers in East Berlin risked imprisonment or worse if they were caught red-handed with spray cans — assuming they could even get their hands on paint.
All that changed, of course, with the fall of the wall in 1989, which opened up vast new blank walls virtually overnight. Artists, musicians and young people flooded East Berlin, heralding a shift in the youth culture from west to east. The pockmarked walls of Mitte, Friedrichshain and other gray neighborhoods were soon carpeted in colorful squiggles.
“It was kind of like New York,” said Thomas Peiser, an owner of Overkill, a graffiti supply store in Kreuzberg, a gritty area where working-class Germans share the sidewalk with Turkish women pushing grocery carts. “It was paradise to us.”
Paradise had some unofficial help. The police were painfully slow to respond to graffiti, and a special task force formed in the early 1990s remains largely ineffectual. According to Marko Moritz, the current head of the antigraffiti task force, the city processes about 15 arrests a week, with offenders typically fined anywhere from 100 euros ($150 at $1.50 to the euro) to several thousand.
“We know we’ll never be able to completely eliminate graffiti,” Mr. Moritz said, adding that the property damage caused by graffiti is estimated at 35 million to 50 million euros a year.
Graffiti may be vandalism, but it is also celebrated as street art and even regarded as an integral component of Berliner Strassenkultur.
Shops like Overkill operate in the open, selling spray cans and markers in every conceivable color, along with paraphernalia like safety masks, aerosol caps and sketch pads with outlines of subway cars. Fans can also shop there for urban wear like Grace Jones T-shirts and limited-edition Puma sneakers.
Galleries like Circleculture, a stark storefront in Mitte, regularly exhibit internationally known street artists like Anton Unai, who often works with objects he finds on the street, and Shepard Fairey, the creator of “Obey, Giant” and, most recently, a popular poster of Barack Obama.
Indeed, Berlin’s buzzing art world has been closely intertwined with graffiti. Since 1986, the Cologne-based artist Thomas BaumgÄrtel has been stenciling Warhol-like yellow bananas outside his favorite galleries. Several hundred galleries have received the yellow seal of approval, offering gallery hoppers a highly regarded rating guide to the city’s art scene.
Keeping tabs on the thriving subculture are several Berlin-based publications like Artistz Graffiti Magazin and Lodown Magazine, which offer both narcissistic photo essays on bombed U-Bahn cars and interviews with graffiti legends like Kaws.
Last summer, Adrian Nabi, a former publisher of the pioneering Berlin graffiti magazine Backjumps, organized a “live issue,” a two-month-long graffiti festival in the humid hallways of a former Kreuzberg hospital partly occupied by squatters. It attracted more than 15,000 people.
The opening reception, held on a warm Friday night in July, drew a mixed crowd of skinny jeans-wearing hipsters from Mitte’s art set, and Kreuzberg locals in baggy pants and baseball caps. As gangster rap music blared, the crowd sucked down Becks and surveyed the colorful works of graffiti artists eager to show they had evolved from subway trains to framed canvases.
Though Mr. Nabi respects the inroads that some street artists have made into the gallery system, he still admires the recklessness and audacity of the West Berlin graffiti writers of his youth.
“A writer is far more brash,” Mr. Nabi said. “They take the entire city for themselves.”
CANVASSING AN URBAN CANVAS
Overkill (KÖpenicker Strasse 195a; 49-30-69-506-126; www.overkillshop.com) is a graffiti supply store in Kreuzberg that also carries a modest supply of limited-edition sneakers and sponsors an annual film festival.
Circleculture Gallery (Gipsstrasse 11; 49-30-275-817-80; www.circleculture-gallery.com), on a charming side street in Mitte’s gallery district, shows international graffiti and street artists.
The back of the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain (www.eastsidegallery.com ), the longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall (about 0.8 mile), offers fine examples of local graffiti styles. Take the S-Bahn to Warschauer Strasse.
The east end of the Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn platform offers views of Kripoe’s giant fists, which rise from the boarded-up windows of an abandoned building.
A lot at Falckensteinstrasse and Schlesische Strasse in Kreuzberg offers a variety of styles from locals like Inka to the building-size murals of the Italian artist Blu and the French artist JR. The nearest U-Bahn stop is Schlesisches Tor.