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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne Museum of Art technical director Brian Williamson, left, and executive director Charles Shepard talk Monday about the damage to Mark di Suvero's stainless steel and painted steel sculpture "Helmholtz," which was hit by car and knocked over early Sunday.

See the city’s statues while you still can

I think I might take some time this week and wander around town and bother to notice, if not admire, the various sculptures, monuments and markers that we have in the city.

Of course this isn’t Rome. We don’t have scores of statues of emperors scattered around or being unearthed during the occasional sewer repair project.

But we have our share of monuments and markers, and I think it would be a good idea to just look at them while they last.

You see, the problem is that some of these monuments don’t last because some drivers in Fort Wayne seem to have a difficult time keeping their cars on the road. Cars keep plowing into these markers, leveling them.

Some of these accidents don’t bother me much. Years ago a guy missed a curve and slammed into a mailbox a few doors down from my house. It made quite a racket but it was only a mailbox, which was quickly remounted in concrete.

If you own the monument or marker, it’s a hassle.

A few years ago, for example, someone slammed into a very old brick-and-stone marker at Wayne and Ewing streets and utterly obliterated it.

The monument, if you want to call it that, marked the corner of the Trinity English Lutheran Church.

When McDonald’s moved its downtown restaurant – for about the third time – to Jefferson and Fairfield, it put up a red-brick monument of sorts as part of the landscaping for the new eatery. It wasn’t too long until someone plowed into that.

A large brick-and-concrete gateway marking the entrance to Southwood Park on Rudisill Boulevard got mowed down by a car a few years ago.

And only a year or two ago another large brick marker at Trinity English Lutheran Church, this one at Washington and Ewing, got smashed by an SUV.

Then, on Sunday morning, a large pickup truck somehow managed to travel about 190 feet off of Main Street and slam into an eight- to 10-ton steel sculpture located safely tucked away next to the performing arts center. It left giant orange steel I beams lying flat on the ground, and other pieces tottering and unstable.

The sculpture, it turns out, is the work of the most famous living sculptor in America today and is probably worth at least a million dollars.

When you think of it, the city does have more sculptures than most people realize, though most are in cemeteries and churches and safely sheltered inside government buildings or on the steps of office buildings where, one would presume, they are safe.

Even the safest spot, though, can turn out be not quite safe enough. That leaves me wondering about the fate of some of the sculptures on the lawn outside the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and any number of other works scattered around the city.

I asked Charles Shepard, executive director of the art museum, whether he had ever worried about other sculptures on the museum lawn, close to the road. Yes, he said, there was some concern, but the locations were determined to be secure enough. Now, he said, they might have to rethink that.

So, knowing there are sculptures and artwork and monuments worth looking at, it’s probably not a bad idea to at least go take a look at them before they get wrecked.

The latest victim, by the way, will be repaired, we’re told, a job that could take a year and will easily cost in the six figures.

And if nothing else, this latest disaster reminded the public that there are million-dollar sculptures in this town – or at least there was one.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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