Saturday, June 11, 2005

Beating a Dead Mastodon

As I write this, three of the 102 Mastodons created as a city-wide art project have been vandalized. My first thought was “this is proof that the city doesn’t deserve anything nice, because its citzens don’t appreciate it.” My second thought was, unfortunately, “it took them this long to vandalize them?”

Fort Wayne has a strange mentality about what it wants and what it thinks is worthwhile. I personally think the Mastodon project is cool; it allows our creative talent to show off a bit and promotes local business at the same time. It’s bringing people downtown at a time when there aren’t any festivals going on, which is a rare feat. And it gives the city some sort of identity; Chicago had a similar art project, with bulls, but Fort Wayne has mastodons, an animal you don’t see every day.

But a few are ruined, and for what? Were the vandals bored? Was it a statement against corporate-funded art? A hatred of prehistoric elephants?

Whatever the motive, it makes the city look bad; like we’re all a group of spoiled brats who, given something nice or interesting or fun, we take a collective dump on it.

Does anyone else think this attitude is what’s keeping corporations from investing in the city? Why is it corporations pass us by for ritzier cities, even though property is incredibly afforable here? Newcomers remark on what a friendly town this is. We’re not too terribly far away from Chicago and Indianapolis, if you have to make a business trip there. The traffic is not as bad here. Fort Wayne has a lot to offer corporate types, if only someone would take on the job as the town’s press agent.

Yet there’s something about this city that whenever it tries to take a step forward, we end up going backward. And speaking of which, in a poll taken by one of the daily newspapers, a couple people criticized the art project, simply because it was sponsored by the same university that staged “Corpus Christi,” a controversial play that if produced in any major city, would probably elicit a yawn. Wouldn’t it be funny if someone at IPFW found a cure for a certan type cancer? And wouldn’t it be ironic if those same people who criticized the school had the same type of cancer that was curable? Would they choose to take the cure, or would they rather choose to die than be cured by a school that staged a play that was out of the ordinary?

It’s something to think about. With the Grand Wayne Center expansion, and the revamping of the library, downtown Fort Wayne is definitely making some moves. But there will be those criticizing anything the city does to improve its image. And I’m thinking the more we vanadalize those baby steps in moving forward, the more backward we will become, until the day arrives when everyone, not just the brain drain folks, decides to get the heck out of Dodge City. Everyone, except those naysayers that will complain, no doubt, about how empty the town seems lately. Don’t worry about them, though. They’ll eventually hook up with each other and breed a town that doesn’t care about how it looks, acts, or presents itself to the rest of the world. Oh wait. That’s already happened. Sorry, Detroit, I was talking about Fort Wayne.

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