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Airport outrage


You've got to be kidding. We're planning to sink a gazillion dollars into Renaissance Square --- a key part of which (we're promised) will be a performing arts center. We're basking in the glow of a greatly expanded StrongMuseum, which, we believe, will be a strong tourist attraction.

We brag about the quality of our musicians. Our live theater. Our dance.

We're even building an artistic bridge over the Genesee.

Meantime, we're taking important public art out of the airport and replacing it with... cars and big advertising posters and a "business center."

This in a community that wants to attract well-educated workers. High-tech companies. Scientists. Doctors. Computer geeks.

The art, which was created specifically for the airport, was funded by public and private donations and includes work by some of Rochester's most prominent artists. The intent was to welcome visitors by showing off some of the best this community has to offer.

And now?

Wendell Castle --- whose work is in the Museum of Modern Art, the MetropolitanMuseum, and a staggering number of other important venues --- has the distinction of being the first artist whose work disappeared, about a year and a half ago. Questions about the whereabouts of Castle's sculpture led nowhere --- but the airport was making security alterations, so there didn't seem to be a crisis.

A tapestry by Ruth Manning also disappeared. Roz Goldman, who chaired the committee that generated the art and the donations that helped pay for it, says she sighted the tapestry recently in a private office in the airport.

And that's just the beginning. Castle's wife, ceramicist Nancy Jurs, who also created a work for the airport, noticed that the base of her massive sculpture was deteriorating. When she met with officials to suggest restoration, she was told that she needn't bother. Her important sculpture, like her husband's, will be removed.

So, too, Jurs says, will the large photographs by Richard Margolis.

This is not what the donors to the airport-art fund intended.

And this is not what this community needs.

It took a fight with the Monroe County Conservative Party to get the art into the airport in the first place. Now, it's time for a fight to keep it there.

And frankly, this is a fight about something bigger. It's a fight about our identity: who we are and what we want this community to be. What's our vision? As simply one among a thousand ordinary, small-market towns?

It's time for protest.

And the leaders of this protest should be the arts community.

It's risky for that community to speak up. Some arts institutions depend heavily on county funding. But if that community isn't willing to speak out now, there will be no other chance.

When short-sighted trustees of the George Eastman House threatened to ship that valuable collection to the Smithsonian, horrified Rochesterians put together a protest group and forced the trustees to back down. The Eastman archives stayed here. And the museum underwent a major expansion.

We need a similar organization now. And its participants must include museum directors, dance-community leaders, artists, gallery owners, musicians, actors and directors, board members of every arts group in the area. If county officials won't stand up for art now, we can't depend on them to do so when the Ren Square theater needs funding --- or at any other time.

The anti-art gang does not represent this community, and it's time to say so.

It is possible to stop this absurdity. But the time is short.

On our website you'll find a petition that you can sign. Click on the 'Save the airport art' button. You can write letters to be published in this newspaper. We'll send all of your comments to county legislators and County Executive Maggie Brooks. And, of course, you can write them directly.

Whatever option you choose, we urge you to act.

Art is too important to this community and its future to shrug this off.

Cease fire

The pain and terror in the Middle East is unimaginable, and it is felt by people on both sides of this latest conflict. And, as numerous commentators have said, Israel's anger is understandable. But the carnage in Lebanon has to stop.

It's inconceivable that the attacks will give Israel what it wants: the wiping out of Hezbollah. And it's as clear as day that the deaths of innocent civilians and the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure will take an immense toll on Israel, not only in the Arab world but among ordinary citizens in the rest of the world, including in the United States.

Anyone paying attention these long years of anguish knows how complicated the situation in the Middle East is. But it is gut-wrenching to read that on her trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed for humanitarian relief but not for a cease-fire. Maim the children; then send medical supplies.

"The unnecessary slaughter of innocents, whether by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, American forces in Iraq, or the Israeli defense forces, is always wrong," the New York Times' Bob Herbert wrote earlier this week, "and should never be tolerated. So civilized people cannot in good conscience stand by and silently watch as hundreds of innocents are killed and thousands more threatened by the spasm of destruction unleashed by Israel in Lebanon."

The United States government is standing by and silently watching. And that is a tragedy, both for Lebanon and for Israel.