Rising Aspiration
I lived in Cleveland at a point when I was too young to remember a thing about the place: We moved there when I was ten months old and stayed for about a year. But I've always considered it as one of my several "home towns" and have been back there twice since we moved away in 1957, both times on business - and both times before I became involved with watershaping. Just the same, as an art history enthusiast and fan of impressive sculpture, I had my breath taken away by "The Fountain of Eternal Life." Dedicated in 1964, it was designed and executed by Marshall Fredericks, a resident of Michigan but a 1930 graduate of the Cleveland School of Art. The fountain serves as an inspiring memorial to residents of the city who died in conflicts reaching all the way back to the Spanish-American War. It wasn't that inclusive when I first saw it in 1978 and again a few years later: Originally, the bronze plates surrounding the rim of the fountain memorialized only casualties of World War II and the Korean War. This recognition has since been expanded on a couple of occasions to include all Clevelanders who've died in defense of their country in the span from 1899 to, so far, 2014. The testimony of sacrifice as witnessed by the names is moving, but the sculptures within the fountain are quietly but utterly inspirational. The central figure, which rises high above the basin and stands on a representation of the earth engulfed in flames, signifies the spirit of mankind rising above the destruction of war and reaching hopefully for a new and enduring comprehension of the value of life. The four granite sculptures at the base represent the world's civilizations and express a general desire for a global future free of war. I haven't been back to Cleveland in many years, but I know that, when and if I return, one of my first stops will involve revisiting this fountain. It was meaningful and impressive enough when I first saw it, but the continued addition of names is a reminder that, for all of our aspirations, for all of our sacrifices as friends and relations of wars' casualties, we can't seem to realize Fredericks' idealistic dream. It's a humbling space - a graceful, monumental sculpture and a gracious, inspirational reminder that we are all in this together. To see a brief video of the fountain in action, click here. The narration is a bit, well, distracting, so turn the sound down and watch: The images are just fine.