Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Makes A Landmark A Landmark?

When I was at Oberlin, I was fortunate to have as one of my professors Ellen Johnson, arguably the most respected scholar and critic of modern art.  During my college years, she was interviewed for a campus publication by one of her colleagues (and another one of my professors), Richard Spear.  He asked her at one point about how she went about evaluating a new work, posing the question of whether it was as simple as asking "Do I like it?"  She responded by saying that it was more a question of "how long do I like it?"

That's a quote that's stayed with me over the years, partly for its simplicity and partly because of its essential truth.  So much of what makes a work of art a true classic is, very simply, how long do we like it.  It has come back to me as my interest in historic theaters has evolved over the years, and it was brought to mind by this article by the historic movie theaters of Cuba.

These buildings are early 1960s, jet-set, "Mad Men"-era buildings, a far cry architecturally from the miniature Neoclassical palaces I worshiped in my younger days (and still do).  But I have found, over time, that I have fallen in love with them as much as I did with their predecessors.  The style is different, as is the history they evoke, but each are powerful and real in their own way.  They deserve to be saved, along with much of historic Havana (which I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting in 2003).

I worry that the eventual lifting of our embargo against the country (which is now inevitable) will probably destroy much of Cuba's history.  But I hope I'm wrong.  In any case, now that travel restrictions have been lifted, get there as soon as you can, before their is a Starbucks on every corner.

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