Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbuz on Banks

Why, no offishur, I haven't been drinking at Ernie's.  That wuz some other tall, bronze Italian.  He went thatta way!

This Christopher Columbus was sculpted by Joe Incrapera in 1992, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World.  You remember the childhood saying, right:  in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?  The statue graces Bell Park, in Montrose--right across the street from the bar Ernie's on Banks.

Fairly unassuming, right?  Wrong!

Forget the bums parked on nearby benches or the eclectic overflow of Ernie's patrons*, poor Chris got no respect from the beginning.  In 1991, the Italian Cultural Center of Houston and Federation of Italian-American Organizations commission the six-footer.  But in one of those moments where political-correctness goes awry, the city's Municipal Arts Commission rejected the gift!  At the time, the 500th Anniversary was controversial.  Pundits wanted to debate, not celebrate.  In the international arena of 1992, they were bandying around words like "brutal conquest" and "American genocide" when describing discovery of the Americas.  There were demonstrations in various capitals and at the United Nations.  Amidst annual parades, statue unveilings, and some celebrations (such as Columbus kicking off of Galveston's Mardi Gras that year), other  statues were being defaced around the world.  When the Houston Chronicle got whiff of Houston's story and reported it, the panel that rejected the statue suddenly punted the issue to City Council.  (In fairness, the Commission said its decision was based on other concerns.)  Obviously, the City Council finally approved, and Chris made his way to Bell Park in time for his unveiling on October 11, 1992. 

Feeling unloved, Chris?  Don't worry, baby, I'll be your Nina almost any day.

The artist, you ask?  Joe Incrapera is a native Houstonian, but studied art technique in Barcelona for four years, drawing in Florence for one, and sandstone sculpting in India for one.  His works have been exhibited and publicized in various locales.

*Yes, I know that Ernie's is Grand Prize Bar.  I like it.  I like the food truck outside it, too.

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