Art defines a city. The arts have a lot to do with Astoria’s rebirth.

The town’s first serious commercial art gallery was founded only 25 years ago, by Corinne Ricciardi. And the arts were an engine of Maurie Clark’s remake of Cannon Beach in the 1970s.

One of the Midwest’s most astounding artistic commitments was Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley’s approval of a huge Picasso sculpture for the plaza next to City Hall. Even in 2013, this sculpture would be controversial in many cities.

The Chicago Art Institute is marking that event as part of its exhibit, “Picasso and Chicago.” Beautifully interpreted, the exhibit includes more than 250 Picasso works from all his periods. The exhibit gives special attention to the fabled outdoor sculpture. On the day of its unveiling, the author and social historian Studs Terkel recorded voices on City Hall Plaza. They are replayed next to a photo of the event. Also displayed is a disparaging editorial in the Chicago American.

Don Haskell of Astoria practiced law in Chicago in the Daley era. He has told me that Mayor Daley was a much more “polished” person than he let on, with his streetwise parlance of “dem and dose,” instead of them and those.

Haskell believes that Daley enjoyed the controversy surrounding the Picasso installation.

•••

At the 1967 Picasso unveiling, Mayor Daley said: “What is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.”

Daley’s insight applies to all art forms. It’s hard to believe, but when Elvis and the Beatles burst into postwar America, their music seemed strange to a broad swath of listeners. Today they are part of our common lexicon.

•••

My late uncle John owned Logger Supply in Coos Bay. He startled me one day by mentioning how my Aunt Lucia on a Sunday afternoon would put a recording of La Boheme on the phonograph, and they would both weep.

My wife had the same experience upon moving to Portland. Her grade school chum from Kansas City was photographer for the Portland Opera and had house tickets. He took her to see La Boheme. Emerging from the first act, she said: “Now I get it. I see why people like opera.”

For her birthday, we traveled to Chicago last week and saw Boheme. Once more we learned that it always works. We are charmed when the two lovers meet by candlelight on Christmas Eve. How they fall out of love and reconnect in spring, just in time for her to die.

•••

The Chicago Lyric Opera house is a gem of the Midwest. In a city graced with distinguished architecture, the decorative icons of the opera house are harvest and music. Its colors are gold, coral and blue. In the manner of Chicago’s greatest architect, the ornamentation is lush.

•••

Eddie Basha was a brief but distinguished resident of Clatsop County. Basha died March 26 in Arizona. He and his wife Nadine had built a home in Arcadia Beach and intended to move in this summer. Basha ran unsuccessfully for governor of Arizona in 1994 and his life was praised by the likes of Sen. John McCain.

The Basha family maintains one of the largest independently owned grocery chains in America.

— S.A.F.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.