Friday, October 15, 2010

Victor Schreckengost

Over the Bridge, 1980
Viktor Schreckengost (June 26, 1906 – January 26, 2008)

Dude created the Jazz Bowl, that statue of David Bowie on Lakewood High School, designed kids' bicycles, the cab-over-engine configuration of trucks, and an inspiring drawing of Cleveland called Over the Bridge that I keep on my wall.

Today I taped an interview for CPAC about my Fellowship year. We were asked to bring in something visual, and as a playwright I was scratching my head a little. So instead of paper or books or my laptop, I brought inspiration. I realized today that my generation are the last kids to see this as their Cleveland skyline. One building, the Terminal Tower. The fact that the sun is harsh and bright and the sky orange also puts me in mind of the 1970s.

He was born in Sebring, Ohio in 1906. His father was a ceramicist, and brought his work home with him. Victor and two of his brothers took on the trade. He graduated from the Cleveland School of the Arts (now CIA) in 1929. He studied in Vienna, for six months, returned to Cleveland, and stayed here. He lived in Cleveland Heights until his death in 2008.

In 1936 he was teaching industrial design at the Cleveland School of the Arts. When he began this position in 1931 he was the youngest instructor in their history.

The Jazz Bowl was an anonymous commissioned from Cowan Pottery where Schreckengost also worked, a request for a punch bowl inspired by New York. The man created a black bowl with night-sky blue designs of NYC nightlife etched into it, and the word "JAZZ." It was a great hit with the woman who requested it - Eleanor Roosevelt - and to the artists' knowledge, some 50 were made. Less expensive ones were created with the designs painted on, rather than etched.
"Every adult in America has ridden in, ridden on, drunk out of, stored their things in, eaten off of, been costumed in, mowed their lawn with, played on, lit the night with, viewed in a museum, cooled their room with, read about, printed with, sat on, placed a call with, enjoyed in a theater, hid their hooch in, collected, been awarded with, seen at a zoo, put their flowers in, hung on their wall, served punch from, delivered milk in, read something printed on, seen at the World's Fair, detected enemy combatants with, written about, had an arm or leg replaced with, graduated from, protected by, or seen at the White House something created by Viktor Schreckengost". - The Viktor Schreckengost Foundation
Some of my favorite public pieces of his are "Mammoth" and "Mastodon" (1956) which used to be featured on the side of the elephant house at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. These terra cotta sculptures have been carefully removed and are being restored, and will one day be featured at the entrance of the park.

The Victor Schreckengost Foundation

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