Program #159 THE SCULPTOR
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REBECK: You are born with an incentive, an impulse to create. Eventually the desire becomes known to you and drives you to overcome all obstacles in order to achieve your goal.
NARRATOR: That was Stephen A. Rebeck, the first sculptor to graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art way back in 1912. And for 50 years now he has been doing sculpturing, well here in a barn-like structure full of faces, figures, and shadows at 2426 St. Clair Avenue.
MUSIC: UP AND UNDER
ANNCR: “On Location” … the sounds and stories of a great city, its skillful people, and its significant events … presented by The Illuminating Company.
NARRATOR: If you look carefully as you drive up St. Clair Avenue, past a row of shops and houses between 23rd and 24th Street, you may catch a glimpse of a small sign on a dilapidated building half hidden behind a two-family house. A small boy with big eyes peers out of the ground floor window of the house as you park in the driveway and knock on the battered green door of the Art and Pattern Products Company, proprietor Stephen A. Rebeck, sculptor.
In a moment the door swings open and there stands a friendly-looking man—short, compact, with owl-eyes and graying hair, a cigar clenched in his mouth. He moves quickly and his thoughts tumble out one after another, belying the fact that he is 70 years old. He’s built like a wrestler, and he was an amateur champion about 50 years ago.
The building is full of heads … heads of famous people which have been used as plaques and medallions, a Rebeck specialty. Aside from the sculptor and his visitor, there are just two legs in evidence. They are legs ordered at one time to serve as models for the making of artificial legs but the order was never picked up, so they are now used to hold up a table full of teeth. The teeth are exact models of those found in a human mouth but they are about fifty times normal size and are made by Rebeck for a dental school. There is it seems a little of every part of the human anatomy in this backyard museum.
If you are lucky, you may have the opportunity to peer over the shoulder of the craftsman Rebeck as he fashions a piece of clay into the exact likeness of a human face, with deft, sensitive, supple fingers. The Truman family looks at you from one plaque, the Fords from another. Arthur Parker and Herbert Markham of Parker Appliance, the elder Blaushield, a priest from Buffalo, a gentle, delicate Madonna. But these are more recent. There is a Rebeck statue of Shakespeare in the Shakespearian Cultural Garden; a nine-foot bronze of Lincoln, a doughboy, and a Spanish-American soldier in a war memorial at Alliance, Ohio. There is a twelve-foot high, twenty-foot long aluminum Sphinx in a St. Louis Masonic Temple. There are statues of Pans and other fountain figures in the gardens of many Cleveland estates.
Rebeck was orphaned as a child, reared by a missionary, helped through art school by a Cleveland industrialist—and by making beds and breakfasts in a fraternity house, scrubbing floors, working in a jewelry store. He studied for several years with world-famous sculptor Carl Bitter, in New York, and after serving in the Air Force during World War I, he worked on the Victory Arch in New York City.
He designed the Penton Medal which was awarded for the best work in all lines of art work by the Cleveland Museum of Art—then proceeded to win the medal for his sculpting of the finely carved head of a young man, the Portrait of Charles C., a modern thinker, an intelligent, enlightened young man.
“Business is not what it used to be, though,” Rebeck said with a sigh. “Buildings are much plainer. Architects feel little need for statuary and ornamentation. And many who want sculpturing done think they have to go to New York for the high-price names. I wish they would remember that Steve Rebeck is still here.”
Yes, Stephen A. Rebeck, wrestler, artist, philosopher, first sculptor to graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art, is still here—after 50 years of outstanding creative work in the best location in the nation.
MUSIC: UP TO CLOSE
CLEARANCE: Mr. Stephen A. Rebeck
Art & Pattern Products Co.
2426 St. Clair Avenue