Monday, November 9, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #16: John Ewing of the CIA Cinematheque

In a city down on its luck like Cleveland, a town facing deindustrialization and brain drain and suburban flight and just about any sociological plague you can imagine, it becomes pretty easy to forget about the shining stars and talents we still have. I think, though, that a city with all the challenges we face needs more than any other to remind itself of the folks who still bring some magic into the city, celebrate them as much as we can. That's part of the point of this Proper Noun series.

When it comes to a guy like John Ewing, it isn't hard to be appreciative. The director of both the CIA Cinematheque and the Cleveland Museum of Art's Film Series, Ewing's curatorial tastes are beyond compare, continually blending sophistication with accessibility. A cursory glance at any weekend lineup will find showcases that include something new from Asia followed by something old from France followed by something underground for New York - or a entirely different jumble of genre, space, and time. The one continuity - the one that matters - is excellence.

In my third year as a Clevelander, I don't have to think twice before providing an answer to the question about my favorite place in town; Easy - it is a tie between the Beachland Ballroom and the CIA Cinematheque, and John Ewing is to thank for the second half of that, as he's piloted the wonderful institution to national recognition, a reputation certified recently by the New York Times itself, which referred to the Cinematheque as "one of the country's best repertory movie theaters."

Continuing my streak of interrogatory delight, Ewing recently agreed to subject himself to the CB Proper Noun questionnaire, the results of which you'll find below. The answers are grand, but fail to compare with the Cinematheque experience itself. Please do read on, but even more so, make time in your life to see one of John's hand-selected films.

(Photo Credit: Rob Muller)

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

Since 1983. Moved here from Canton, Ohio, my hometown.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?
When I was in elementary school, traveling from Canton to Cleveland with my mother and grandmother every late summer or early fall to buy "back-to-school" clothes. This was an annual ritual. We would park at some garage where cars were taken to upper parking levels via an elevator, shop downtown, and eat lunch at Higbee's.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?
One of the main motivations for showing the wealth of new and old films I present is my steadfast belief that Cleveland is a major cultural center that deserves to see ALL of the important films and retropsectives that people in the world's other major cities are seeing and talking about.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

Well, it would be a sunny, mild, mid-October day with the leaves at the height of their fall colors (like now). The day would start with a drive into the country for apples, cider, and pumpkins. Then lunch at some small town restaurant followed by the ride back and a few restful hours at home. That evening I would eat dinner out and go to a movie that wasn't showing at one of my theatres, where I could just enjoy the show.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I would drive them to see Tremont, the West Side Market, Ohio City, the lake, downtown, Playhouse Square, MLK Jr. Drive thru Rockefeller Park, University Circle (Severance Hall, the art museum, the Botanical Garden), Little Italy, the view of Cleveland's skyline from Garfield's monument, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights. I probably would make sure they saw a movie at the Cinematheque.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?
Bigger audiences for my movies.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Be honest with us.
To meet John and check out his marvelous curatorial skills first-hand, make plans to see a film at the Cinematheque or the Cleveland Museum of Art. There are no shortage of good films to see, but if you need a little guidance, reference my handy dandy monthly guide for November here and keep an eye out for future guides at the beginning of each month!

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, Paulius Nasvytis, Lawrence Daniel Caswell, and Curtis Thompson.


Barb Ewing Cockroft said...

This is an incredible blog! John Ewing is one of my three older brothers! And he is as sincere, honest, and hard-working as they come! I cannot even begin to tell you what it was like growing up in the same house as John. Even at a young age, he was fascinated with film. John is always kind, caring, compassionate--and a genius, to boot (he would not appreciate my saying this!) I loved reading about him, a very humble person. And his wife Kathy is a most intelligent and kind-hearted person herself!God bless you, Brother John

Anonymous said...

John Ewing is a Cleveland treasure! Thanks John for more than 20 years of superb cinematic programming.