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TODAY

Monday, April 22

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Airbags

As an occasional diversion I will feature someone outside of the arts in this column, posing three questions concerning art to someone who serves the city and/or its citizenry in one capacity or another.

During his six seasons with the Chicago Fire, defender Jim Curtin has made the transformation from an unassuming late round draft pick to an MLS All-Star and a cornerstone of the Fire's defensive corps, all while keeping the same hard-working but light-hearted attitude that has made him a favorite among Fire fans. While Curtin's career totals of four goals and six assists are modest, it is his 140 games played, 125 starts and 11,552 minutes played — all of which rank sixth in club history — that has cemented his place as one of the steadiest central backs in MLS and a team leader amongst the "Men in Red." A member of the squad's 2003 and 2006 U.S. Open Cup championship sides and winner of the Fire's 2004 Defender of the Year award, Curtin assumed the role of the Fire's "Ironman" after appearing in 70 straight contests, making 68 straight starts and playing 3,720 consecutive minutes in League play during a stretch of games that lasted from October 2003 through May 2005, numbers that shattered previous club records and ranked among MLS's top five all-time streaks in each category. Now fully healthy and ready to assume his role as the Fire's rock in the middle, Curtin is expected to once again anchor Chicago's three-man backline in 2007.*

Q: Where do you find art in your work?

Curtin: I feel that art can be found at my work through the many cultures and styles that must co-exist in our locker room, and then perform on the field of play. The fusion of Brazilians, Mexicans, Costa Ricans, Hondurans, French, Polish, Africans and Americans goes on each day at our practices. Each country has its own style of play. The flashy and entertaining Brazilians, the technical ability and possession style of the Mexicans, the win at all cost aggression of the Eastern Europeans, the raw athleticism of some American and African players, all of these must come together. Everyone has their own personal style of play, but one thing is for certain — we can tell within five minutes of meeting and playing with one another whether a person can in fact play, and play well. It is the one thing that we perform for in our art: the respect of each other. Sure, you play for the fans who often can decide who becomes famous and successful, but we ultimately perform to be held in high regard by our teammates and rivals. I'd imagine this desire for "respect from your peers" exists with many authors, painters, poets and musicians.

Q: Should art entertain or provoke? Should art jar one's politics, make one question his or her faith? Or should art just throw politics and faith out the door?

Curtin: Tough one. I tend to enjoy art that makes me take a side one way or the other. I either think it looks good or does not; I either agree or disagree; I am in or I am out. For that reason I'd say I prefer art that provokes. Art that causes the most discussion tends to be art that provokes, while art that entertains can serve its purpose, but is often overlooked. I think art should figure in on religious and political issues. The way I feel is the more questions various arts provoke on these topics the better.

Q: Who's your favorite artist, and how would you explain to this person your first experience with his or her work?

Curtin: Another tough one, especially choosing just one. I'll go with Bob Dylan. Great storyteller, great musician, great style, and I get mad when people say he has a terrible voice. I like to think of it as the most identifiable voice of all time. I'd tell him my first experience of his work was when I was in 7th grade, and the album was Blood on the Tracks. I remember listening to it as a 12-year-old, and feeling like I knew what he was talking about (looking back I did not know a damn thing about anything) and I'd picture myself in the stories he told, and as a 12-year-old that made me feel cool. At 12 that is all that mattered.

*Entire intro lifted from the Fire website.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to tqf@gapersblock.com.

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