High Museum to remember 1962 Orly plane crash victims - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

High Museum to remember 1962 Orly plane crash victims

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ATLANTA -

The response to a tragedy 50 years ago literally changed the landscape of the Atlanta arts community. A fiery plane crash in 1962 has forever linked the cities of Atlanta and Paris. They will come together on Sunday to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the disaster.

The crash at Orly Airport near Paris, France, claimed the lives of 122 members of Atlanta's arts community, a tragic end to a European arts tour. The plane crashed on takeoff, and former Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, who called many of the victims his friends, went to the scene.

"It looks like the plane apparently never got off the ground. Ran across the end of the runway and coming down this slope, crashed into the ground and ended up here in a total wreck and loss," said Allen at the time.

Michael Shapiro, Director of the High Museum of Art points out that the tragedy was also the catalyst for the founding of what would become the Woodruff Arts Center.

"I think frankly, from that terrible event, super great things have happened, and I think maybe we wouldn't have been able to reach as high and as far and as deeply into world culture as we have as a result. So I like to think that those people who gave the ultimate for art have been paid back by all of us," said Shapiro.

Next to the memorial arts building named in their memory, sits "The Shade" by the French sculptor Rodin. It was a gift from the French government to the city of Atlanta in remembrance of the crash victims. Their names are etched in granite.

Susan Cofer was in college at the time and remembers that June morning well.  Now an accomplished artist in her own right, she credits her aunt Helen Seydell as a great inspiration.

"I was thinking this morning how pleased aunt Helen would be to know that I am going to have a retrospective of my art work which has been developing over these 50 years," said Cofer.

"There was fused in that tragedy a connection that may be very unusual and little known to many Atlantans between the greatest museum in the world, the Museum de Louvre and the High Museum of Art and the Woodruff Arts Center right here in Atlanta," said Shapiro.

The High Museum will proudly display for the first time ever in the United States, a painting by French artist Jean-Pierre Franque, on loan from the Louvre.  It's a part of Community Day at the High to mark the 50th anniversary of the Orly crash.

"I think it's a wonderful way to deal with this. It's a celebration really. A celebration of all that has happened since that tragedy," said Cofer.

Community Day at the Woodruff Arts Center on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. is free and open to the public. There are lots of free activities planned. For more information, click here.

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