Closing the Cloisters

July 15, 1994|By LYNDA CASE LAMBERT

Why does government always miss the point?

It has always bothered me, for instance, that the Brown v. the Board of Education decision prompted 25 years of busing, when the reason Mrs. Brown brought the suit was her desire for her child to attend the school near their home . . . in the neighborhood . . . nearby . . . in walking distance!

There are millions of examples of this kind of foolishness. You can pick any government level, any legislative year. But right here, right now, we have a beautiful local example: The spending of $19 million to move the Cloisters Children's Museum from Falls Road to downtown.

The Cloisters is not just a museum, it is a destination.

In the heat of the summer sun, mothers and children gratefully pack themselves into the car and drive the short distance to the Cloisters. Under the gentle light that barely makes its way through the deep green that surrounds the castle, one can breathe, for a change. Children can run ahead, without fear of getting run over. Mothers can linger behind, relishing a cool breeze and the moment's respite.

Inside the castle, it is cooler still. Thick stone walls and high ceilings take you back into a time when there were no personal income taxes and people could actually afford to live like human beings!

And since that is no longer true, the best part of the Cloisters is that it's FREE. Many's the time when my daughter was small that I took four kids to the Cloisters for no more than a dollar. If our timing was right, we could pet a rabbit and see a play, too!

Each according to his ability to pay, yet the jar was always full.

Will the Cloisters be free at the Inner Harbor? Don't think so.

Will they move the castle, a European-inspired fantasy, downtown, brick by brick, bottle-glass windows and all, so that visitors can ''ooo'' and ''ahh'' at its magnificent interiors and furnishings?

The point that the city has missed here is the reason people love the Cloisters so: It is in the country.

Some bureaucrat says that its being downtown would allow more poor children to see it. I can only say, first, that poor children have no money and therefore could no more attend the downtown museum than they can go to the Science Center or visit the Aquarium.

Second, many of those inner-city kids would give their eye teeth for a day in the country. How many buses might $19 million buy to bring them from the city to the country?

If Baltimore wants to build a children's museum for tourists downtown, that's great. Go for it. Bilk the tourists, by all means. That's what they came for.

But if it wants to do something nice, for a change, for the residents of Baltimore, then it should remember that just as the Indianapolis team will never be the Colts, some building downtown with a bunch of activities for children will never, ever, couldn't possibly be the Cloisters.

9- Lynda Case Lambert writes from Baltimore.

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