February 22, 2017

Google Arts and Culture site

google-arts-and-culture-logoWhen traveling, I love visiting museums, gardens and venues of visual beauty. Unfortunately, my wish list of places to visit continues to grow, while my time to travel remains relatively small.

Google Arts and Culture comes to the rescue with a comprehensive web site that allows the viewer to virtually visit a host of cultural and natural sites all across the world. biodivwand_c_carola-radke-mfnBio Diversity Wall at the Natural History Museum in Berlin

Some of the web site headings include Your Daily Digest, Stories of the Day, Zoom in and Explore by time and color. A seemingly endless number of virtual tours are available including Ford’s Theater in Washington,  10 Downing Street in London and the Taj Mahal in India. One can do searches by art movements, artists, historical events or places along with a host of other topics. Every visit to Google Culture and Art home page could be a different, enlightening experience.

I see from the internet address that Google Arts and Culture is still in beta-testing mode, but the site looks quite polished and professional in its current state.
On my next Google Arts and Culture experience, I plan to make virtual visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to the Great Barrier Reef. Excuse me while I pack my virtual suitcase.

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/

Chicago’s Merchandise Mart gets a facelift

My husband wanted me to see the $40 million in-progress transformation of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart last weekend. As you’d expect in a business operation catering to interior designers and their well-heeled clients, the Mart wanted to freshen its look by opening space both inside and looking out.

At 4.2 million gross square feet in its two city block and 25-story structure, the Merchandise Mart has bragging rights for being the second largest office building in the world (the Pentagon is in first place.)

The food court where CTA el users exit is one of the biggest transformations. Large windows now feature views of River North and the elevated train station. Comfortable seating, modern lighting and a mirrored ceiling go along nicely with food from Billy Goat Tavern or Mezza Mediterranean Grill.

Also stunning is the 50-foot wide marble staircase rising from the lobby. Red leather seat cushions make the steps another innovative place for people to congregate with a retractable 25-foot wide projection screen above the “Grand Stair.”

The second level features a lounge overlooking the Chicago River replete with a bar, couch seating, pillows and coffee tables with board games.

Another new area to the Mart is River Drive Park with umbrellas and seating arrangements overlooking the Chicago River. The project designers even included an area for food trucks to park during warm weather months.

Whether you work in the Mart or near it, this is now a destination to check out, at least once.

http://themart.com/

Canstruction: a charity sculpture event at the Mart using non-perishable food

Currently on view until September 6 is Canstruction,  a design/build event that benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Using non-perishable food items, teams from the trade organization, AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) construct installations in the lobby of the Merchandise Mart.

My favorites in this year’s event are The Mona Lisa (above),  an amusing take on Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom (right) and an Olympic runner about to sprint made out of tuna cans (below).

This marks Canstruction’s tenth anniversary. If you miss the exhibit this year, put this amusing and worthy cultural event on your list for next August.


http://chicago.canstruction.org

Mana Contemporary Chicago, a Pilsen art center

I have often visited art galleries in River North, but my brother-in-law let me know about another Pilsen venue that seems to be attracting many creative types. Mana Contemporary at  2233 South Throop Street is an art center housed in a landmark building designed by Chicago architect George Nimmons, in a decidedly urban and industrial setting.

Mana Chicago features studios, offices and performing spaces where art is created, including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, film, sound and performance work.

We were fortunate enough to attend the Summer Open Studios on June 18 so we could browse dozens of artist work spaces on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of the complex. We also encountered a cafe serving light bites and beverages, a performance space that featured dance and a live art studio with two partially clothed women with parasols creating an ever-changing tableau.

Some of my favorite studios: Dana Major with her magical installations featuring wire, lenses, glass, mineral optics and LEDS; Ava Grey, a creative agency and production house that creates art using materials from urban American sub-culture, and Olea Nova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia whose work includes painting, drawing, sound and video.

At times, the unusually-garbed artists and art viewers rivaled the art on the walls. The unobstructed views from the studio windows were breath-taking with stunning sunset hues and cityscape vistas.

There are two other Mana art centers, the Mana Wynwood in Miami and the Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ.

The Mana Contemporary Chicago web site indicates that tours are available during business hours. For more information, visit:
http://www.manacontemporarychicago.com/

Graceland Cemetery, a Chicago treasure

In my last week’s article on the South Park system in Chicago, I wrote about a famous large sculpture by Illinois artist, Loredo Taft. As a co-incidence, I also visited the lovely Graceland Cemetery on Memorial Day and saw two more evocative Loredo Taft statues in this storied graveyard.

Far from being morbid and forbidding, Graceland is as much an arboretum and architectural treasure as it is a final resting place for many.

I urge you to stop at the visitor’s center when first you arrive to pick up a brochure with a map of famous Graceland “residents.” The roster reads like a “who’s who” of Chicago architecture, industry, sports and culture.

Lake Windemere Bridge - Photo by E. DoyleLake Windemere, a small body of water amidst the greenery is especially lovely with a small bridge leading to an island containing the tombstones of Daniel Burnham and his immediate family. A pleasant walk takes you to the grave sites of Louis Sullivan, John Root, Fazlur Khan, William Le Baron Jenney and Mies Van de Rohe, to name a few architects of note.

A Taft sculpture depicts a soldier from the Crusades guarding the grave of newspaper publisher, Victor Lawson. George Pullman (Pullman railroad cars), William Kimball (pianos and organs), Phillip Armour (meat-packing) and Cyrus McCormick (the horse-drawn reaper) are but a few of the industrialists buried here.

A second Loredo Taft sculpture entitled Eternal Silence marks the grave site of Dexter Graves. Looking into the face of the eerie hooded figure, according to myth, gives the viewer a glimpse of their own death.

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft - Photo by E. Doyle

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft – photo by E. Doyle

Other historic figures include Carter Harrison Sr. and Jr., father and son who both served as mayors of Chicago, Alan Pinkerton of the famous detective agency, Joseph Medill of Chicago Tribune fame and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American surgeon who performed one of the first open heart surgeries.

Parents or teachers could give their children and students a pretty wonderful overview of Chicago history with a walk through this verdant retreat. This is land within the Wrigleyville neighborhood that is truly full of beauty, serenity and yes, grace.

http://www.gracelandcemetery.org/

Chicago’s Stunning South Parks: Jackson, Midway and Washington

Memorial Day seemed like the perfect time to visit some park attractions on Chicago’s South Side that I had read about but never seen.

First up was the “Golden Lady” statute at the intersection of Richards and Hayes Drives in Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side. The original statue, three times the size of this copy, was by sculptor Daniel Chester French and was placed in the Court of Honor during the 1893 Colombian Exposition. The larger original work, “Statue of the Republic” was unfortunately destroyed in an 1896 fire. This newer and smaller version is completely gilded with the lady’s right hand holding a globe with an eagle on top and the left holding a staff with a banner that reads “Liberty.”  D. C. French is more well known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln that graces the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.

If you want to keep exploring, head north towards the Jackson Park Driving Range. Several golfers were unloading golf bags so this looks like a fun place to improve one’s swing. North of the driving range is a marked nature trail that leads to the water basin in back of the Museum of Science and Industry. Off to the west, one can see the storied “Wooded Isle,” with it’s Osaka Garden, also built for the 1893 Colombian Exposition. Alas, most of the park is under construction and several pathways are blocked for public admittance, including the island with Japanese landscaping and structures.

Photo by Elizabeth Doyle

The trail is still worth checking out with it’s verdant foliage and flowers and the spectacular view of the back steps of the Museum. Big things could be ahead for Jackson Park since it is in consideration for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. World renowned artist Yoko Ono is also slated to install a new, permanent artwork called SKY LANDING on the Wooded Island in the near future.

Three areas, Jackson, Washington and the Midway Plaisance were actually designed as one big South Park. The Midway Plaisance joins Jackson Park on the east and Washington Park on the west. During the 1893 Colombian Exposition, the “Midway” was the site of less high-brow entertainment such as sideshows and rides. Today an ice-skating rink is on the site of the world’s first Ferris wheel which premiered during the 1893 Fair. The mile-long swath of green is next to the University of Chicago and seems part of the campus even thought it is public land.

Continuing west along the park boulevard system, the big artistic attraction on the border between Midway and Washington Park is Loredo Taft’s amazing concrete sculpture and reflecting pool called “Fountain of Time.” Inspired by the poem “Paradox of Time” by Henry Austin Dobson, the large scale sculpture features Father Time looking across water at a procession of one hundred humans. Private and public entities have donated money to preserve Taft’s national artistic treasure.

Loredo Taft, an Illinois sculptor born and bred, had his art studio nearby in a converted barn at 60th street and Ellis.

I definitely plan to be back as these three parks continue to thrive and evolve. The western area of Jackson Park holds particular interest, especially if Yoko Ono completes her art project on the picturesque “Wooded Isle.”

If you want to see the projected plans for Jackson, Washington and Midway Park areas, you may find this site interesting:

http://www.project120chicago.org/

Scarab Club/Vocal Canvas photos March 20, 2016

Photos from our recent Vocal Canvas concert at the Scarab Club in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Scarab Club artists, husband and wife, Mariuca Rofick & Carl Wilson (Wilson did not attend)

Elizabeth and Claudia singing the closing number

Post-concert reception at the Scarab Club

Kelly, Lepauw, Deleury

Scarab Club rehearsal

Elizabeth singing "Black Coffee Today"

Elizabeth Doyle, Claudia Hommel, George Lepauw, Nadine Deleury, Velda Kelly

Detroit Institute of Arts and the Scarab Club

The Detroit Institute of Arts risked having its marvelous art assets sold off to pay the city’s debts in 2014. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the DIA kept its collections intact thanks to nearly a billion dollars in rescue money from private donors and the state of Michigan.

The jewel of the museum is Rivera Court covered with murals by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.  Other notable collections are The General Motors Center For African American Art, The James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art and notable paintings by American and European artists.

Current special exhibits include, Dance! American Art 1830-1960, ending on June 12, 2016 and a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio on view until April 3, 2016. The treasured tome is open to the play Hamlet and contains the famous “To be or not to be” passage.

The cafeteria, CafeDIA, is quite good, but the most stunning spot for refreshment is Kresge Court, a glass-ceilinged courtyard that contains various seating arrangements that include sofas, chairs, tables and bar stools. Light bites, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages and Starbucks coffee drinks are available. I had a baby kale and root vegetable salad that was delicious.

Admission is $12.50, but free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The DIA is located on the Wayne State campus along with other notable Detroit museums.

http://www.dia.org

In back of the DIA is the Scarab Club, Detroit’s over-a-hundred-year-old Arts & Crafts style cultural club that features art exhibits, chamber music concerts, lectures, sketching sessions with live models plus dance and yoga classes. Chamber concerts feature dynamite musicians and a Pleyel grand piano from 1870.

The property also includes a third floor with six working art studios and a small outdoor garden. If you like Arts & Crafts architectural details, the Scarab Club deserves a visit. Don’t miss the autographed and artistically embellished ceiling beams on the second floor. Signatures include Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell and Marcel Duchamp, among many others.

http://scarabclub.org/

Dressing Downton: Driehaus Museum

If you are a fan of the PBS series Downton Abbey, the current exhibit, Dressing Downton at the lovely Driehaus Museum is definitely your cup of tea.

For $25, you get to peruse costumes from the show sprinkled throughout the ornate home, along with selected photos from the popular program. In my opinion, it was worth every penny.

You get to see the fashion transition from the Edwardian age of corsets and long skirts to the flapper era of bobbed hair, shorter skirts and unrestrictive undergarments. Michelle Dockery who plays Mary must be absolutely tiny based on her dresses.

Admission includes free coat check as well as audio and printed exhibition guides.

And if this exhibit is truly your cup of tea, you might want to make a reservation for the high tea service in the adjacent building. It’s a bit pricey at $55 but the ladies and gentlemen relishing scones looked like they were having a grand time.

Dressing Downton runs through May 8, 2016.

www.driehausmuseum.org/dressing_downton

The White House and Arlington Cemetery

Being an American History buff, I got to check off two biggies from my personal wish list last week.

Arlington Cemetery

A family member was interred in Arlington Cemetery so I got to see a full military funeral replete with a marching band, a caisson pulled by majestic black horses, a 21-gun salute and cadets with crisp uniforms and precise movements. A bugler playing “Taps” and a folded flag presented to my aunt were the emotional cappers.

The history geek in me was fascinated by the origins of Arlington Cemetery. The property had belonged to Confederate General Robert E. Lee who was married to the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. Lee’s home is still on a hill overlooking the cemetery, but the bulk of the property has been used for military burials since the Civil War.

I also had the great privilege to tour the White House.

White House Entrance

It was smaller than I expected, but I was delighted to see the East Room, the Red Room, the Blue Room, the Green Room and the lovely paintings and antiques that adorn the public rooms. The view from the windows wasn’t bad either!

Since 9/11, getting to tour the White House has become a complicated proposition. Visitors need to contact their congress person weeks before their D. C. trip and submit their social security numbers to facilitate background checks.

In planning your visit, plan to arrive with your I. D. (drivers’s license, military IDs, green cards or passports), cell phone and billfold only. Note that purses and bags are not allowed in The White House and there is no place to check personal items. Visitors are only allowed to enter with cell phones and billfolds.

The tours are self-guided but Secret Service Officers are there to answer any historical questions. And these people know their stuff!

White House view of the Washington Monument

White House piano with gilded eagle legs