Category Archives: Reviews (Books, Movies, Etc.)

Let’s try this again


It has been more than a year since I blessed my website with my presence. Let’s just say, there has been A LOT going on. I finished my Master’s Degree in Museum Professions (New Jersey), moved back to Iowa, took a job as the Executive Director of four different museums in Boone, IA, have done a ton of things, ANNNNNNNND got a puppy.  It has been a very busy year indeed.

I’d like to get back to this blogging thing and am going to make an attempt to make that happen at least once a week. I have many things I’ve been wanting to write about, but at the end of the day I usually find myself going back to work instead of sitting down doing something else I want. I won’t try to go back and make up for the last year, we’ve done that before… it’s intensive. Instead, I’m going to start over and will again be writing primarily on museum topics (sorry folks, it’s my life and it’s amazing), but also some personal things and other randomness.

Today, two things. First a brief review of the ridiculous amounts of things I’ve been doing. Second, the last year in ten pictures to get you up to speed. I just made that up by the way and haven’t even looked at my photos to see if that is possible. Challenge accepted.

My most recent goings-on have included the circus (yay!), a wedding in St. Louis, a lot of golf, some 5K runs, 5d movie theater, steak and pumpkin carving party, a yacht rock party, interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show, Covered Bridge Festival, Civil War Reenactment, Henry Doorly Zoo, Discover the Dinosaurs, Iowa Museum Association Conference in Sioux City, an apple orchard, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been having some fun. The last month has been heavily focused on going to the theatre with Marco.  Four musicals in four weeks. My reviews, in sort of brief:

Memphis: Excellent. The cast was great and the show was fun, not to mention the choreography.

Book of Mormon: Extremely funny, though the humor was just a LITTLE too crude for me at times.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County: Now this one I HAVE to talk about. It was bizarre. Anybody who knows me knows that I am/was a huge Stephen King fan. So to see a horror musical by he and John Mellencamp was extremely intriguing. Brief background, in 1967 brothers are fighting over a girl and one dies the other commits suicide with the girl. Come to present day and their nephews seem to be headed towards the same fate. Ghost Brothers is about their father trying to save them from what he saw happened to his older brothers.

I would actually call this a country tragedy.  Though the actors were talented, all having  interesting voices, the music itself was not what I expected. The reviews I read beforehand were right on target, this show was extremely disjointed and in no way “spooky”. I wanted so much more creep factor and just couldn’t seem to find it. In a couple of the numbers it began to eek out in accordion riffs and dark lyrics. No spoilers,but the worst part was at the end when momentum was building and you start to think you could actually start “feeling” the play, one of the three narrators (the bad conscience) makes several very poor timed jokes. Overall consensus, see it if you get comped tickets like we did.

Wicked: This Friday! I’ve already seen this show and loved it, I hope this cast is just as great.

Now for the part people like, pictures! Things I LOVED about the last year or so.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Learning how to snowboard and fracturing my tailbone. Can't wait to get out this winter.

Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves here.
Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves.
Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

The birth of lil' Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

The birth of lil’ Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

So, this is near where I work. Amazing!

This is near where I work. Amazing!

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.


Illuminating the Barnes – Friend or Faux?

I have now spent countless hours (thanks to Steve Miller,a mentor and dear friend’s e-mails and the clickable nature of the internet) reading reviews about the “new Barnes Foundation“. People seem to like it or they don’t. I am of the latter group. For a VERY brief review of the history of the Barnes you can read my last post. What makes the Barnes so unique are the seemingly (though they are not) random ensembles of master paintings, metal work, and furniture. Below is an example of one of Barnes’ ensembles, image from The Barnes Foundation Collection Gallery Guide I.

As I know not all of my readers are museum or legal professionals, I want to begin by explaining a little bit about the Indenture of Trust which Barnes created for his Foundation. The Indenture of Trust, along with the Bylaws, set forth the Foundation’s purposes, rules of governance, Board structure, etc. The Indenture included the following condition verbatim, “[a]ll paintings shall remain in exactly the places the are at the time of the death of Donor and his said wife.” (Information taken from the Fact Sheet I received at the May 10th press preview.) Pretty straight forward. BUT, just as Barnes had so much money he could buy many of the world’s most renowned paintings and hang them as he wished, the current Board and its funding corporations had enough money ($200,000,000) to ignore the Indenture and do as they wished for their own interests. Indenture denied.

First and foremost I find it ridiculous to let a group of corporations and private foundations pay for something that they did not fundamentally support in its original 12,000 sq. ft.  location, but if they can move it into Philadelphia and smatter their names all over it, sure they can spare a few million each. A mere 6 miles from its original home, the “Barnes in Philadelphia” touts the names of the Mellons, the Annenbergs, and corporate moguls such as PNC and Comcast. The building itself, a 93,000 sq. ft. bunker like block of hand-tooled Negev limestone, fitted on top with an as equally unappealing glass box, is home to the new faux Barnes. Several of the articles/reviews I read pointed out that what was once a structure dedicated to authenticity, where making copies of the art was strictly forbidden, a mere copy of the original exists; never to be the authentic historic Barnes again.

It’s hard to even know where to start, the new Barnes decimates almost everything the founder ever wanted for his carefully created collection.

Cut and dried, the issues with the new location:

  1. He wanted to keep his prized masterpieces out of Philadelphia and away from the likes of what Barnes referred to as “aesthetic whorehouses of art,” e.g. The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  2. He wanted to remain an educational center with an amazing art collection instead of an art museum with art courses.
  3. He wished to maintain the integrity of his collection by keeping it housed within the 1922 historical gem designed by Paul Cret.
  4. I highly doubt he would appreciate having one of the largest areas in the structure named after Annenberg, somebody who during his life he experienced an extreme distaste for.

    ‘The Light Court’ which bears the Annenberg name.

  5. Two classrooms have been inserted within the galleries for teaching. Barnes strongly believed the galleries were the classrooms and that all education should happen while surrounded by the artworks themselves.
  6. Matisse’s The Joy of Life has been removed from its location in the stairwell to a room in the floor plan that was originally used for Board meetings.

The Joy of Life, no longer in the stairwell.

Barnes created a masterpiece in his own right, separate from the stigma that is the white-walled, singularly hung art gallery of today.The Foundation’s 23 galleries provided a maze of aesthetic pleasure and study, a maze which is now dis-harmoniously interrupted by limestone and glass hallways with a view of the “garden in the gallery”. Other than this change in the gallery layout, most everything remains the same; the galleries are the same size, masterpieces and metal works hung the same. Minor changes have been made in the molding, window frames, windows and in the heights of the galleries to allow for clerestory lighting on the second floor.  So, all this trouble to exactly replicate the galleries and only gain a little bit of lighting? Why not enhance the original Barnes?

And, what is all of this about INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY? Gallery visitation is still being limited to 150 visitors at a time in the main galleries and there are only an additional 30 parking spaces provided. More so, the Barnes originated as an educational tool for “the common man”. What common man will be able to easily afford a date out with his family at $18 a head? For college students that’s at least three meals (or a WHOLE LOT of Ramen) they will be sacrificing for just one day’s entrance into the new Barnes.

Now I can’t  blame Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for my not having a taste for modern architecture. A more in depth slideshow of the building is available at I also do not understand the randomness that is the “Barnes Totem” by Ellsworth Kelly at the entrance to the property. It appears to be a 40 ft. high stainless steel lightning rod shooting up from the ground and in no way visibly pays homage to the man who made the place possible. What ever happened to a good bronze likeness? However, during the press preview I fortunately had the opportunity of meeting, speaking, and touring with the architects, including landscape designer OLIN, around the building.  Though I don’t agree with the project, and don’t particularly enjoy the architecture, I appreciated many of the things they had to say about working on the project.

The exterior of the Barnes and the ‘Barnes Totem’.

Me and architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams

Interesting notes from the architects:

  1. They do not consider themselves to be ‘starchitects’, the architects who do whatever they wish with a building so that it screams their name. They felt they were there simply to interpret the Barnes and the visions of the Board.
  2. A common question asked by many is the obvious why didn’t they expand the galleries, make them bigger and brighter? Williams explained with an interesting analogy, that if a face gets fatter, the features (e.g. eyes, mouth, lips, etc) do not also grow but stay the same size. So you end up with a tiny little face within a big fat head.  Even if the gallery were to be expanded the artworks do not grow, and in order to be hung similarly you would end up with too much random open space.
  3. The architects REALLY enjoy being able to do everything with extreme exactitude, just like Barnes… So much that they even talked the Barnes into taking them over to Jerusalem to pick out the limestone for the building. I wonder why they didn’t choose the Indiana limestone? Regardless, it is beautiful and is presented in three distinct, hand-tooled patterns of varying colors, including a cuneiform pattern which resembles writing.

    Hand-tooled cuneiform Negev limestone.

  4. In addition to the aforementioned point, the architects were able to emphasize one level of quality; the bathrooms are the same as the galleries. Indeed, at least for the women each stall is actually like its own little suite with an individual sink and mirror. I daresay that if they would have built standard, yet elegant restrooms, they could have almost endowed a fellow small museum.
  5. I asked what the architects felt their biggest challenge was in completing the project. Due to the controversial nature of the project, Billie Tsien answered that she was entirely unaware of how many extremely vituperative people there are in the world who lashed out at them for having taken the project. Tsien mentioned, however, that the organization (the Board of the Barnes) protected them as best they could.

Though I in no way support the move of the Barnes, I greatly enjoyed my trip and the opportunity to attend the press preview, compliments of one Steven Miller. Look for his upcoming article in Museum Magazine, published by AAM.  Though we agree to disagree about the Barnes, I’m sure you’ll find his article witty and optimistic about the future of the Barnes.  He much less grouchy than I. Side note: I send a BIG thank you his way for his continued efforts in stowing me away to events I would otherwise be unable to attend, for his witicisms, and his continuing support.

Enjoying the Barnes Foundation.

In conclusion, I feel we have lost an important piece of American history. Philadelphians. and citizens of Merion, should be disappointed in themselves as they, especially, have allowed an important story in their ancestry to be permanently deleted; the story of industry and the uprising of art appreciation in Philly, now encased within a limestone and glass box mausoleum.

Fashionista Carnivore

I realize I’m not a very fashionable person.  I love cute clothes but I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt type of girl.  I’m working on this about myself and have recently HAD to indulge in some shopping for new clothes.  I say HAD because it wasn’t just because I wanted to, it was because my clothes don’t fit.  I’m both annoyed and pleased by the fact that I can shop at stores like Express and American Eagle where I couldn’t before because they didn’t make clothes in my size. My fashion advisors Jenni, Tiffany and Jess have been very helpful assisting via phone pictures in picking out clothes.


Being back in campus life reminds me of all the stupid fashion trends I strongly dislike.  I see people wearing these things daily and it makes me shake my head in disapproval.  Yes, everybody is entitled to their own style.  This is simply my own opinion on clothes people are wearing that I think are terrible.  I wrote an article in my high school newspaper about my issues with fashion and how much people base on it.  I was then referred to as a “fashion carnivore” by a fellow classmate.  Ha! First, that would mean I eat up fashion, quite the contrary. “Fashionista carniove,” possibly the better title. 

Socks with Sandals

I’m not a pessimistic person, life is excellent lately.  I just simply have some things in life, fashion, style and/or otherwise that take down my happiness meter at least ½ a point.  I don’t hate everything and to prove it I’m adding a selection of things I LOVE!  Many of my readers/Facebook friends recently participated in my ‘Simple Joys’ survey about what little things make you happy in life.  I appreciate all of these things and expect my next post to include the list of my “chosen” entries

Fashion/Style/Action I dislike:
1) Socks with Sandals – ALWAYS a bad idea, if it is cold enough for socks then you shouldn’t be wearing sandals.
2) Shirts with necklaces printed on them – I wish you would just cough up the money to buy a real necklace, these shirts REALLY bother me.
3) Dress shirts with sweatpants – Why go through the effort of wearing a cute dress shirt and then wear sweatpants or gym shorts.  Men and women alike do this out here.
4) Guys who come up next to you and think it’s attractive to haulk a loogie – It’s not even a little attractive.
5) People turning left who think they have the right of way – Okay so this is just New Jersey BUT it’s seriously a huge problem.
6) Guys who layer three polo shirts and pop their collar – Especially when all three shirts are the same size, they pull, push and bubble in all the wrong places.
Skinny Jeans

7) Ugg boots – They are hideous. Also, it does NOT make you look European when you wear all black with your tan Uggs.

Too Much Poppin’

8) Skinny Jeans – I don’t care WHO you are, these look bad even on you.  They make people’s hips look weird and feet look huge. ALWAYS, skinny jeans are dumb.  There is one exception when I find these okay, see below.
9) Flat-billed hats – It infuriates me even more when people leave the sticker on the underside of the bill. You are not a thug and it makes your head look big and weird shaped.  Really it annoys me when people don’t take the tags/stickers off any possession. Binders or Tupperware with stickers still on the side or reusable grocery bags with the sale tags still on them.

The following link may be fashion faux pas of 2008, but if they were considered terrible at that time why are people still doing it?


Trends I love:
1) Old men who pop their collar – It’s cute because it’s only ONE shirt and they think they’re hot stuff. 

Riding Boots
Cardi & Sundress
2) Sundresses with cardigans – such a fun, innocent look (and super popular out here
3) Riding Boots – This is a SOMETIMES love for me and is the only time I allow skinny jeans.  Stipulations: The girl has to have cute boots and be able to pull the jockey look off, most cannot.  I myself, for instance, wish I could do this but I don’t think it’s possible.
4) Moccasins – Love! Super comfy too.
5) The plain look – A white tee and dark blue jeans that both fit well.  A look I always APPRECIATE!
So maybe there are more dislikes than loves.  There are a lot of trends I either like or don’t mind, there are just few I outwardly LOVE. What are your hates/loves?

American Scoundrel

My ‘Books to Read’ list is entirely too long. I have stacks and stacks of books I WANT to read but have currently surrendered to the life of museum textbooks and articles, WHICH I LOVE! I have been randomly trying to fit in bits of reading about ‘other stuff’ when possible. If nothing else to finish the 3-4 books I was in the middle of from this summer. In the summer of 2008 I took a haunted walking tour through Washington D.C. Most of this tour was spent out front of the white house and one particular story struck my fancy; that of Dan Sickles whose ghost is said to be lurking around the square. The interpreter recommended the book American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles by Thomas Keneally (you know him because he also wrote Schindler’s List).

Dan Sickles was by classical definition a scoundrel, a hero, adulterer, bon vivant, murderer and rogue. He was also a lawyer, businessman, politician and Civil War hero. With such an exciting life why might Dan care to stalk Lafayette Park in death? The most significant exploit of Dan’s life was staged there one fateful afternoon. On that day Dan, though a seducer of many women, murdered Philip Barton Key (son of Francis Scott Key who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner) in cold blood for having an affair with Dan’s neglected wife, Teresa.

Without sharing the entire book there are a few more fun facts you may not know about Dan Sickles. He was a best friend to President Lincoln and perhaps an even closer one to his wife, Mary Todd. Dan was also one of the original movers and shakers to the development of Central Park in New York City.

I definitely recommend this book to anybody who enjoys nonfiction. There is a bit of a slow piece in the middle where Keneally takes you through every meticulous detail of the court hearing but it is worth it to get to the exciting Civil War narration. This book gives an excellent illustration of the often unscrupulous life of the middle 1800’s.