Tag Archives: Pam Schwartz

#IowaIlliFloridaventure

Disclaimer: This was my first Florida trip with Marco last October 2014. There are two more trip worth coming from last Thanksgiving and also more recently this Valentine’s Day. Read it like it was last year, yeah?

So, this was unplanned. Just a couple of weeks ago Marco was interviewing with the Orlando Sentinel and now we are moving him down to Florida. But, what better time to have an adventure, right? We began this trip with a trek across Iowa on our way to Charleston, Illinois.

We wish that we had an extra week to actually do the traveling. I’m a person who likes to just spot signs and stop at roadside attractions, or every time I need gas to ask the people there what fun stuff is hidden locally. We had to be a lot more selective this trip because we did have a timeline. We left Thursday around noonish. We had planned on packing Wednesday night but of course had to do some final farewell drinks and dinner with friends. That’s one of those things you can’t avoid because it’s hard to tear yourself away when you (Marco) know you won’t be seeing them again likely for a long time.

We stop at A LOT of rest stops, well, because Marco has a bladder the size of a peanut. The upside to this however is that I often get to read a lot of text panels, stretch my legs, and sometimes see some gorgeous scenery. We stopped at several really gorgeous rest stops along the way.

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20141026_103211_Richtone(HDR)Our one planned stop for Iowa was at The Candy Kitchen in Wilton, Iowa. This is a little gem our friends Ruth and Troy told us about. Wilton, a town of about 3,000, is a fairly typical little town except George and Thelma Nopoulos live there. This amazing couple in their 90s have lived in Wilton most all of their lives and actually met when Thelma worked at the Candy Kitchen as a young woman. The Kitchen opened in the 1860s and has existed in approximately the same location ever since. The Nopoulos Faily has operated it since 1910. The Candy Kitchen is an old-fashioned soda shop and the owners are a riot. Though we just intended to stop and grab ice cream to go we probably stayed close to 45 minutes, chatting and laughing, looking at photographs of important visitors, and deciding whether to buy the triple dipped malt balls or the chocolate covered peanuts (we got both). Road trip munchies.

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From there, back on the road to Charleston. Marco was being inducted into the Eastern Illinois University Journalism Hall of Fame and so we had planned to spend a few days there over the school’s homecoming celebration. Luckily it worked out that Marco’s family was able to come down from Chicago as well. First thing Friday morning we had that ceremony and then back to the less serious stuff. We spent the whole weekend with Marco’s college buddies and had a great time at the homecoming game and the journalism department’s chili cook-off.

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Sunday morning back on the road towards Florida. Now we had planned to pick one town and do some touristy things because as I mentioned we were on a time schedule here. Also, I refuse to eat at chain restaurants on vacation, even on a tight schedule. There are so many smart phone tools that allow you to figure out what the locals eat anywhere you are. Would it be easier to grab a cheeseburger? Sure, but then I wouldn’t have eaten this deliciously over-pepperonied pizza at Woody’s in Clarksville, Tennessee.

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We randomly picked a place on the map for fun activities and the destination became Chattanooga, Tennessee. The goal was to see the site for the Battle Above the Clouds and Ruby Falls but we only managed the latter. By the time we arrived it was too dark to enjoy the museum and lookout point of the former. Battle Above the Clouds happened during the Civil War in which, it seems, a strange fog falls on the town blocking the site of the mountain while also blocking the view of town from above. Thus the battle on the mountain being named Battle Above the Clouds. We did get to go to Ruby Falls which was beautiful and intriguing. One of these posts coming up (I know, I get out of chronology) will be about the trip to Crystal Lake Cave in Iowa we took with my nieces and nephews. Similar in that you tour through a cave system with all sorts of interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations with cute little names given to them, but Ruby Falls has FALLS. Some of the tallest underground to be found. This was one of those times I wish I had a $1,000 camera. Marco thinks I unfairly critique museum and site tour guides. I think people should just be good at their jobs. Ours wasn’t too bad, though I felt we could have heard so much more historic background of the cave. I suppose she was a bit distracted by the two people on our tour who were out of their minds on some drug and kept falling hundreds of feet behind. Ahh, life experiences. 20141026_185444

20141026_183454 We camped out in Macon, Georgia. In which Marco insisted we eat Bacon in Macon before leaving in the morning, we did. Weird, floppy, continental breakfast bacon. Also, at rest stops in Florida you can get little tiny tasters of orange and grapefruit juice. Delicious. Again, local food at the Bakery Mill & Deli. The interwebs recommended I have the Reuben and boy did it win. Give me all your kraut and coleslaw. Finally in Florida by mid-afternoon. Luckily, Marco has a first floor apartment and not a lot of stuff. We managed to get everything in the car that he has. We left behind a box fan, a laundry basket, and Sprout. I won’t tell you about Monday, it was boring. Grocery shopping and unpacking.

20141027_113617Tuesday Marco and I weren’t planning anything but more unpacking and relaxing but decided to check out a local park called Wekiwa Springs. Supposedly it was to have a nice natural spring pool for bathing and that sounded like enough excitement for us for the day. What we found was wonderful beyond words. The spring pool area was like an oasis and we figured out you could rent canoes. Rent canoes to where? Up the river, we don’t know where it leads but sure! We are in the middle of the city (suburbs of Orlando) and not only is there this beautiful area but we also canoed up a river that would never give any sort of hint there was a city anywhere behind the trees. I’ve traveled a lot in my life but it always amazes me to look at trees and animals in the wild and have no clue what they are. Leapin’ lizards! And lots of them, name that movie!

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Trees, plants, gators, and especially birds were all over the place. We canoed upon a little tiki bar island and pulled off to enjoy drinks with the locals. We met very few people born in Florida there but a lot of transplants who gave us a ton of suggestions for nearby points of interest. What a beautiful and relaxing day we didn’t plan on having….except when I fell in the water (because I was rescuing Marco) and thought I was going to be eaten by a gator. No big deal.

Tuesday we hit up a recommended spot, The Dandelion Café. Turns out they were having a comedy slam and even asked Marco to judge. The Café is a gourmet tea and vegan type place so we bought some fun drinks and settled in on the patio. Because it’s October and beautiful outside in Florida. Not everybody was great but it was good night of giggles. If you ask me, Marco is too kind of a judge.

NEXT STOP DISNEY WORLD! Well the Hollywood Studios portion at least. This was Marco’s first time and since he is like a 12 year old anyways, I knew it would be super fun. Also, he hadn’t ever been on a roller coaster before and I was sure excited to be the one taking him. The Tower of Terror was the best because he just giggled, not laughed, giggled the whole time. Not only did he grab me when the cart dropped but also the guy sitting next to us, AND the moment was caught on camera! Marco and I got our Disney personalities…what do you think that says about us?

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Disney was a lovely time and I was really quite impressed with the service, movement of lines, 3 free fast passes, and the fact that you can bring your own food to save on bucks was wonderful.

Thursday evening was quite possibly the highlight of the trip. We went to Capone’s Dinner Theatre. Now, yes, we both LOVE theatre and musicals and dinner, but this was one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever been to. The cast was spot on, all the “help” was always in character, and it was very participatory. The food was decent (some of the best we’ve, now months later, had at dinner theatres in Orlando). My favorite quotes from the show:

Old Lady: What time does the show start?

Our waiter (a real wise guy): Whenever the hell I want!

Waiter asks if he can take my plate and I say yes

Waiter: I like it, a real proper burial with the napkin on top like dat.

Marco especially got a show.

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Friday Marco worked, I explored Orlando. The really amazing thing I wasn’t expecting from Orlando was the parks an lakes and wildlife everywhere. Lake Eola, just a couple of blocks from Marco’s work, is really gorgeous. Then I spent 5 hours at the Orange County Regional History Center (big surprise right?), a phenomenal museum with some great exhibitions. Their current exhibition was ‘Gone With the Wind’ which I, of course, loved.

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That night we went down to the Halloween celebration at Old Town in Kissimmee. Good fun, photos can speak for themselves. Old Town is a great place to waste some time with a lot of restaurants and neat (over-priced as expected) knick-knack shops. We saw a random group of zombies break out Thriller, that was amazing.

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SATURDAY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BEACH DAY. BOOOOO! We had several beautiful and warm days, just for this one to be super cold and windy. But, as always we made the best of it and went to the Kennedy Space Center. Not enough hours in a day to spend at that place but we “did” as much as we could. We did go to the beach for just a little while and even though it was so cold it was beautiful. So many jellyfish!

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I touched a piece of the moon!!!

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#Iowaventure, but what does it all mean?

So, I started this thing I like to call

Iowaventure

That is, sporadic Iowa adventures to wherever discovering whatever I/we can find. Occasionally I do this by myself, but usually Marco is there as my partner in crime. Once in a while we explore other states and have thing like Illiventures. I’ve been meaning to blog these all along so we might get a little out of order as I catch up on old adventures while having new ones! We’ve had many trips prior to this point, but this post is about the first trip I really considered an Iowaventure experience.

May 10, 2014

Greenfield and Beyond

On a work trip to Omaha, Marco spotted a sign for the Iowa Aviation Museum in Greenfield, IA and (knowing me) recommended it for a day trip. We did a little research beforehand to see open times and what else is in the area. I ALWAYS recommend this when going to hidden, out of the way places; they are closed too often to leave being there at the right time up to chance. Given our obsession for golf we can find a course just about anywhere and built this in to our trip. Early(ish) in the morning we headed towards the Greenfield Country Club so that we could fit in 18 holes and still have time left in our day. We assumed because this is a country club that it would be a private course, but decided to call anyways. For the record, the course is PRIVATE, but if you pay the greens fees you can play there… so… it’s not private?20140510_113759

On our way there we randomly spotted something that I think has been the entire inspiration for our adventures since. Driving along we see a man painting an enormous rock on the side of the road and decide to turn around, pull in (only kind of creepily), and ask the guy what he’s all about. Turns out we’ve found Ray “Bubba” Sorensen who paints Freedom Rocks. Inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, Ray began painting a new “thank you” to our veterans each year. We chatted with him for several minutes and enjoyed his artwork. Part of the mural was created using paint that has the cremated ash of veterans mixed in.

Alas, we arrived at the Greenfield Country Club to find some really beautiful scenery for our golf game.

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Meals are always a very important thing to me on road trips. I absolutely HATE traveling to/in new places and eating at restaurants I could find anywhere ( no McDonald’s or BK for me). I always try to look up or ask for local suggestions and have found many an amazing place this way, also, some not so delicious. We had a couple of options on the horizon as we headed into Greenfield proper, population 2,000. Unfortunately, Greenfield turns into apocalypse town during the afternoon with everything closed and nobody in sight, so,  we were left with the  bowling alley, approx.3 lanes wide, to find our fare.  The food was as you’d expect, but the people watching was great. I love sitting in small local joints and seeing the familiarity between people and servers, and overhearing the conversation.

From here, to our actual destination, the Iowa Aviation Museum. I was pleasantly surprised by this little find. I recommend it as a stop to anybody traveling along 80. The museum houses several unique aircraft, an Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame (full of VERY interesting stories), and an exhibition area. I know nothing about airplanes, and didn’t think I was interested in them, but we spent a substantial amount of time here.20140510_153226

 

Marco Kong

Marco Kong

 

At this point, our intention was to head home because we had plans to attend an Iowa Cubs game in the evening and we had to let little pupperkins out.

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That’s right, within minutes of leaving the museum hail came down upon us. Naturally we turned around and headed south to figure something else out. We are so very glad we did because from there our adventure continued. As we were driving we saw a sign to Roseman Bridge, one of the Bridges of Madison County. Having been to one during the Covered Bridges Festival last year, we decided to hunt for it.

While driving we saw the most amazing white barn owl sitting on a barbed fence against the backdrop of a dead tree and the gloomy sky. I yelled at Marco to stop so I could take a photo but while reversing the owl flew away. You can imagine what it was like with the photo below though.GloomAltered20140510_170547

After the bridge, we continued our detour and once again found a sign, this time to my very own state park.

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Turns out at PAMmel State Park you can ford a river! There were no signs offering us suggestions, but we assumed the following A) Caulk the Nissan Sentra and float it, B) Find an Indian Guide to help us cross the river , or C) Ford the river now. We were fresh out of caulk and there were no guides to be found. I tested the waters by walking it first and deemed it safe, Marco chose to stay back with the children and oxen. We forded the river!20140510_174330

Because of time constraints we didn’t get to explore the park as much as I would have liked but it looks like a great place to camp, hike, and be outdoorsy. Last but not least, we made it home for a beautiful evening at the ballpark! Go ICubs Go!20140510_200601

This concludes our first #Iowaventure (which will always be concluded with a photomontage).Expect more upcoming posts with insights on little known but interesting finds across Iowa and other places! Don’t want to miss any of these gripping adventures? Subscribe to my blog and you’ll receive a notification whenever I come up with another exciting post!May 10 Iowaventure


Don’t hate, repatriate.

I find repatriation to be an extremely interesting topic. For anybody unfamiliar with the term (as it pertains to museums) it is essentially the returning of an artifact of particular cultural/historical significance to its originating country (typically from one institution to another). Most of the world’s best museums, even my own, are filled with artifacts from around the globe, not just from local resources.

In October 1972 the 17th UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) Convention happened and in a similar vein, November 1990, NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) was enacted.

In extremely short summary:

UNESCO Convention – Defined what is cultural property and created guidelines/restrictions for it’s import, export, sale, and transfer.

NAGPRA – Describes the rights of native tribes and descendents with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of native human remains and cultural items.

The result, some museums began returning things on their own, others began demanding artifacts from their country be returned to them, even when some were lawfully obtained.

Let me start by saying, I get it. You want your stuff back, and why wouldn’t you? Chances are it was stolen or wrongfully obtained in the first place.

In the 1800s to early 1900s there was a lot of artifact mining in every country; America wasn’t the only one doing it. The archeological dig was prominent with amazing piles of artifacts and works of art being discovered all over every day. There was this rat race to get all the stuff, to be the biggest, the best, most diversified, with all the finest pieces of the history puzzle. The British Museum ended up with the Elgin marbles, the Penn with the Troy gold, Troy with what was (at the time) thought to be Alexandre’s sarcophagus from Lebanon.

Photo of a piece of the Troy Gold from the Penn collections. http://www.penn.museum/collections/object/160936

Photo of a piece of the Troy Gold from the Penn collections. http://www.penn.museum/collections/object/160936

So, in 1966 the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology purchases for $10,000 some gold jewelry/adornments thought to be from Troy. They tell Troy before they do it, but because the provenance of the artifacts wasn’t proven they weren’t interested in them (before UNESCO). After conserving them and further research, the Penn almost assuredly proves them to be from the Troy region, circa 2400 B.C. This is AFTER the UNESCO Convention takes place mind you. Surprisingly (not!) Troy decides they want their goods back. One big difference in this case, as opposed to most others, is that the items were not obtained illegally. They had actually even been offered to Troy. So, now we have a big legal/contract issue. In this case, naturally, the Getty refused to return them, but, for the sake of international relations, has put them on indefinite loan with Troy. Troy is, in fact, demanding the return of its antiquities from all over. However, when asked if they planned to return the not Alexandre’s sarcophagus back to Lebanon, it didn’t seem promising. As far as they are concerned, they obtained it when Lebanon was still part of the Ottoman Empire and so it will remain theirs. Interesting.

The Elgin Marbles are another, some might say, infamous example of a country wanting their stuff back when they just aren’t going to get it. The Elgin Marbles is the term given to a collection of stone features collected from Athens between 1801 and 1805 by Lord Elgin. These well-known pieces were purchased by the British Parliament in 1816 and are still on exhibit at the British Museum today. Honestly, if Elgin hadn’t rescued these pieces when he did, they likely would have been destroyed by Turkish soldiers using them for target practice, as well as a variety of other vandalism. I could talk about the marbles all day, not to mention how beautiful they are. Although older, a good article here.

Elgin Marbles, Head of a Horse of Selene from the British Museum Collections. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_image.aspx?image=an18006.jpg&retpage=18108

Elgin Marbles, Head of a Horse of Selene from the British Museum Collections. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_image.aspx?image=an18006.jpg&retpage=18108

I repeat, I understand, you want your stuff back but there is also something to be said for diversity in museums. Part of the allure, I think, of the British Museum was that while I was working there not only did I get to visit the UK, I also went to Greece, Egypt, other parts of Africa, back to America, China, and more. What if everybody demanded their artifacts back? Then, in my life, chances are I would never have gotten to see the Elgin marbles, the Rosetta stone, mummies, pieces from Pompeii, etc.

This will never happen, I realize, because aside from the ‘greatest’ items there is simply far too much stuff to go around. Believe me, I know. Who knew the citizens of Boone County would keep 29 typewriters and a plethora of merchandising yard sticks. Yardsticks for EVERYBODYYYY!

(I’m not criticizing; I actually LOVE the yardstick collection, just not the typewriters.)

I digress. Repatriation is important. We shouldn’t be digging up early native graves and keeping the stuff we find for our own morbid little displays.

Museums are morbid for the sake of learning.

It should ultimately A) stay in the ground undisturbed (okay, maybe after careful survey, study, and photographing without flash!) or B) be returned to the existing members of their culture and the decision left to them.

There will be a happy balance of repatriation of artifacts to keeping diversified collections (or between some countries maybe there won’t be).

How does this relate to you? I’ll tell you.

It’s kind of like when a great-relative decides to sell your grandmother’s blue popcorn bowl off on their garage sale. You find out her neighbor snatched it up for $3. That bowl was a part of your heritage. It tells a story, it’s paramount in the timeline of who you are. You want it back so you knock on the neighbor’s door prepared with your sob story about how close you were to your late grandmother and that the bowl holds precious memories from your fleeting childhood. They don’t buy it. Turns out they’ve been eating popcorn from it every single night with their greasy little fingers and they like it. So, you try another tactic. You paid $3 for the bowl, I’ll give you $50 (a price you are happy to pay to reinstate the object responsible for some of your happiest, most well-fed memories). This time it’s with sheer malice, they shake their head no and say, “I don’t think so. I’m sorry but I bought it and it’s mine.” – $100 – Nope.

You panic. Your past is in that bowl and now it’s going to be two miles away in a completely different neighborhood. The neighborhood where it was once used by smiling little cherub faces. How do you return that bowl to its homeland? Your hands, your heart, your stomach.

It could happen to you.

Don’t hate. Repatriate.

For more about the ongoing Troy Gold loan read here.


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 Philly.com. 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.


The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

I wrote the following blog post more than a year ago. There is no good reason why I never posted it, but now there is an excellent purpose for me to post it.  The following post is one I wrote in January 2011, following a visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the press preview of the NEW Barnes Foundation, relocated and entirely refurbished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. More on Thursday’s experience in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share my original and unaltered post to provide a comparison for my thoughts on yesterday’s visit.

Today a friend and I took a couple hour drive to Merion, PA to visit the Barnes Foundation. For those of you outside the field, built and designed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation houses an amazing collection of paintings and decor.  The travesty is that the board has decided to completely uproot the principles and setting of this art and move it into a modern building in Philly. After discussing the case in several of my classes, with multiple professors, I am still gravely against the move for several reasons.

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The BF case is littered with ethical and legal issues.  A history of corruption, selfishness and politicking are amongst the many reasons why the Barnes is failing today.  Perhaps it was partially poor foresight on the part of the creator, but the majority of the destruction was committed by its very own board members.  At the time of Barnes’ death in 1951, though much had already happened, the battle of the Barnes had just begun. The current board of trustees now has hopes of wiping out the indenture all together, removing all wishes Barnes originally had for his carefully built collection.

This wonderful historic site is being wrenched from its home in Lower Merion Township and moved into the city Barnes so greatly insisted on staying out of, in order to “save” the organization.  Billions of dollars have been given by Foundations and companies to move the Barnes, companies who are not willing to give in order to save the Barnes in its current location.  A new building, unlike the collection’s original home in Merion, will house the collection along with several additional features.

These things aside, the BF contains an astounding collection conservatively valued at over $6 billion and boasts more than 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus and 14 Modiglianis. Each room was designed and arranged in a very specific manner by Barnes. Metal works including keys, hinges, clasps etc. adorn the walls amongst the paintings and drawings. Intended as an educational tool, students are meant to be taught within the galleries about appreciating art and understanding aesthetics and design.

A big disappointment of the day was that they had the second floor galleries closed to the public, unbeknownst to us before arriving. Secondly, the staff at the Barnes seem to go out of their way to make the place unwelcoming. I wonder if in a new location staff will be taught to smile.

What wasn’t at all disappointing on Mallary and my’s trip to Philly? An authentic cheesesteak covered in cheez whiz at Geno’s!

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Rome and Contemporary Art…and Neon Lit Bathrooms

You all know me and contemporary art….

We visited two different contemporary art museums on our sixth day in the lovely city of Rome and were accompanied by Shara Wasserman, Professor of Contemporary Art and Gallery Director, Temple University in Rome, and visiting Critic Cornell University in Rome.  She was delightful, a very honest and witty guide to the city of Rome.  I’m sure Charlotte (our professor) appreciated a little break from insane tour guiding.

The first museum we visited was MAXXI (Museo Nazionale dell’arte dell XXI secolo) which was designed by Zaha Hadid.  For those of you who don’t know who that is, she is an extremely well known architect, who more recently designed the performing arts structure for the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi which I wrote about earlier.  Some of you may also know my thoughts on modern architecture and my feelings toward this building were not extremely favorable.

MAXII

Modern architecture is dirty.  Modern architecture contains a lot of interesting looking, but filthy little crannies. This structure had all open grated walkways and stairways built over lights so when you looked down all you saw was what seemed to be nearly impossible to clean spaces filled with dust, lint, and pennies.     Another interesting point, there was NO seating built into the structure.  Hmm.

Architecture at MAXII

Another aspect of this museum that I found interesting was that the Director of the museum is a government employee from the Ministry of Culture, they do not come from a museum background.  I’m beginning to find it more and more interesting (and challenging) to think about big company CEOs and business people taking over museums with no knowledge of how we roll, just the business aspect of thing.  However, one of the exhibitions that was on display was particularly interesting, both the exhibit itself and peoples’ reactions to it.

The exhibition was The Plexiglas and Mirror Paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto.  It was a collection of mirrors that had been painted on with various scenes/people as you can see in the photograph below.  It was interesting to see people more interested in their own reflections and doing silly things in the mirror than actually paying attention to the art itself and the effect it created as a whole.  On one end of the exhibition was a very large mirror that reflected back over several of the other mirrors, creating depth and an intricate interlacing of the stories depicted in each individual mirror.  The thing I really disliked about this exhibition was that it was displayed in a very long rectangular exhibit space and though the mirrors were placed seemingly at random throughout the room, the text panel for each was on one of the room’s walls.  They were quite distant from their respective works.  No good.

Pistoletto Exhibition SpacePistoletto Exhibition

Second we went to MACRO (dell’Arte Contemporanea Roma), architecture by Odile Decq.  Again, very modern and you can see some similarities between the inside of the buildings.  One piece of art here that I found particularly interesting was by Ernesto Neto called When Nothing Happens. See the photograph but it was this incredible hanging THING. The hanging sacks were filled with various spices including black pepper, cumin, cloves, ginger, and turmeric.  Not only did it smell lovely but the colored spices also made the sculpture that much more interesting.

MACRO

MACRO Inside

Ernesto Neto Piece

This little drawing on the wall I felt could have been a portrait of me by Dan Perjovschi part of The Crisis is (Not) Over. Drawings and Dioramas. 

Also, MACRO had slam bangin’ bathrooms.  Usually it is socially unacceptable to wield a camera in a public restroom…but we all did it anyways.

We spent much more time in here than necessary.

The evening brought us to the Colosseum  at night.  BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL.  I always wish there weren’t so many tourists everywhere I wanted to be a tourist… and enjoy myself peacefully.


A word on blogging

The only thing productive about Pub Trivia is delicious wings.

I’m doubling on this post, I originally wrote it for the Seton Hall MAMP Newsletter. Thought it might be of interest here!

There are an estimated 150 million blogs (Blogpulse) on the web and it is likely at least another ten will be created while you read this article.  So then, why should you write a blog?  It’s just another thing to do – sort of like having homework, right?  Instead, you could be watching Mad Men, reading Cosmo or attending pub trivia.  It is a difficult decision.

When I first started my blog, years ago, it was a way for my family and friends to keep tabs on me while studying abroad.  Now, much later, it has become one of the best learning tools in my career.

Five reasons why every museum student/professional should keep a blog:

1. It keeps you informed of issues and news.

You can write on any topic that interests you. Research the topic for 10-15 minutes, gather your thoughts and write about your perspective.  You might be surprised, both at how well you stay informed and at the conversation you start.

2. It hones your writing.

Who doesn’t need a little writing practice?  Beginning a blog is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn a happy median in writing for experts, enthusiasts and the general public all at the same time.  This is a skill many of us must use at work every day.

3. Provides excellent networking opportunities.

As you begin reading and commenting on other blogs, those writers will inevitably start to reciprocate.  Before you know it, you’ve connected with somebody you may not have met otherwise. Likewise, it is an excellent way to continue conversation with professionals you’ve met at conferences or seminars.

4. Makes you aware of events and exhibitions (and potentially gives you inside access to institutions and their “muselebrities”).

“I’d love to feature your institution or talk about this topic in my blog. Would it be possible to interview you about behind-the-scenes operations?”

5. It facilitates self-branding and boosts your résumé.

Maintaining a blog shows potential employers that you’re diligent, aware and tech savvy.  If you’re looking to add something to your résumé that will set you apart from the crowd, an interesting blog might be just the thing.

If you’re self-conscious about your writing or about beginning a blog, than start small.  You can keep a blog private, or only give the link to a handful of friends until you feel comfortable enough to let it go public.  Another excellent option is to test the waters by writing a guest post.  Contact the writer of a blog you enjoy and make a suggestion, or consider guest-writing for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums blog. They are always looking for students/professionals who would like to write about anything that might interest readers.

Five blogs I think every museum student/professional should read:

1.       Center for the Future of Museums

2.       Museum 2.0 – Nina Simon

3.       Know Your Own Bone – Colleen Dilenschneider

4.       Thinking About Exhibits

5.       Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Blogging is a worthwhile investment of your time and a great way to bounce around ideas.  You’ll find plenty of other great tips and tricks at (http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingtips/tp/TipsBeginnerBloggers.htm).