Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting a Little Culture

I visited the Art Institute of Chicago last week with my 20-year-old son. The new Modern Wing of the museum opened in May, at a cost of $300 million, and it's something to see. He took an art history class last year and became excited about modern art. Although he had already seen the new wing earlier in the summer, he was convinced that I needed a break from work and that I would enjoy a trip to the city and benefit from a day off.

Okay, I have been a little crabby lately. Like a lot of working moms, I'm trying to juggle working at home with 2 kids underfoot all of the time (and what seems like 40 of their friends at any given moment) or driving the one that doesn't drive somewhere every 15 seconds. Granted, they're not toddlers and there aren't eight of them, but even though they're older, they make their presence and needs known and they still need me around. It is not quiet at my house. And let's not forget the playful puppy, who's recovering from an ovariohysterectomy and needs to be kept "quiet" for 10 days (how do you keep a puppy quiet??), requires a huge amount of attention daily and, on top of it, keeps stealing my fabric bundles from a basket on the floor near my sewing table (trust me, no room ON the table) then races around the house until I can catch her.

What's making things even worse is that my husband's job at present requires him to travel Monday through Friday until the middle of October. So yeah, I'm a little crabby. Not exactly Civil War widow crabby for being left alone penniless on the farm, but still--things are definitely tougher without a little help with the normal, everyday household chores he's very good at executing. (Hugs, hon, if you're reading this!) It WAS time for a break and I jumped at the chance to take a pleasant day trip with my first born before he goes back to school. Oh, he said, if we did go, it would be a good opportunity for me to buy him lunch at a nice restaurant on Michigan Ave. I didn't tell him I planned a stop at the textile room to see quilts.

We live about 25 miles north of Chicago and now that the kids are older it seems we don't take advantage of the wonderful local museums like we once did. The Art Institute has always been one of my favorites. I love that it has so many classic works and houses a diverse collection of paintings, prints & drawings and ranks right up there with the other great art museums in the US.

Strolling down Michigan Ave looking for a restaurant, I remembered an entry in Adelia's diary and for a few seconds was struck by how different Adelia may have experienced the city in 1861, when she traveled by train from a small town in northern Illinois to see the State Fair, which was held in Chicago that year. The Art Institute opened as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts on May 24, 1879, eighteen years later, and some eight years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed much of the city--17,450 buildings in 27 hours, 250 people perished. One-third of the city's population lost their homes. Adelia's diary entry for Sept 11, 1861, reads:

"Sept 11, 1861

"Laura, Alice, Em and I all went to Chicago to the State Fair. Father, Mother, Edwin's folks, Jo and Alf were on the train. Us girls splurged round town that day and did not go to the fairgrounds on account of the mud. Went in the courthouse observatory and on Michigan Avenue. Felt pretty much tired out. Staid with Alice at their cousins Mr Andrus on State St. Went to prayer meeting in the evening."

We couldn't have picked a better day though--sunny and warm but not too hot. We even found a moderate-priced restaurant.

The bridge/walkway that connects the Modern Wing to the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park offers great views of the city.

I was impressed by everything my son learned in his art class. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm old-fashioned and favor the classics (the museum has a great collection of Impressionist paintings) over contemporary art (his favorite). So, for a change, it was nice to share our likes and dislikes with each other without a single argument. The bad news was that the textile room was closed and undergoing renovation, so no quilts on exhibit. Nobody seemed to know when it would reopen.

It's always exhilarating to see famous works by the great masters up close. Room after room of awe-inspiring talent. Like Adelia, however, by the end of the day, I was pretty much tired out myself.

1 comment:

Ingrid said...

Seeing these pictures makes me realize that I must get to the art institute soon!


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