Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Art Walk in Chicago

By Claire

We're tired.  We've been going strong since Sunday and we'd love to slow down; but there is so much to see!  Our day began with a search for a UPS store.  My wonderful walking shoes had started squeaking so I did an online chat with Zappos, my favorite shoe store, and they emailed me a free shipping label and sent another pair to our hotel here in Chicago, all at no cost to me.  I received the new shoes, but needed to return the flawed pair.  With all our technology--iPhones, iPad and laptop, it's pretty easy to find things using the GPS maps.  I located a UPS store near Millennium Park, our first stop of the day.  However, nothing is ever really that simple, is it?  We walked several blocks, following the little blue bubble on the iPhone--which showed our location on the e-map.  We couldn't find any sign of a UPS store.  We finally walked into a CVS Pharmacy and they pointed across the street--not the street that is listed, but the cross street.  Turns out UPS was located inside a hotel and used its address; but the access was on a different street.  We were glad to get that chore taken care of. 

We walked over to the park to see the fountains.  I just marvel at all the wonderful things to see in this great city.  This is one of the Crown Fountains, where children can splash in the shallow water between giant faces projected on video screens. Her face moved, she smiled and then spit out water.

We've been planning a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago and wanted to get there early--to avoid crowds.  As it turns out, there just aren't any crowds this time of year.  We had American Gothic to ourselves.  I never knew that the man and woman posing for the artist, Grant Wood, were a dentist and the artist's sister.  It was an immediate sensation and has been parodied hundreds of times.

The Modern Wing was fantastic.  The light and air was really wonderful. The museum is a huge place; so even though we tried to have a plan, we kept retracing our steps.  I think we asked for help at least 6 times.  It's not an easy place to navigate.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Jeanne Gang architectural exhibit. She's the woman who designed the Aqua Building with the wave design and used a GPS to determine the proper alignment of the waves.  This is a close up of a section of the building.

In front of Marc Chagall's America Windows

Another view of the amazing Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Music Pavillion.

We also wanted to see Chicago neighborhoods, so we dragged ourselves onto the hop-on, hop-off trolly for a thrill ride through the west side (not!).  For part of the trip we were the only ones on board.  One time the driver/guide didn't seem to notice that the light had turned green--he simply sat there, stupefied and silent.  He finally took off as the light turned yellow.  I can't imagine a more trying job.  It's not like he gets a lot of feedback, or response from his audience, and he has to do it over and over again all day--day after day. 

This is another design by the German architect, Bertrand Goldberg, who did the corn cobb buildings.  I find it interesting but I don't like it.  The windows are too small and there are no balconies.  There are no square angles in nature so he didn't believe buildings should have them either.

We drove through the south side to get to China Town, Greek Town and Little Italy, all apparently on the west side. I'm glad we saw the area and glad we weren't walking; but there was nothing of interest that warranted getting out and then having to wait for the next bus to arrive.  

Once we were back at our starting point, Millennium Park, we decided to grab some lunch.  We wanted to try another chain we've seen around here, The Corner Bakery.  They were very much like Panera Bread, with the usual soup, salad and/or sandwich combo.  I ordered a really fantastic spinach salad--with strawberries, cranberries, grapes, oranges and goat cheese--and a cup of vegetarian three lentil soup.  Chuck had a bowl of chili--no picture necessary.

Next up, The rookery and the library.  Along the way we came to the colorful corner. All four corners were painted by art students, each in a different color.

This is the Rookery.  Designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root in 1888, this was one of Chicago's (and the World's) first commercial skyscrapers. In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to renovate the interior of this building.  It was more about trend than any real need to upgrade the building or its amenities.  He removed much of the iron and terra cotta detailing on the central staircase, balconies, and walls, and replaced it with strong geometric patterns.  He encased the iron columns in white marble that were gilded with the Arabic motif found at the entrance.  He added bronze chandeliers with prismatic glass.

Another architect,  William Drummond, brought in an Art Deco aesthetic in 1931 and divided the two-story entrance lobby into separate floors.  Following Wright's example, he covered any exposed surface with marble, gilded and incised with stylistic bird motifs.  He added a staircase that started at the second floor and protruded into the central light court.  It's quite spectacular and well worth seeing.  

This shows how the iron columns were encased in marble.

Did I mention we were tired?  Somehow, because everything we wanted to see was only a few blocks apart, we were determined to get to each one.  The library was a nice surprise.  We made our way up to the 9th floor where the skylight lit up the area.

 This is the 9th floor where a few people were at tables working.

The Chicago library has a book project similar to Davis and many other cities.  This is a good one--we loved this book.

Now at Grant Park, which runs into Millennium Park we found Spear Man, one of two sculptures.  He does not actually hold a spear; this is an anti-war statement.

Lake Michigan, next to Grant Park. They have beautiful sandy beaches around the lake.

This is Buckingham Fountain, built in 1927. It is one of the largest fountains in the world, was inspired by the Latona Fountain at Versailles, and is meant to allegorically represent Lake Michigan.

Frank Gehry designed the BP Bridge, which resembles a serpent winding its way around and across the park--another amazing piece of art and sculpture that has a purpose.  Many of the features in Millennium Park have corporate names because the entire park was privately financed.

We were lucky to be able to listen to a music rehearsal for a performance later tonight.  The sound was great.  This is a free performance by Celtic Connections presents TransAtlantic Sessions; but, we were too tired to even consider staying on for several hours til the start of the concert.

Our final stop of the day, before we dropped to our knees and begged for mercy, was the Chicago Cultural Center.  This is the largest Tiffany Dome in the world.

This chandelier is also by Tiffany.

We made the wise decision to walk back to our hotel rather than endure the lame jokes and endless ride back to our stop.  Have I mentioned that I think it was a BAD idea to go with this bus thing?  We're back at our hotel now, resting up for our last day, tomorrow, when we will catch the bus one last time to our final destination.  I'm not sure how many miles we walked today; but it felt like at least 10.  Luckily, my new shoes were up to the task.  I have to admit, walking is my favorite way to see the world and the best way to really immerse yourself in a city.

Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
'Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied.

~ W. H. Davies (author of Autobiography of a Supertramp and the poem, Leisure)