After Minnesota, we spent a night camping in Spring Green, Wisconsin and then it was on to Chicago. Alex and I lived in Chicago for several years so we had a lot of old favorites to see, as well new spots to check out.
Our first stop was the Cambodian Association of Illinois and the adjoining Cambodian Heritage Museum. The purpose of these organizations is to provide educational and social services for the ethnic Cambodian population in Illinois, as well as educate the public about the Cambodian genocide—which the US government has not officially recognized.
We toured the current exhibition on the genocide. It wasn’t new information for us, as we’d spent time in Cambodia years ago and studied the history of the country afterwards, but it was touching to see the memorial and hear about the counseling and closure the association is able to provide for survivors and their families.
That evening we met up with a college friend of mine who introduced us to his favorite restaurant, Longman & Eagle. This self-described “farm to table, nose to tail” restaurant is located in hip neighborhood Logan Square (my artist friends who used to live there have been priced out) and operates a boutique hotel upstairs.
The meal left us sufficiently energized for the following day of non-stop sightseeing in the Loop, the geographical and business center of Chicago.
First we visited the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, which boast an award-winning design.
The form of the angular glass facade is reflected in the interior, creating a sense of continuity between exterior and interior and symbolizing the multi-faceted programming.
Our next destination was the Chicago Cultural Center, a beautiful building which formerly housed the central public library. On the way, we passed through Millennium Park, Chicago’s most iconic tourist attraction and the main demonstration of Chicago’s successful public art programming.
The Chicago Cultural Center is itself a work of art. One wing is completely covered with beautiful mother-of-pearl and glass mosaics, and features the largest known Tiffany Dome in the world.
The Center also hosts exhibitions. One of the most interesting shows on view this summer was Spontaneous Interventions: Designs for the Common Good, an interactive exhibition which debuted at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Spontaneous Interventions highlights artist and architect-driven initiatives for urban improvement. Visual content, text, and interactive displays covered the floor, wall, and ceiling of three rooms.
The ideas ranged from multi-block artist projects like Heidelberg in Detroit and Project Row Houses in Houston, to much smaller game-changing initiatives like a brilliant yet simple design for transforming signposts into seats, and, in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, signs that encourage walking by pointing out the nearness of attractions. Sadly, I didn’t see any projects from Atlanta, or even the state of Georgia; time to step it up!
After a healthy snack at Do-rite Donuts, we were off to the kingpin of Midwestern museums: the Art Institute of Chicago.
It would be a futile endeavor to attempt a synopsis of the hours we spent there as it all swirls into the sum of the many visits Alex and I have made to this museum over our lives. From an early love for Seurat, a fascination with Hopper’s Nighthawks, to the Southeast Asian collection, a more mature appreciation of El Greco, and, with the completion of the contemporary wing, a new experience of Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes and time spent gazing Richter paintings, there’s too much to attempt to describe in this travel log. Instead, I’ll provide a detail view of a Richter, and leave it at that.
We ended the day with a performance of Belleville at the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater [Company].
Stay tuned for Chicago Part II: our visits to Hyde Park, Oak Park, and the MCA!
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