Chicago turned out to be even better then expected. I flew in the day before my nieces wedding rented a car and drove to my hotel the Radisson blu AQUA on the Chicago river just a few blocks from the Art Institute. It was very nice. It wasn’t long before I was snapping photos. Here is the view from my room.
As I walked out of the hotel I could see already one day would not be enough since the first thing I saw was the Architecture Center and I had to pass it up. I headed for the Bean (officially called the Cloud Gate) and it turned out to be my favorite piece of public art I was going to see in Chicago. Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, it is the first public outdoor work installed in the US by the artist. It weighs 110 tons and is forged of stainless steel plates. It reflects the skyline, the sky, and the people standing under and around it.
I lived 4 hours east of Chicago from the time I was born until I moved to Colorado in 1983. Chicago was a weekend trip that I enjoyed many times but haven’t been there since about 1980, not even to pass through the airport. So the Bean and other things I liked have been in Millennium park for many years, I just haven’t.
Other things in the park I liked were the Crown Fountains. Although the water was not shooting out of the persons mouth (it’s turned off in the winter) the changing images were there. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa the fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers projects video images of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.
The collection of faces, Plensa’s tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents.
As you can see from the photos it was overcast, typical for locations close to the Great Lakes, you hardly see the sun in the wintertime. And it’s the main reason I don’t ever want to live there again, Summers are beautiful though! The areas surrounding the Great Lakes get a lot of snow due to the “lake-effect.” In case you are not familiar with the term here is the definition. “A meteorological phenomenon in which warm moist air rising from a body of water mixes with cold dry air overhead resulting in (A LOT OF) precipitation especially downwind.”
The Ice Rink is sponsored by Hilton. If you show your room reservation you don’t have to pay for skates.
And the Frank Gehry’s BP Pedestrian Bridge is a work of art. It is 925 feet long and winds from Millennium Park to the Daley Bicentennial Plaza and the entire lakefront park system, across Columbus Drive. It too is made of stainless steel panels. It was completed in 2004. The cost was over $12 million, $5 million of which was donated by BP. Follow the link above to see some aerial views. It’s beautiful.
Then I made a bee line to see Chagalls the Four Seasons mosaic Located in Chase Tower Plaza. The Four Seasons by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall are a series of mosaics that depict the arrival of spring, summer, winter, and fall. It was a gift to the City of Chicago by the Prince Charitable trust.
It is composed of thousands of inlaid chips portraying six scenes of Chicago. The design was created in his studio in France then transferred onto full-scale panels and installed in Chicago with the help of a skilled mosaicist. It was installed in 1974, the roof was added later. This was one of his last mosaics.
Marc Chagall is also well-known in Chicago for his America Windows, which I saw next at the Art Institute.
While on my way over there I just happened to pass by the CIBC Theatre where Hamilton was playing and thought I’d step into the box office and see – “do you have any tickets for tonight?” They had 2 left! I never thought I’d get a chance to see it. I can’t say enough good things about the cast. All performed above and beyond expectations. They were at the end of a 3 year run in Chicago which ended January 5.
At the art institute I got to see work by some of my favorite painters Monet, Mary Cassatt (I worked with a nephew of hers at the Aspen Times, he was talented too), Van Gogh, and others.
As a bonus they were having a special exhibit of work by Andy Warhol. There was an Impressive 400 pieces of his work from sketches to videos to the pieces we all know. The museum was packed!
I intended to walk the Wabash arts corridor but was beat so got up early the next morning to drive it.
There are 40 large scale murals along this corridor, I did not see them all but saw quite a few. “The Wabash Arts Corridor is Chicago’s living urban canvas in the heart of the South Loop neighborhood. Founded by Columbia College Chicago in 2013, WAC has grown to be one of the most expansive, diverse and accessible public art programs in the country. This community driven project weaves the visual, performing and media arts into daily life, immersing residents and visitors into artist-reclaimed public spaces that transform the urban experienceArtists and curators from five continents have left their mark on WAC with murals, performance, installations, actions and large-scale projections that are always free and open to the public..” to learn more visit. https://wabashartscorridor.org.
And as I started south I stopped to see Agora (Greek for meeting place), one of Chicago’s most recent installations. It consists of 106 nine-foot tall cast iron headless torsos. The figures are posed walking in groups in various directions or standing still. Internationally renowned artist Magdalena Abakanowicz donated the sculptural group along with the Polish Ministry of Culture, a Polish cultural foundation, and other private donors. Born into an aristocratic family just outside of Warsaw, Abakanowicz (b. 1930) was deeply affected by World War II and the forty-five years of Soviet domination that followed. In her journals, she writes that she has lived “…in times which were extraordinary by their various forms of collective hate and collective adulation. Marches and parades worshipped leaders, great and good, who soon turned out to be mass murderers. I was obsessed by the image of the crowd… I suspected that under the human skull, instincts and emotions overpower the intellect without us being aware of it.” The sculptor began creating large headless figures in the 1970s. Initially working in burlap and resin, she went on to use bronze, steel, and iron. Although Abakanowicz hasfrequently exhibited in museums and public spaces throughout the world— Agora is her largest permanent installation.
On Michigan avenue near the water tower is Starbucks reserve. I like the coffee ok but will never stand in a line longer than 5 people to get a cup of it. Well LOTS of people in Chicago (and lots of other places will), in fact at this Chicago location they were lined up out the door and half way down a long city block. Turns out this Starbucks https://www.starbucksreserve.com/en-us/locations/chicago just opened this November, is 5 stories high with an open air terrace on the 5th floor, each floor has its own specialty be it beans. brewed coffee a bar a gift shop etc. NO I DID NOT go in just looked at it from the outside. A pretty impressive sight,
It’s close to the Water Tower which I’ve always been fascinated with.It’s one of the few buildings that survived the great fire, built in 1869, it held water to regulate the flow in the area and was a water source for fighting fires.
Just before I left Chicago I stopped in the Pullman neighborhood. I love traveling by train and have done many drawings of locomotives and railroad depots through the years. Pullman of course made railroad cars. The railroad connection is what got Pullman on my radar but the architecture is what made me seek out the neighborhood.
I finally made it out of town and to the purpose of the trip, my great nieces wedding in South Bend. They make a beautiful couple!
I don’t know that I had ever been to south bend so enjoyed looking around the town.
Notre Dame is there so took a tour of that as well. I had no idea how huge the campus is, they even have their own zip code.
In the Charles B Hayes Sculpture Garden on campus my favorite piece was by George Rickey who was born in South Bend and has lived all over the world and has sculptures all over the world as well. It’s a kinetic sculpture and moves constantly and very slowly, changing all the time. A note about the park, until this Park was developed this area was a landfill for Notre Dame. George’s son Philip is a stone sculptor and has a large installation about the life of Christ. There is a video where he talks about his sculpture and a little about his father.
Back to Chicago to catch my flight on Monday. Got there just before dark and had one more thing on my list I wanted to see – the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Number one, I didn’t know what a Mandir was, number two I know nothing about the Hindu religion, but again, I was intrigued by a photo I saw somewhere. It was beautiful. One of the things I love about traveling and one reason I do it as often as possible is I learn so much. I’ve got a lot of reading in my future after this trip, the Hindu religion, Alexander Hamilton, some artists work I saw at the Art Institute I wasn’t familiar with, and there is more to learn about Pullman.
I was a little nervous- and wondered if I would be there alone in the dark? Well I was met at the gate by a guard a police man and as I entered then I saw that there must have been 2000 other people there as well!
That night I stayed at the Loews which is right beside O’Hare, a convention center, a large mall, and several top named restaurants. The hotel and my room were beautiful. I went to the airport really early trying to complete my global entry card. I signed up for it in the spring but anytime I was in an airport that had an office you could be interviewed in my connection was so tight there was no time.
When I tried to get an appointment at O’Hare before leaving home, the next available one was in March. So I went to terminal 5 to take my chances as a walk-in. And it worked out, of course people with appointments have priority so you just have to wait, I only sat there about 45 minutes and I finally got it done. I have never been in that airport and was kind of dreading it but the car rental place was great, the best I’ve seen, the air train is out of commission but the busses ran regularly (we even had a singing driver) , and everywhere you looked there was someone asking if you needed help. The only negative I saw was that it is a long way down the corridors with no moving sidewalks.
So I’m home again and looking forward to the new year and a new decade and my next trip – Key West.