Big City Tales

Yukon History Comes to Life at MacBride Museum

September 19, 2018
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From the early beginnings of its First Nations people to the intrepid explorers who sought to conquer the land and strike gold, the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse pays homage to the Yukon’s bravest and most colourful characters (including its MANY furry critters). Located along the city’s quaint and picturesque Front Street, the museum houses over 30,000 artifacts and Yukon history truly comes to life as you wind your way through the exhibits.

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Passion for the North

As one of the co-founders of the Yukon Historical Society (YHS), W.D. (Bill) MacBride was passionate about his adopted homeland and ardently sought to preserve its heritage be it in the form of writing historical accounts or acquiring cultural artifacts. MacBride donated much of his personal collection of essays, books, photographs and other Northern-themed items to the YHS, which were first put on public display in the 1950s at the Government Telegraph Office. It didn’t take long to outgrow this space and planning began for a larger, permanent location. When the new facility opened in 1967, it was named in honour of MacBride in recognition of his efforts to promote the North and safeguard its treasures.

Earliest People

The Yukon is home to an abundance of First Nations and their stories, customs and handmade items are displayed around the museum. The first tribes to inhabit the land thousands of years ago included the Kutchin, Han, Kaska, Tagish, Tutchone, and Teslin. Today, there are 14 First Nations associated with the Yukon Territory and 25 percent of its residents identify as Indigenous, representing eight languages. While many Indigenous people do not speak the language of their nation, handicrafts have been proudly maintained and passed down to new generations. The intricate beading work applied to moccasins and ceremonial attire is an impressive sight to behold and shows off an amazing attention to detail and high quality of craftsmanship.

Where the Wild Things Are

In the Yukon, furry critters and birds vastly outnumber humans. The museum’s Natural Gallery showcases 35 common mammals and birds that are grouped according to their common habitats. The mighty moose, majestic bald eagle, busy beaver, and bulky buffalo share the Yukon’s diverse and expansive landscape along with some 160,000 caribou; 22,000 mountain sheep; 6,000 grizzly bears; 220 species of birds; and 34,000 humans.

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Klondike Gold Rush

After gold was discovered in the Yukon’s Klondike region in 1896, a mass migration of prospectors ensued for the next three years with some 100,000 people making their way north in search of fortune.

Whitehorse was the primary gateway city to the Klondike where many prospectors stocked up for the long haul to Dawson City. In order to comply with the requirements of Canadian authorities, prospectors had to amass a year’s supply of food before they could embark on the arduous journey to the gold fields.

Such a massive influx of people over a short period of time was both a blessing and a curse for the Yukon. Boom towns cropped up along the route to the Klondike, the largest being Dawson City, and local saloons enjoyed large crowds of drinkers and gamblers; while makeshift inns provided accommodations for the prospectors. The downside of the economic prosperity was that native tribes were pushed off their land and sent to reserves where poor living conditions resulted in many deaths. Dawson City was also riddled with epidemics and suffered many fires due to its largely wood buildings.

Main Street Survives and the Yukon Thrives

When the Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1899, many drowned their sorrows; while others toasted their successes at local watering holes such as the Windsor’s Bar & Saloon and got on with the business of making a living by other means.

Service industries thrived and shippers, seamstresses, barbers, postal workers, printers and others established the new economy at the turn of the 20th Century. At the time of World War II, three major projects were also embarked upon that made a significant impact on the Yukon in terms of transportation, industry and national defense initiatives.

True to the spirit of the wild west and nomadic north, the MacBride Museum celebrates the legendary people and events of days gone and strives to uphold its commitment to dynamically conveying the value, and increasing the understanding and enjoyment of Yukon history.

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A Pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

September 12, 2018
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It’s that time of year when summer turns to fall, sweaters and sneakers replace shorts and sandals, and millions of football fans are in a frenzy for the start of the new season. It’s also a time when many embark on a pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in Canton, Ohio. So it was in the fall of 2017 that this Canadian fan of the American game paid a visit to the HOF’s hallowed halls and its gallery of bronze busts.

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Game of Inches and Hall of INTEGRITY

Football is a game of inches that requires its participants to possess both physical strength and mental acuity in order to achieve greatness. “Doing right” by teammates, coaches and fans is of utmost importance in evaluating a successful career, as well as demonstrating commitment, courage, respect and excellence on and off the field.

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As one of first HOF inductees in 1963, George Halas embodied the game’s core values and earned his place in the annals of football history for his accomplishments as a player, coach and franchise owner. He was also one of the co-founders of the National Football League (NFL) back in the 1920s, and co-developed the T-formation offensive scheme that revolutionized the game in the late 1930s. Over the course of his storied and celebrated 60-year football career, Halas fittingly earned the nickname “Mr. Everything” and among his many honors he was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year winner. Given his myriad contributions to the game, it is little wonder that the official address of the HOF proudly bears his name.

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Huddle Up, America 

For those familiar with the “take a knee” controversy that plagued the National Football League last season during the playing of the pre-game national anthem, it should be no surprise that the HOF came up with a flag-planting campaign to counter the negativity. Using the flag as a symbol of national unity, the HOF planted 300 of the good ol’ red, white and blue on their front lawn and shared that the goal of its “Huddle Up, America” initiative was to encourage the broader football community to come together and constructively work through issues. The garden of flags certainly made for a striking and colorful visual on the walkway to the main entrance (especially on a cloudy day), and stirred patriotic emotions even within this proud maple-loving Canuck.

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Inside the Hallowed Hall

The NFL will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2020 and what a first century it has been. From the league’s earliest superstar players such as Jim Thorpe to pioneering teams such as the Canton Bulldogs and the Akron Pros, the HOF pays tribute to days gone by and highlights each decade with incredible artifacts and numerous interactive exhibits.

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Individual and Team Accomplishments

Be it the perfect regular season of the Miami Dolphins in 1972, the career rushing yard mark held by Emmitt Smith, or the winning ways of the league’s great dynasty teams through the decades, The Record Book exhibit celebrates the significant achievements of individual players, coaches and teams.

As a longtime fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I was delighted to see the various displays pertaining to the exploits of the team during the powerhouse 1990s. Troy Aikman was the team’s all-star quarterback and led the Cowboys to an impressive three Super Bowl championships in 1992, 1993 and 1995 with ample support from the likes of Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

Aikman, Smith and Irvin are among over 30 Dallas Cowboy Hall of Famers, a group that includes coach Tom Landry, owner Jerry Jones, and players Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Randy White who made their marks in earlier eras during the 1970s and 1980s.

Football Immortality

You know you’ve made it into football glory status when your bust is cast in bronze and mounted in the HOF Gallery alongside fellow inductees.

In addition to the bronze bust, the custom-made gold jacket that inductees wear during the enshrinement ceremony (and can take away with them) is another symbol of their high performance standard.

Many deceased inductees are buried in their treasured jackets and those still living are more than happy to don them for special appearances or when conducting official NFL business matters.

Measured to fit like a glove, the jacket also features custom lining and buttons with the HOF logo, and a special label with the inductee’s name and enshrinement number. Even the toughest “big guys” of the game admit to becoming emotional upon receiving their finished jackets and joining the ranks of HOF immortality…the forever NFL brotherhood.

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The Wild and Wacky Warhol Museum

September 6, 2018
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Located in the quiet and conservative North Shore district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is certainly nothing quiet and conservative about the wild and wacky Andy Warhol Museum.

Indeed, the pink bannered building and pink pylon outlined parking lot that fittingly features a specially themed Brillo Box attendant booth are the first clues that this is not your regular museum. The next clues come inside with exhibits chronicling the artist’s life story beginning on the top floor and winding down into an underground conservation lab.

From his early successes with Campbell’s Soup and other brand name product paintings to his later triumphs with celebrity portraits and experimental films, all aspects of Warhol’s eccentric and exceptional career are on display making for an entertaining and enlightening viewing experience.

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Off to the BIG City

Before he took the New York City art scene by storm in the 1950s and 60s, Andy Warhol was a clean-cut, fresh-faced kid from Pittsburgh who discovered a penchant for drawing during his teenage years. While he originally wanted to study Art Education in university and become a teacher, he ended up changing his mind and pursued training as a commercial artist at the Carnegie Institute of Technology where his first published works appeared in Cano, the student art magazine. After earning his Fine Arts degree, Warhol moved to the Big Apple in 1949 where he found work with magazines and advertising firms.

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Before and After Campbell’s Soup

Along with being a talented illustrator, Warhol was adept with silk-screening techniques and enjoyed making fruit and floral prints that evolved into the more abstract ‘Pop Art’ works that he is famous for such as soup cans and celebrity portraits. Early on, he was known for ink blotting and the use of tracing paper to replicate images and produce variations on the same themes. He also liked to project photographs and transform them using shading and contouring to bring out shadows and other subtleties.

Consumerism and Cult of Celebrity

Warhol started showing his work in the 1950s with some initial success in local galleries but his career really took off in the 1960s when his focus turned to iconic American objects and the cult of celebrity. At the time of his first solo exhibition in the fall of 1962, he was a creative genius to be reckoned with and was now garnering attention across the United States and beyond for his signature pop art pieces such as 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles, 100 Dollar Bills and the Marilyn Diptych, which was created following the death of Marilyn Monroe.

Jackie Kennedy 

Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy was one of Warhol’s favorite celebrity muses in the 1960s. The unfortunate assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy in 1963 provided fodder for the series of Jackie silk-screen portraits he produced using a selection of newspaper images of the grieving widow.

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Crazy for Cardboard and Flower Power

Not one to shy away from quirky and bold exhibits, Warhol’s other early pieces included a series of supermarket boxes and and a grouping of hibiscus blooms in a range of bright colors and varying textures.

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Pop Art Portraits

In the 1970s, Warhol’s work was mostly focused on portraits of celebrities and politicians, many of whom he sought out as patrons to support the growth of his artistic enterprise. Warhol was known to frequent the Studio 54 nightclub where he hob-knobbed with the likes of Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross and other superstar entertainers of the day.

As much as Warhol loved celebrities, he was also a devoted son and occasionally painted his mother’s portrait. The 5th Floor gallery in the museum shows his mother in good company between British actress Joan Collins and 1970s super-model Cheryl Tiegs.

Warhol’s circle of high-profile acquaintances also included controversial international political figures such as the deposed Shah of Iran and his family, and he famously created a series of Mao Tse-tung images to mark President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972.

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Dazzling Digital Design

With new technological advances in the 1980s, Warhol experimented with creating digital art on an early version of the Commodore computer. He used The Birth of Venus by Botticelli as inspiration and succeeded in turning an Early Renaissance masterpiece into a stunning stylized modern design.

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Collector or Pack Rat?

Anyone who had the privilege of visiting Warhol’s townhouse can attest to the fact that Warhol liked to collect eclectic things and display them throughout the four floors of his home. Referred to by Warhol’s friends as “Andy’s Stuff,” his collection of knickknacks was so extensive that overflow items ended up in a nearby storage unit. After his death, the museum took in an astonishing 641 boxes of personal effects that contained items ranging from cookie jars and jugs to airplane menus and supermarket flyers.

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Wild, Wacky…and WONDERFUL!

True to Warhol’s iconic and indelible image, the Andy Warhol Museum showcases all that was wild, wacky and wonderful about him. When in Pittsburgh, be sure to include a visit and check out its glorious oddities.

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Canada’s National Music Centre Strikes the Right Chord

August 9, 2018
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The story of music in Canada is a long and celebrated tale that encompasses many unique “Made in Canada” technological advances along with a host of amazingly talented artists who have made a mark in their home and native land and around the world. From the trailblazers that introduced a new sound/vibe or instrument to the established artists that have proudly reached the top of the charts time and again, Canada’s National Music Centre (NMC) strikes the right chord in showing off all aspects of the country’s rich musical heritage.

Housed in the stunning Studio Bell building in Calgary, Alberta’s trendy East Village district, the distinctive architecture was inspired by the vast Canadian landscape and the curved intricacy of musical instruments. The entire complex consists of a series of nine towers that interlock and are connected by an inner walkway. The sleek exterior look of the five-storey Studio Bell tower continues inside with 226,000 custom glazed terracotta tiles adorning the walls that gleam in shades of metallic and earthen tones thanks to plenty of windows that let in natural light.

The NMC features both permanent and temporary exhibitions that are displayed in 22 gallery areas fittingly referred to as “stages.” Three of the galleries are Halls of Fame that pay homage to their respective inductees such as the Barenaked Ladies and Steven Page, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, k.d. lang, Anne Murray, and many, many others. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame has honoured a total of 52 musical acts (bands and solo artists) since it was established in 1978. In addition to plaques and pictures, the exhibition space contains clothing and instruments donated by inductees.

One of the NMC’s popular temporary exhibitions is the Milestones gallery that is dedicated to the artist/band chosen by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In 2017, Sarah McLachlan was the rightful honouree and many of her other awards, personal quotes and the instruments she plays were part of the display.

Showcase is another temporary exhibition space that attracts a lot of attention. In 2017, the incredible career of Tom Cochrane was recognized in light of the 25th anniversary of his iconic song Life is a Highway being released. The exhibit included some of Cochrane’s concert attire and his guitars, along with numerous awards, and anecdotal video clips.

Be it plugged in or unplugged, sound in all of its variations is a major aspect of the NMC. The Sound Affects gallery includes one of Elton John’s old upright pianos and offers a demo of the famous Kimball Theatre Organ used to accompany silent films in the 1920s. The Unplugged gallery features the drum set used to record the original Hockey Night in Canada theme song, and the Plugged In gallery contains TONTO, the world’s largest analog synthesizer used by the likes of Stevie Wonder to record his albums back in the day.

Highly visual and interactive galleries such as Soundscapes and The Musical Mind provide opportunities for appreciating the connection between sound and sight, and discovering some interesting music/mind facts. Playing/experimenting with instruments in designated areas around the NMC is also very much encouraged!

Canada certainly has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the breadth of stellar musical acts it has generated. The Idols & Icons gallery is a decade by decade overview of some of the country’s most beloved and well known solo artists and bands. It truly is a music fan’s dream to see artifacts collected from the concert performances of the likes of Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Jann Arden, Michael Buble, Randy Bachman, and Corey Hart to name but a few.


Strategy is Key to Visiting the Smithsonian Institution

July 31, 2018
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As the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, includes 17 local museums and galleries, numerous public gardens, and a zoo. The museums are primarily (and conveniently!) located along the National Mall and collectively contain over 150 million artifacts celebrating history, science, art and culture. There’s clearly a lot to see so having a strategy in place is key to making the most of visiting this much lauded and celebrated American treasure. A good place to start is at the Smithsonian Institution Building, referred to as ‘The Castle’.

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The Castle

In addition to housing administrative offices, the Castle is the primary visitor center and provides a full overview of the Smithsonian, including background information about James Smithson, the institute’s founding donor, and highlights from each of the individual museum permanent collections. Even for those planning an extended stay in DC, chances are that seeing all facets of the Smithsonian is not realistic so spending time wandering around the Castle’s mini-exhibits is advisable, as well as consulting with staff to find out if there are any current special exhibitions. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Castle’s unique 19th century architecture and interior design before heading out to other venues.

An interesting tidbit about James Smithson is that he was a British scientist who never actually visited the United States during his lifetime. Faced with the prospect of possibly having no living heirs to pass along his fortune to, in his will Smithson bequeathed his estate to the country with the express instructions “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” So, thanks to the foresight of a Brit, the “nation’s attic” came to be in 1846 and has amazed and delighted visitors ever since with its vast and eclectic holdings.

American History Museum

For obvious reasons, one of the most popular Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of American History that explores the origins of the country dating back to colonial times. As no trip to the nation’s capital would be complete without a quick history lesson, this museum should be at the top of your “Smithsonian must see” list.

Among the many exhibits visitors can learn about the creation of the U.S. Constitution and read its text, review the main events and figures of the Civil War and other battles fought in the name of national freedom, revel in the glory of the flag and national anthem, admire first lady inauguration gowns, and enjoy some pop culture in the form of various film and television artifacts.

Founding Fathers to Civil War

From the War of Independence to the Wars of Expansion and the Civil War, America’s early existence was marked by some intense military conflicts that served to define its borders and carve out its collective values. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit contains a plethora of incredible and significant artifacts such as George Washington’s uniform, battlefield relics from Gettysburg, and the chairs that Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant used during the Civil War surrender ceremony.

Star-Spangled Banner

Patriotism abounds in the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit that tells the story of how the iconic red, white and blue color scheme of the American flag came to be, and also delves into the inspiration behind the words of the country’s national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key.

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The First Ladies

It’s not just the work of the founding fathers on display at the American History Museum, the inaugural fashions of the first ladies are also showcased. Michelle Obama’s gown and shoes from 2009 feature prominently in the exhibit along with those donned by Martha Washington, Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and others. The First Ladies exhibit also highlights the important work undertaken by many of these enterprising wives in support of their respective husbands’ administrations.

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The Joy of Cooking a la Julia Child

Before the rise of the Food Network and proliferation of TV chef personalities like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Ina Garten and others, Julia Child ruled the small screen for 40 years and dazzled audiences with her command of French cuisine. From crepes to souffles, bouillabaisse to boeuf bourguignon, Julia welcomed viewers directly into her home kitchen based in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she and her guests cooked and laughed in equal measure. Julia definitely made cooking fun and her trademark send-off of ‘Bon Appetit!‘ is fittingly part of the entryway into the Julia Child’s Kitchen exhibit that features her copper pan collection and other kitchenware.

 


You Can’t Miss Seeing The Rooms in St. John’s

July 10, 2018
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Boasting a distinctive ‘fishing room’ exterior design and prime hill-top location on Bonaventure Avenue, it’s easy to spot The Rooms from most vantage points around St. John’s. The building’s creative architecture certainly caught my attention, but it was the interior treasures that really hooked me. The most compelling reason why you can’t miss seeing The Rooms is that the exhibits truly celebrate the unique culture, history and geography of Newfoundland and Labrador. Also, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the view of the city skyline and harbour is pretty spectacular!

The Rooms with a View

Even though St. John’s is one of the foggiest major centres in Canada, the spring and summer months are typically quite pleasant with plenty of clear days to peer out of The Rooms’ floor to ceiling windows and admire the view in the city streets and harbour below and further beyond The Narrows channel toward the ocean.

From colourful Jelly Bean row houses, to massive transport ships docked and waiting to be loaded/unloaded, to Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill and the Irving Oil Marine Terminal and fuelling berth located on Pier 23 and Pier 24 there is bound to be something eye-catching and photo-worthy.

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The Luck o’ Irish Roots

Back to the myriad treasures inside of The Rooms, one of the permanent exhibits is Talamh an Éisc: The Fishing Ground. This exhibit explores the province’s Irish roots going back to the late 1600s when intrepid migrants ventured across the Atlantic to participate in the burgeoning fishing trade, build onshore communities and settle into a new life away from the British Isles.

Fertile and Fickle Fishing Ground

After 500 years of reaping the rewards of one of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds, the luck o’ the Irish sadly ran out in the early 1990s when a moratorium was issued on the Northern Cod fishery. The government action was necessitated due to over-fishing in the region during the preceding 40 years that resulted in the drastic decrease of the Northern Cod species to the point of being on the verge of extinction. At present, the cod population is slowly making a recovery and limited fishing is taking place according to carefully established quotas. Hopefully continual monitoring efforts and regulation enforcement will ensure the survival of the species and industry.

Newfoundland and Labrador from A to Z

One of the special exhibits at The Rooms when I visited in 2017 was a series of hanging panels that described characteristics of Newfoundland and Labrador using each letter of the alphabet. Talk about a great way to learn about this highly distinctive region…I would add that A is also for Amazing and Awesome people!

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The Kitschy Kitchen Party

As highlighted in the A to Z panels, the Kitchen Party is a longtime tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador that typically takes the form of a raucous Saturday night gathering complete with food, music, dance, and plenty of fun. Along with family and friends, other special guests may include local “mummers” who come dressed in disguise looking to take a swig, dance a jig and continue on to their next merry party-crashing gig. Impromptu jam sessions are a common occurrence with musicians taking turns at solos or joining together in festive song. No instrument? No problem! Grab a pot and a wooden spoon, find the beat and play the night away.

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World War I Commemoration

During World War I, members of the Newfoundland Regiment bravely ventured across the Atlantic Ocean to join forces with the British Army. After being trained in England and Scotland, troops were deployed to battle fields in Gallipoli, Egypt and along the Western Front. The regiment sustained heavy losses between 1915 and 1918 but many survived to tell their harrowing stories, which are encapsulated in the Beaumont-Hamel and The Trail of the Caribou exhibit. Highlights of the exhibit include the Flower of Remembrance and Victoria Cross displays, as well as the numerous black and white images of young recruits preparing to do their part and serve their country in the Great War.

A Provincial Showcase

No doubt about it, The Rooms shows off the very best of Newfoundland and Labrador and it’s crystal clear how and why the earliest inhabitants and subsequent settlers came to make lasting connections with this special place. When in St. John’s, The Rooms really is a must-see!


The Many Marvels of Musee d’Orsay

June 12, 2018
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When the Gare d’Orsay railway station first opened in 1900, its Beaux-Arts design was the talk of the town in Paris. Chief amongst its admirers was local painter Edouard Detaille, who prophetically penned that the station had the appearance of an art gallery. Little did he know that some 86 years later the station would, in fact, be converted to an art museum, and some of his own prized works would be hung on its walls. The remarkable journey from station to museum is just one of the many marvels of Musee d’Orsay that highlights mostly French painters and sculptors, but also includes masterpieces from notable international artists such as Klimt, Munch, van Gogh and Whistler.

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Amazing Architectural Backdrop

In taking on the station to museum conversion project, the ACT Architecture group was fortunate to have a building with ‘good bones’ that just needed a little tweaking in order to best serve its new purpose. With its high, vaulted ceiling and long, narrow main corridor bathed in natural light and accented by decorative plasters and arches, the designers stayed true to the original station look and layout while adding 20,000 square metres of new floor space.

The Main Hall consists of large, sumptuous sculptures in the central nave that are flanked with numerous side galleries where paintings and other smaller works are displayed. Along the far wall, the opulent and ornate D’Orsay clock designed by Victor Laloux for the original railway station is still mounted and is a work of art in and of itself.

The upper floor features a wide terrace that overlooks the Main Hall below and opens into additional galleries containing more paintings, photographs and a variety of decorative arts.

Homegrown Talent

French artists such as Cabanel, Couture, Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Ingres, Tissot and de Toulouse-Lautrec amongst a host of others feature prominently in the Musee D’Orsay’s collection of paintings that cover the time period 1848-1914. Selected highlights include The Birth of Venus by Cabanel; Romans during the Decadence by Couture, and In Bed by de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masters

The Musee D’Orsay contains the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including many works by Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Rousseau, Seurat, Sisley, van Gogh and other masters.

Poppy Field by Monet and Starry Night over the Rhone by van Gogh are some of the famous works displayed in the galleries.

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Petit Palais is BIG on Artistic Details

May 23, 2018
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As the building that houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, the Petit Palais is big on artistic details that make for a lovely viewing experience of its glorious exterior, spacious galleries, and elegant garden courtyard.

The Petit Palais is located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris along Avenue Winston Churchill and is directly across the street from the Grand Palais. The two structures were originally constructed as exhibition halls for the 1900 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). The nearby Pont Alexandre III deck arch bridge, which reflects the aesthetic of the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, was also built at this time as part of the city’s preparations to welcome (and wow!) the world.

Designed by French architect Charles-Louis Girault, the Petit Palais is constructed of stone, steel and concrete and its exterior Beaux Arts style features numerous sculptures and other decorative elements such as a massive central archway topped by a dome, free-standing columns that frame a series of tall windows, and flower beds and fountains around the grounds.

The interior rotunda and main galleries were intended by Girault to be especially grand with vaulted ceilings, marble walls and tiled mosaic floors used to enhance the beauty of the art on display, notably the larger-than-life Gloria Victis statue created by French sculptor Antonin Mercie that stands proudly in the main entrance.

The rotunda’s dome and gallery ceilings are embellished with a series of allegorical paintings and carved niches. Spiral staircases with wrought iron railings connect the upper and lower galleries and add another level of elegance and charm.

The collections of the Petit Palais include paintings, statues, tapestries, religious icons and other art objects dating from ancient times to the 19th century. The works of many prominent French artists such as Monet, Fragonard, Poussin, Delacroix, Courbet, Cezanne, Gaugin and Rodin are celebrated along with other European masters such as Rembrandt, Modigliani, Durer and Rubens.

The inner courtyard, also designed in the Beaux Arts style, is a masterpiece in and of itself for its symmetrical forms that include coupled columns, gilded bronze statues, and high relief sculptures. The lush garden is full of trees, shrubs, bushes and flowering plants with paths, ponds and fountains surrounding it.

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Lose Yourself in the Loveliness of the Louvre

May 17, 2018
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Whether it’s the mysterious Mona Lisa, the colossal Coronation of Napoleon, the passionate Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, the wondrous Winged Victory of Samothrace, or any of its other monumental masterpieces, there are countless ways to lose yourself in the loveliness of the Louvre.

Classical Meets Contemporary

For me, the love fest with the world’s largest and most-visited museum actually starts with the building’s expansive grounds that border the Right Bank of the Seine River and run along the charming Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

From the glorious Tuileries Gardens to the grand Carrousel Triumphal Arch that lead into the museum’s main courtyard, Cour Napoleon, classical architecture and sculptures abound and are then strikingly juxtaposed against I.M. Pei’s contemporary glass and metal pyramids that mark the central entrance into all wings of the Louvre.

While there are numerous sculptures carved into the Louvre’s facade, there is only one statue that stands in the Cour Napoleon and it is Bernini’s brilliant equestrian statue of Louis XIV (The Sun King), which is a lead cast of the original Carrara marble version. Bernini was a sculptural genius and this statue showcases his talents in being able to manipulate stone and create a sense of flowing garments and natural movement.

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Grand Louvre Pyramids

Although highly controversial due to their sleek, modern looks, the Louvre Pyramid (exterior) and The Inverted Pyramid (interior) are undoubtedly two of the Louvre’s star attractions and certainly succeed in creating a sense of intrigue (or repulsion) for visitors depending on their artistic preferences.

Despite the initial outcry of purists who felt the pyramid designs were inconsistent with the classical French Renaissance style of the original buildings, there has been no negligible impact to attendance figures. On any given day, crowds continue to throng to the Louvre to take in its many marvels.

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Four Fabulous Levels of Loveliness

With 38,000 objects on display at any given time, the Louvre collection spreads over four levels starting from the basement entrance and continuing up for three floors.

Basement

The galleries in the basement include works of Islamic art; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; and  sections dedicated to the history of the Louvre and remnants of medieval vaults dating back to King Louis IX.

One of the highlights from the Egyptian gallery is The Crypt of the Sphinx, which is a half man (pharaoh’s head) and half animal (lion’s body) rose-coloured granite sculpture.

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First Floor

Venus de Milo is on full display in her resplendent glory in the Greek antiquities gallery on the first floor. Other galleries on this level include Oriental, Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; and African, Asian, Oceanic and Native American art.

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Second Floor

Decorative arts such as floor to ceiling tapestries, table-top statuettes and ceramic vases take up half of the second floor; the other half is divided between Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian and Spanish painting; and Italian drawings.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is located on the second floor, as well as the museum’s largest painting, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, which famously depicts the Biblical story when Jesus turns water into wine. (Note: Expect to feel like a crammed in sardine when viewing the Mona Lisa and hold your camera steady as there will be plenty of jostling about and jockeying for position to get a picture of da Vinci’s famous lady.)

Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People is an outstanding historical piece on display in the French Painting gallery. Many works by Jacques-Louis David are also found in this gallery, including The Coronation of Napoleon, Oath of the Horatii, and The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

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Third Floor

Drawings and paintings from French, German, Flemish and Dutch artists are featured on the third floor.

Some of the works from early German and Dutch masters include Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger, Self-Portrait with Thistle by Albrecht Durer, and The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck.

Flemish and Dutch Baroque paintings from the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, and Jan Vermeer also adorn the third floor gallery walls. Among their well-known works are The Medicis Cycle by Rubens, Charles I at the Hunt by van Dyck, and The Lacemaker by Vermeer.

Planning and Pace Pays Off

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, seeing all of the Louvre is going to take more than one visit. The key to conquering the Louvre is to have a strategy in place. With a little bit of pre-planning and commitment to sticking to a steady pace once inside the museum’s hallowed hallows, your efforts will be rewarded in seeing a dizzying array of some of the world’s best art.


Feel the LOVE for the Philadelphia Museum of Art

May 15, 2018
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Sitting high on a hill at the end of the beautiful Champs Elysees-inspired Benjamin Franklin Parkway, it’s easy to feel the love for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

With its Greek temple facade and iconic 72 stone steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone during the filming of the first Rocky movie, the building’s design elements and physical surroundings are glorious and set the stage for the glories that lie within. (Note: The view of downtown is pretty spectacular from the museum’s East Entrance, which  overlooks the parkway as well as Eakins Oval, a traffic circle where the Washington Monument and its fountains are located.)

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After sufficiently admiring the city skyline and greenery of the parkway, head inside for more jaw-dropping beauty.

The museum’s collection includes Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh, Japanese Footbridge by Claude Monet, and several other notable Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from the likes of Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and their contemporaries.

Sculptures, South Asian art, and cultural period rooms are other prime museum features along with modernist pieces by French artist Marcel Duchamp, and American historical works from the Shakers and Pennsylvania Germans.

Flying High Like Rocky and Feeling the Brotherly Love

Yes, after a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you’ll be flying high like Rocky and feeling Philly’s brotherly love. BTW, the Rocky statue is located at the base of the stone steps (known locally as the Rocky Steps) leading to the museum’s East Entrance, and the LOVE statue is found in John F. Kennedy Plaza near the starting point of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so be sure to include these must-see Philly landmarks as part of your museum excursion.

 


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