Big City Tales

The Power of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

October 24, 2018
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With its sprawling 65,000 square-foot plaza, soaring 162-foot tower, and striking glass-enclosed double pyramid main entrance, the power of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Rock Hall) building is palpable. Add in its prime lakefront location along Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor and its photo-opp LONG LIVE ROCK anthem sign, the exterior impression is nothing short of pulsating! Rest assured, the energy continues to surge from the moment you head inside and begin exploring the Rock Hall from the ground up.

Main Galleries

Named for the Rock Hall’s founder and former chairman of Atlantic Records, the Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall sets the stage for a truly rockin’ experience ahead. The spirit of rock and roll is alive and well as you stroll through the galleries and admire vivid imagery, colorful anecdotes and priceless memorabilia.

By the way, it should be noted here that three of the primary reasons why the Rock Hall is based in Cleveland is because of the city’s history with rock music. Firstly, a local disc jockey, Alan Freed, coined the term “rock and roll” back in the early 1950s. Secondly, the first rock concert was staged at the Cleveland Arena in 1952 as part of a live dance event called the Moondog Coronation Ball. Thirdly, “The Buzzard” radio station (WMMS) launched the careers of David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Roxy Music, Rush and many others in the 1970s and 1980s.

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The evolution of the rock genre is the focus of the Stewart Gallery: The Roots of Rock that explores the influence of blues, gospel, R&B, country, bluegrass and folk music on emerging artists in the late 1940s/early 1950s.

In the Cities and Sounds gallery, cities such as Memphis, Detroit, Liverpool, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Seattle are showcased for their contributions to the ongoing development of rock music over the decades. The exhibits feature major musical eras such as Motown, the British Invasion, Punk and Grunge; provide an overview of key dates and historical facts; and display time-period specific instruments, stage costumes, album covers, promotional materials and a host of other noteworthy artifacts.

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Fittingly, the indisputable “King of Rock and Roll” is honored in the Elvis gallery that details his full life story. Fans of the The King will appreciate the breadth of paraphernalia on display such as a custom jukebox, guitar and automobile. From his early days as an unknown artist in Memphis, to his stint in the US Army, to his Hollywood B Movie fame, to his Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite concert that aired around the world in 1973, the gallery definitely captures the highs and lows of The King’s all too short existence.

In the Legends of Rock and Roll gallery, personal items belonging to Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Steven Tyler and Aerosmith, Debbie Harry and Blondie, among other famous acts are front and center. The gallery’s purpose is to highlight everything from the visual spectacle of concerts to the behind the scenes song-writing process.

Special Exhibits

The Rock Hall is known for its care and attention to special exhibits that regularly change out such as the 50 year anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine that was the subject matter in 2017. Along with a re-creation of its physical office space in New York City, the exhibit included a collage of the magazine’s covers and snippets from famous articles.

Iconic Landmark ‘Rocks Around the Clock’

While the Rock Hall typically closes it doors at 5pm, the building lights up at night and pulses with the energy of the rock and roll rhythms that inspired I.M. Pei’s bold and eye-catching design. The internationally-acclaimed architect definitely struck the right creative chord and gifted the city of Cleveland with an iconic landmark on Rock and Roll Boulevard that visitors can enjoy as they ‘rock, rock, rock ’till broad daylight’ when the Rock Hall opens its doors again.

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The Forever Benefits of the Cleveland Museum of Art

October 17, 2018
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When the Cleveland Museum of Arts opened in 1916, the lofty vision of its founders was that it would be a place that would forever benefit the people who passed through its doors. Over 100 years later, the founders can rest easy knowing that not only is the museum one of the city’s most cherished landmarks, it is also one of Ohio’s most beloved cultural institutions, and is one of America’s most valuable art collections. Internationally, the museum is renowned for its holdings of Ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman art, as well as an array of eclectic modern sculptures, including a cast of Rodin’s The Thinker that is situated outside at the top of the main staircase.

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Wade Park Charm

Along with its gorgeous interior space, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s exterior landscape is sumptuous and pretty as a postcard. Located in the historic Wade Park district in East Cleveland, the sprawling grounds feature a peaceful lagoon and the Fine Arts Garden where many statues are displayed. Two well-known works that can be admired in this area are Night Passing the Earth to Day by Frank Jirouch and Fountain of the Waters by Chester Beach.

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European Elegance

Heading back indoors, the beauty of the Beaux-Arts building continues to dazzle with its white marble floors and walls, and neoclassical stylistic elements. The galleries are elegant and the rotunda corridors are spacious allowing for prime viewing of central displays such as Antonio Canova’s Muse of Lyric Poetry, which the Italian master carved in 1816 and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London.

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Greek and Roman Treasures

From the torsos of Greek and Roman gods to the heads of political and military leaders, the museum’s collection of bronzes may not be large but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up with high quality pieces. Two of its masterworks are The Emperor as Philosopher (likely an imperial portrait of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) and the figure of Apollo the Python-Slayer credited to Praxiteles, the 4th Century BC Greek sculptor who was the first to produce a life-size female nude.

Armor Court Glamour

One of the grandest installments in the Cleveland Museum of Art is the Arms and Armor room that contains tapestries, portraits, weaponry and full battle armor. Armor for Man and Horse with Vols-Colonna Arms is from Northern Italy and dates to the late 1500s. Some of its distinctive features are etched animals and other figures, and a family coat of arms that appears in seven different spots. With hundreds of medieval artifacts on display, the armor court offers a glimpse back in time to the glory days of knights and their mounts waging battle on behalf of their kingdoms and fair maidens.

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Modern Sculpture Whimsy

One of the museum’s most popular works is Standing Mitt with Ball sculpted by Claes Oldenburg that features a massive steel and lead glove holding a ball made of wooden planks. Considering Cleveland is a baseball crazy town, this playful take on America’s favorite pastime is a fitting part of the museum’s permanent collection and proudly sits in the atrium courtyard in front of the main entrance into the galleries.

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A Lasting Gift

In its first century of existence, the Cleveland Museum of Art has definitely made a lasting impression on art patrons and it appears good things are in store for the museum’s next hundred years. Following a successful capital campaign to raise funds for a major renovation and expansion, the museum is poised to continue its vision of existing for the benefit of all the people forever…and ever…and ever….

 


Carnegie Museums Bring the World to Pittsburgh

October 3, 2018
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After making a name for himself as a shrewd (and VERY rich!) businessman in the late 1800’s, Andrew Carnegie turned his attention from building corporate empires to championing societal causes. Carnegie spent the last 18 years of his life (from 1901 to 1919) passionately engaged in the pursuit of philanthropic efforts that included establishing libraries, universities and cultural institutions around the world, many in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Carnegie Steel Company was based. The Carnegie Museums were legacy gifts to the citizens of Pittsburgh, the vast majority whom Carnegie knew first-hand would never have the means to experience life outside of the United States, so he endeavored to bring the world to them.

Museum of Art

Located in the historic Oakland district, the Carnegie Museum of Art was the first of its kind in the United States to be focused primarily on exhibiting contemporary works. Carnegie’s vision was to build a modern art collection consisting of the “Old Masters of tomorrow” who were the emerging artists of the day such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Thomas Eakins, Henri Matisse, Winslow Homer and others. Today, the museum’s permanent collection consists of some 35,000 works including paintings, decorative arts, sculptures and other installations.

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Plaster Casts

Along with showcasing modern works, Carnegie was keen to expose Pittsburghers to some of the world’s greatest architectural wonders from ancient, classical and medieval times. No easy task, but his quest was made easier in that the making of large scale plaster casts was all the rage during the late Victorian era, including Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek and Roman sculptures; and building facades such as the Porch of the Maidens and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

The Hall of Sculptures

The balcony area leading into the Hall of Sculptures features numerous full scale plaster cast sculptures, as well as a variety of decorative arts dated between the 18th and 20th centuries. The interior of the hall is based on the Parthenon’s inner sanctum complete with towering columns, a carved frieze and high ceilings.

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Hall of Architecture

The museum’s collection of architectural plaster casts is the largest in the United States, and third largest in the world. Of the 140 pieces, two of the grandest are the West Portal of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, a Benedictine abbey in France that was built in the Provencal Romanesque style; and the Northern Portal of the Bordeaux Cathedral that features Romanesque and Gothic design elements. In addition to building facades, the Hall of Architecture also contains elaborately carved sarcophagi and Ancient Greek and Roman statues.

Museum of Natural History 

While Carnegie and his team of experts were tending to the acquisition of paintings and sculptures for the new art museum between 1895-1898, archaeologists in the western United States were making some major discoveries of prehistoric dinosaur bones.

Upon hearing the news, Carnegie saw a potential opportunity to now also bring the world of natural history to Pittsburgh. He sent a hand-picked team of scientists to undertake digs in Wyoming where they were successful in finding many fossils, including one named in honor of Carnegie’s patronage, Diplodocus carnegii, that is today nicknamed “Dippy” and is proudly displayed in its natural habitat.

Dinosaur Hall

Dinosaur Hall was constructed in the early 1900s to showcase Dippy and the other finds from the Mesozoic Era such as Apatosaurus louisaeTyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, among dozens of other original fossils.

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Art + Natural History + Science + Warhol = Lasting Legacy

It’s been over 120 years since Andrew Carnegie first hatched his plan to bring the world to Pittsburgh. Today, the Carnegie Museums include the Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum, and both the Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History have undergone major upgrades and expansions in recent years to accommodate new exhibits and galleries. Without a doubt, Carnegie created a lasting legacy not only for Pittsburghers but also for legions of out-of-town and country visitors who annually descend on the city to soak up its unique heritage.