Saturday, May 16, 2015

We Went to Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago

Finally finished with all of his boring workity-work, Matt was able to spend our last day in Chicago with us. We tooled through Daley and Millennium Parks plenty more, but our ultimate destination was the Art Institute of Chicago.

Let's see some fancy art!
This one politely accommodated my baffling request to pose with the work of art.
This one... not so much. I love how even Van Gogh, himself, is giving her a look of exasperation.
I sort of got them to do this one, but then, even I gave up. Really, all I wanted to do was reshoot it with Will holding the pitchfork in the correct hand! You'd think I was proposing that she do something genuinely embarrassing!
 To be fair, I really AM an embarrassing person to be with.

I studied Medieval Christian art, in part, in grad school, and I have a special talent for identifying all the people and icons in Crucifixion scenes, so I insisted on doing a lot of that at the museum. Lots of "Look, there's Mary, obviously, because she's about to faint, but check out the ginger chick literally trying to scale the cross--that's Mary Magdalene! Oh, and see the guy with the spear? Ooh, and the other guy with the cup? We could totally start our own magical quest to go look for them in real life--it's the basis for, like, every good adventure movie!"

In between medieval art, Van Gogh, and American Gothic, we saw all the other things:
This one is interesting because that blue chick in the foreground was at one point CUT OUT of the painting on account of she's scandalous. She was reattached, but if you look closely, you can see the seams.

We did a lot of looking at all the things, and then took a lunch break.

We travel a lot, and when we do, I like to pack practically all of our food for the trip. Fast food is unhealthy, sit-down food is expensive (and still tends to be unhealthy), and both options are more time-consuming than simply sitting down and eating one's packed sandwich, chips, and clementine. I like to plan for a couple of special meals during a trip, but I've found that it's just much easier to budget for groceries than it is for restaurants, and I find the experience of sitting in a park eating sandwiches to be much more enjoyable than sitting in a cafe eating a meal.

The kids and I are easy with food--in the hotel room in the morning, we make nut butter and jelly sandwiches and bag up some chips and decide who wants clementines and who wants baby carrots and we're done until dinner. As we walked out of the art museum and into the park for lunch, however, the kids and I discussing who had made what kind of sandwich (there was a rare jar of Nutella in our grocery bag on this trip, and it had been featured in all kinds of yummy combinations), Matt reminded us all that he is NOT easy with food.

In fact, just between you and me, Matt is a fussy eater.

I offered the man half of my almond butter and raspberry jam bagel. Syd said that he could have some of her Nutella and jelly sandwich. There were two perfectly good granola bars up for grabs by anyone. But Matt insisted, "No, I want REAL food!"

Real food, hmm? Real food. As opposed to the imaginary lunches that I have been feeding my children as I chaperone them around Chicago and show them all the sights all by myself for two days, eh?

Fine. Since we're walking to the park, anyway, and since hot dogs are on my list of Chicago meals that I wanted to experience during our visit (we'd eaten the other item, deep-dish pizza, for dinner the other night), I suggested that we eat hot dogs instead of our packed lunches.

The kids' hot dogs had onions and relish and mustard on them. My hot dog had onions, relish, mustard, vinegar, tomato slices, jalepenos, and a pickle.

Matt's hot dog? It consisted of a plain weiner on a plain bun. A toddler wouldn't even order a hot dog that way. It was also probably--what, 400 calories? How that man planned to sustain himself through an entire afternoon at an art museum and then a walk back to the hotel and then an hour's drive on to the Indiana Dunes I do not know.

But at least it was real food.

My hot dog, just in case you're keeping score, was quite yummy.

Matt and I had seen our must-sees in the morning, but the museum also has a Family Scavenger Hunt, and kids get a prize for completing it, so we devoted the afternoon to that, putting the kids in charge of all navigation and clue deciphering:

Let me tell you--this scavenger hunt MADE our trip to the art museum. The kids dutifully followed us around all morning and looked at all the stuff and were interested, but it was clear that it was OUR thing, you know? But the Family Scavenger Hunt was their thing, and so they had to figure out the navigation and the clues.

Can I just say that navigating the Art Institute of Chicago is impossible? It wouldn't be terribly laid out if the signage was better, but most of the time it's absent, and when it is there, it's confusing--I swear that at one staircase, the American Art sign pointed in two different directions, and neither way would really get you to American Art.

Add to that the fact that although each gallery has a number, that number is not always (or often) displayed in that gallery, so that you can see where you actually are in order to navigate from there. Will would study the map deeply, draw our path from where we were to where we wanted to go, and then we'd still get lost getting there, because we couldn't follow the numbers:

Nevertheless, the Family Scavenger Hunt was huge fun, AND it got us all over the museum, looking at exhibits like the fascinating miniatures, and the paperweights, that I otherwise wouldn't have gone to see.
The kids have been asked to figure out what animal inspired the dragon's tail (it's an alligator!).
After we completed the scavenger hunt, the kids got prizes (mini sketchbooks--very awesome) and I bought postcards. I'm a big postcard buyer, but art museums are really the only places that you can still get a good selection of postcards. At a buck or so each, I feel like art print postcards are a decent price for a mini-print of a piece of art--I always pick out a few for our gallery wall or our homeschooling, and I always let the kids each choose one to put on the wall by their beds.

Our visit to Chicago connected us to lots of subjects that I'd like to slowly continue to explore in the next few weeks, not the least of which is a deeper study of some of the artists and artworks that we encountered here.

Here are some more of the Chicago-themed resources that we've been enjoying:

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