Midwest Tour, Day 7: Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here We Come

We left Madison bright and early this morning to get a head start on the day’s heavy amount of driving. Before completely departing the capitol, however, we stopped by a “lost” Richard Haas mural.  Haas completed this mural in 1987 and it beautified an already beautiful city for almost a decade.  In the 1990s, however, Madison decided to revive a Frank Lloyd Wright design for the City–Monona Terrace.  In completing the Wright design, the Haas mural was relegated to the side of a tunnel wall.  Not made to be seen in tunnel, and obscured by newly installed load-bearing columns for the overpass, the Haas mural of Wisconsin’s history is all but destroyed.  Still, we discovered vestiges of it.

Haas_Mural_Madison_WI_Web

With that sad sight in mind, we began the winding drive to Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque, a small town along the Mississippi, was founded in 1833 and is home to an incline that gives panoramic views of the surrounding area. We arrived at the bottom of the incline, nervous (editor’s note: mostly Constance was nervous) about the rickety tram that would take us up the steep embankment.

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We piled in, however nervous we may have been, and slowly made it up the hill.

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The anticipation was worth it in the end, as we were able to look out over the Iowa hillside and appreciate the breathtaking view…

Dubuque_Skyline_Web…and take photos…

…and more photos…

Dubuque_Incline_Constance_Alex_2_Web…and more photos…

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…and to see how far we had come up the mountain.

Dubuque_Incline_Tracks_WebAfter a couple pictures, we rode down in the tram once more to find solace in the warmth of the minivan.

By the end, we (Constance, especially) were proud of the trip up and back!

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We then drove to the gravesite of Dubuque’s founding father, Julien Dubuque. The grave, memorialized by a turret-like structure, sits on the edge of a mountain along the Mississippi.

Dubuque_Memorial_Web

We braved the semi-cold to appreciate the view of Dubuque and the fall colors of the area. Dubuque, who maintained a healthy relationship with the local Native American tribe, rests near the grave of Chief Peosta’s, leader of the Meskwaki tribe (and Dubuque’s father-in-law).

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We snapped a couple pictures of the mighty Mississippi…

Dubuque_Monument_Constance_Alex_Web…with and without us…

Dubuque_Monument_Overlook_Web…and then headed back to the car for our next stop.

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After a few hours, we stopped for lunch at Her Soup Kitchen. A small, local eatery, the restaurant boasts local, fresh ingredients, which we enjoyed immensely. The cold weather made the soup even more delectable, as we warmed up from the inside, out.

Her_Soup_Kitchen_Sandwich_Soup

It was a neat place to eat, and we hope that the place thrives!

With a warm midwestern meal in our stomachs, we headed to not only an icon of the midwest, but an icon of the American scene: The American Gothic house.

American_Gothic_House_Visitor_Center_Web

Painted by Grant Wood, “American Gothic” remains a well-known art piece to Americans and foreigners alike. We were lucky enough to catch the piece at the Chicago Art Institute…

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…and this made visiting the home all the more rewarding.  Although it rests in a small town, a visitor’s center and Grant Wood museum accompany the site of the home.

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We walked in and promptly began putting on costumes to impersonate the couple in the photo. Once dressed, we posed in front of the home with the most convincing faces we could muster up which seemed a harder task than once originally expected!

American_Gothic_Alex_Constance_2_WebSwitching costumes, we continued the photo opportunity in opposite outfits but still finding it difficult to portray the seriousness Wood intended. All silliness aside, it was exciting being able to reenact history after seeing the original painting in Chicago.

We headed inside to the museum to learn a bit more about the artist himself. Born in 1891 in Anamosa, Iowa, Mr. Wood lived a very interesting life. A teacher, soldier, and artist at last, Grant Wood studied impressionism and post-impressionism in Europe and became the artist we know today under these occupations. Friend of Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, Wood practiced the art of Regionalism with his colleagues, whom we have also had the chance of viewing at other museums this trip. Although posthumously famous, Wood lived a fairly middle-class life and supported his hometown through the Great Depression by opening the Stone City Art Colony. He married, divorced, and died one day away from fifty-one from pancreatic cancer. We left a bit more knowledgeable about the artist and having enjoyed the driving break, got back on the road to finish the drive to Kansas City.

American_Gothic_Museum_1_Web
Once we arrived in Kansas City, we took advantage of the late closing hours of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. While walking up to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art we were greeted by one of Louise Bourgeois famous giant spider sculptures.

Segway_Kemper_Burgeoise_2_WebThe Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art had a “Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland” exhibition while we were there that had a dark motif. As we walked through the temporary exhibit we had some group favorites such as “Canary” by Vesa-Pekka Rannikko ,which used ropes to complete its illusion. Another group favorite was “Cottage” by Nanna Susi.

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Constance was pleased to see one of Georgia O’Keefe’s early paintings as well. I think that the highlight of the museum was the two Dale Chihuly pieces that were on displays at the Kemper Museum of contemporary Art.

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We then walked over to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum’s south entrance, which featured Rodin’s “Thinker”. With the museum closing soon, we were only able to walk through a part of the massive building. Even though we only had a short amount of time, we did spot some great pieces. We were able to see some more of Georgia O’Keefe’s floral paintings…

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and another titled “Autumn Trees”.  One of Professor Yawn’s favored pieces included “Utah Highlands” painted by Thomas Hart Benton.

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We also found an interesting transformation piece in the Asian art gallery that showed a mountainside changing seasons. We ended our self-guided tour of the museum in the Contemporary Art gallery where we saw Andy Warhol’s very famous “Campbell’s Soup Can” along with other interesting pieces.

Neslon_Atkins_Warhol_Campbells_Soup_Web

Hungry, we raced down to Grunauer for dinner. We tried three different sausages and some pork belly before our main course.

Grunaeur_AppetizersConstance and I shared the A la Grunauer Schnitzel. The schnitzel was breaded pork stuffed with creamed spinach, and tasted amazing. Our entrees were delicious and we ended our dinner with an apple strudel.

Grunaeur_Strudel

After an amazing and very filling dinner, we walked over to Union Station.

Union_Station_Constance_Alex_Web

We were able to stand on one of the walking bridges just in time for the train to speed right below us. After exploring and taking a few pictures in the beautiful building, we were ready for a good nights rest so that we could start our morning bright and early.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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