Our Kind of Town–Chicago

On our Sunday Chicago adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors continued on the path of artistic enlightenment by visiting the Chicago Institute of Art and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie Home. This as part of our Vagabond Research Trip which would lead us our first meeting with New York Times bestseller author Jeff Guinn, which we would soon meet with in Dearborn, Michigan. However, to shake off our morning drowsiness we climbed up Willis Tower to hover over Chicago in the skyscraper’s Skydeck.


Willis Tower Skydeck–by Brian Aldaco

Upon entrance of the tower, with grounded pillars exposed so as to view the building’s essential elements to its prominent stature, we  joined the crowed who anxiously await the hundred-and-three-story ascent to the glass viewing enclosure. Huddled inside the elevator we arrived at our floor of destination after a minute long ride (the same climb which takes ninety seconds to complete during windy weather). At the top of the 1,730 ft building, a size comparable to 283 vertical Barack Obamas, the view of the Windy City was breathtaking.

Willis Tower, Skydeck
Chicago Skyline from Skydeck at Willis Tower

Whether this was caused by the vista from the clouds or the vertigo of being on their level, our hearts were firmly set on forcing our bodies to step over the ledge onto the clear-glass viewing deck. Suspended over the city, with feet seemingly floating over the ground, sweaty palms, and throbbing heads nervous about the deck’s ability to keep us safely enclosed…

The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck
The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck

…Professor Yawn wisely suggested that we create a photo-op by jumping upon the skydeck.  This turned out to be more fun than dangerous, but ultimately futile as a photo-op because the skydeck photographers couldn’t time the photos correctly.


Art Institute of Chicago, by Brian Aldaco and Paul Oliver

Having experienced our elevated adventure, our next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago; a sprawling, labyrinthine art museum that contained art from a myraid of different cultures and ages.

Art Institute of Chicago
Paul Plans his Route in the Art Institute of Chicago

We had the opportunity to see several famous pieces, such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Grant Wood, American Gothic, Art Institute of Chicago
American Gothic, by Grant Wood

Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and of course, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

 After viewing Nighthawks together…

Art_Institute_Chicago_Nighthawks_B-Ryan_Web

…we went our separate ways. Paul traveled back in time to Ancient Greece and Rome, looking at the Roman statuary, Greek pottery, and Byzantine pieces on display. Of special note in this section was a Roman reproduction of the Aphrodite of Knidos. The original Aphrodite was a Greek statue, and it was contentious in its time, for it was the first instance of a goddess being depicted in the nude. Also of interest were the Greek amphoras, kylixes, and other pottery pieces. The amphora is a larger container that presents a larger space for the artist, whereas the kylix is a smaller, but broad object, that was used as a wine goblet. The amount of wine that could be held by a kylix looks substantial, but the Greeks believed it to be a mark of the barbarian to drink wine unmixed. Therefore, they would add water to it, which perhaps justifies the size of the kylixes. The pottery itself takes two styles generally; black figure and red figure. The color refers to what hue the people depicted are, so on a black figure amphora, the heroes or gods represented are black, and the background is red. The reverse is true for a red figure work. Paul also went to see the Medieval Arms & Armor section, but unfortunately it was not open yet!

Simultaneously on the Modern Wing of the museum, Professor Yawn, Brian Aldaco, and Ryan Brim viewed multiple works from artists of diverse periods in art history. The turn of 20th century was captured by works of artists such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James Whistler, the latter of whom helped usher in impressionism in the United States.

James Whistler's Nocturne, Art Institute of Chicago
James Whistler’s “Nocturne–Blue and Gold”

In further floors we also viewed works from Great Depression artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper whose desire to capture everyday rural and urban American life was astonishing. We also attempted to study the abstractions and surrealism behind the works of Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, Art Institute of Chicago
Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”

To further strain our left analytic hemisphere, we viewed the works of conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and other contemporary artists.

Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, Art Institute of Chicago
Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A”

Millennium Park, by Brian Aldaco

Having completed our journey through a century’s worth of art, we joined the pedestrian throng towards Millennium Park. As we passed Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, where happy children frolicked under the spewing gush of water (which shot from the mouths of the fountain’s face-depicting pillars); its refreshing spray was welcoming against the city’s heat. Going along the park we found its signature Cloud Gate sculpture, most commonly known as “The Bean.” With its mirror image of the surrounding skyline which warped as the rounded angles revolved around the sculpture, we neared it’s metal surface and seemingly became part of the picturesque vista. Soon after taking a couple of pictures of us LEAPing by the sculpture…

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…we ordered a Chicago-style hotdog at a nearby stand. Thus, we lunched in true Chicago style over the city’s patrimonial treasure.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Robie House,” by Ryan Brim

After some the authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in Millennium Park, we headed over to the campus of the University of Chicago, where we toured the Robie House, built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. Like many of his other homes, Wright built the prairie style house by accentuating long horizontal lines to draw one’s eye across the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Chicago, Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Robie House”

Before we entered the front door, we were met with a low ceiling that was similar in height and in material to the one just inside the greeting area. This created a sort of transition space that allows a guest to have a seamless transition between the outside and inside. Once we went up the stairs to the main living area and dining area, the ceiling became taller, and the room brighter. This is another one of his techniques called “compress and release,” forcing people out of the dimly-lit greeting area and into the bright living space. Although there are no doors separating the dining and living areas, there is a fireplace that breaks up the two spaces.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House
Living Area in “The Robie House”

Mr. Wright believed that there should be as few enclosed rooms in a house as possible, so he made an opening at the top of the fireplace so that someone in one room could see the continuing ceiling across the whole floor. He did this by diverting the smoke into two separate chimneys, leaving the middle open from obstruction. There were also many windows and French doors all along the room connecting the exterior with the interior and making the room seem much bigger. In the dining area, there would have been a dining table with pillars as legs extending above its surface on which one could set lights. Similarly the table was fashioned with high backed chairs, so when people would eat dinner together there they would have sufficient lighting and the high chairs made the table seem to be a space within a space. On the third level were the bedrooms and bathrooms, each with natural lighting from many windows. The servants quarters and kitchen were on the second level, keeping them level with the rest of the family for according to Wright’s philosophy everyone was of equal worth. Just above the servant’s quarters was the car garage where the gift shop is today.


Moving On

After leaving the beautiful home, we made our way through Illinois and Indiana to finally reach Michigan. Somewhere along the state in need of a place to switch drivers and stretch our legs, we stopped at Coloma, Michigan, to go to the Chocolate Garden. The small business which specializes in chocolate truffles, according to one of the ladies working there, was started in 1998 as an online business. The eventual physical location was built in an old barn, but quickly expanded. Notably, the Chocolate Garden has been featured on the Food Network, which helped propel it to fame.

In addition to the Chocolate Garden’s wide assortment in chlorate truffles, it also has a “tasting bar.”

Chocolate Garden's Truffles at the Tasting Bar
Chocolate Garden’s Truffles at the Tasting Bar

It is here where for a small fee it is possible to taste up to three different types of these truffles of chocolatey delight. Professor Yawn lamented that the LEAP ladies were not along on this trip, as they surely would have enjoyed this stop. With this in mind, we joyously sampled the rich, delectable chocolate truffles. The “Darkest Dark” truffle and the “Vanilla Rose” were both exceptionally scrumptious. It was truly a must-stop for any chocolate aficionado and a tragedy that the ladies were not with us.

As we left, Professor Yawn, in a seemingly magnanimous gesture, proffered us a truffle he had purchased. Brian and Paul both took the sample from him and enjoyed the chocolate taste for a brief second.  As it turned out, though, the truffle was a “Cayenne Kick,” which packed a nasty spice that only becomes apparent after a few seconds. Needless to say, Professor Yawn got a kick out of our reactions.

After our sweet treat we continued on our trip where we eventually entered Dearborn ready to soothe our growling stomachs at Rex’s Golden Grill. With a diner menu of fish and chips and burgers, we were very much satisfied with the evening’s repast. It was so that we finished our Sunday evening in Dearborn, ready to start our first day of Vagabond research early in the morning.

Gateway to (Mid)West: St. Louis

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It seemed too soon to reminisce about the first half of our trip, which was filled with fun activities and meeting great people.  But, as we packed for our next destination early in the morning, contemplated the great people we had met and the fun of visiting Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Lexington, and Frankfort.

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Ambassadors with Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess, Authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip”

But with St. Louis on our destination list for today, we hastened to pack and headed out at 4am, a bit groggy, but excited for the Midwest section of the trip.


The Old Courthouse, St. Louis

Five hours later, we were able to make our first stop: the Old Courthouse.

Dred Scott Courthouse, Missouri, St. Louis
The Old Courthouse, Where the Dred Scott Case Originated, St. Louis, MO

We were out on the road again until we reached St. Louis, Missouri where our first stop was the Old Courthouse. This courthouse is especially important because this is where the famous Dred Scott case was brought to trial. Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves that filed a suit for their freedom against Irene Emerson, their slave owner. They tried to take advantage of the Missouri law that would allow them to buy their freedom, and after many years of hardship the judges finally came to a conclusion. In 1857, it was decided that they were not to be considered citizens of Missouri; therefore they could not sue for their freedom. Having grown tired of the slave family, the Emerson family sold them to the Blow family where the Scotts were finally set free. Sadly, Dred Scott enjoyed his freedom only for a short while as he died a year later in 1858.

There is an exhibit in the Old Courthouse where the courtroom in which this trial was heard is displayed.  It was filled with chairs for the jury, two desks for the attorneys, a desk for a bailiff, and a clerk, a chair for witnesses, and a chair for the presiding judge. We even recreated the trial ourselves!

LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case
LEAP Ambassadors Re-Enact Dred Scott Case

Apart from its historic value, the courthouse is a beautiful structure, with a beautiful dome designed by William Rumbold.

Old Courthouse, St. Louis, Dred Scott
Old Courthouse Dome, Designed by William Rumbold with Murals by Karl Wimar

As part of LEAP, we are always seeking ways to expand our knowledge. So it is only fitting that we visit the monumental symbol of the westward expansion as our next stop.


The Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Gateway Arch, St. Louis,
Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947

The westward expansion, aided greatly by the Louisiana Purchase, doubled the size of the United States in 1803. In honor of America moving into a more prosperous and hopeful state, The Arch was built as the “gateway to the west.” The Arch proudly stands at an intimidating 630 feet making it the tallest man-made monument in the nation.

Arch_Web

The architect, Eero Saarinen, was an immigrant from Finland and was granted this opportunity after winning a contest by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1947. After studying architecture at Yale, he believed this was the opportunity to establish himself as an architect in America and it was. Although the design for this structure was completed in 1947, the real structure was not completed until 1965! We learned that this monument was brilliantly made with 142 stainless steel triangle sections that are each 12 feet in length held together by tension bars and truss. It took 13 years to raise the 13 million dollars needed to fund this project. In 1967, a trans system was built inside the north and south legs of the arch allowing 40 people at a time to view the impressive view. It was through these same legs that we rode through in our capsules.

Gateway Arch Elevator St. Louis
Gateway Arch “Elevator” or Travel Pod

It was tremendously fun to be able to enjoy the arch’s view…

Gateway Arch
Beatriz, Kaitlyn, and Karla at Top of Gateway Arch

…and see parts of St. Louis that we looked forward to exploring.

Gateway Arch, Dred Scott Courthouse, Wainright Building
St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch

Once back on the ground, we were also able to watch an informative documentary about the arch and its history.  Expansion in 1803 meant a hopeful future for some and that is our motivation as we expand our education in college and on our trips.

Originally, we had planned to visit the city garden that was near the courthouse. With its luscious greenery, sparkling fountains, and marvelous art we were all prepared to relax and enjoy the perfect view of the arch it would offer. Or so we imagined. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit a trip to that destination.


Photo Ops in St. Louis

Remaining undaunted, we decided to go on a photo op adventure instead. Our first photo op stop was a Richard Haas mural.  With two of our students having been interns at the Wynne Home, his work has a special meaning to us, and fourteen of his works dot the downtown of Huntsville.

Richard Haas, St. Louis, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors in front of Richard Haas Mural

None of the ones in Huntsville, however, cover the 110,000 square feet of the one adorning the Old Edison Stores Building in St. Louis.

Next, we headed over to the St. Louis Union Station  Building, which is a beautiful structure, now a Doubletree by Hilton.  But its interiors were what we found most intriguing…

Union Station in St. Louis, Double Tree
Union Station in St. Louis, MO

…even the entrance to the bathrooms were interesting!

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But the grand hall was the most beautiful part.

Doubletree, Union Station, Grand Hotel, St. Louis
Grand Hall at Union Station (Doubletree Hotel) in St. Louis, MO

Across the street is the Milles Fountain, which is also impressive and offers a nice view of the exterior of the Union Station.

Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza, Union State, St. Louis, MO
Milles Fountain at Aloe Plaza

Amighetti’s in The Hill, St. Louis

After a morning of westward exploration and photo ops in St. Louis, we took a quick stroll down The Hill to Amighetti’s.

Amighetti's, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO
Amighetti’s, in The Hill Section of St. Louis, MO

Located in what could be considered St. Louis’ Little Italy, the restaurant provided a prime venue for a satisfying lunch. Under what seemed an authentic tin-lined ceiling, we looked over the menu which included, but was not limited to, the Amighetti’s Special, a ravioli plate, and Little Bit of Italy sandwich.

Little Taste of Italy, Amighetti's, The Hill, St. Louis, MO
A Little Taste of Italy, at Amighetti’s in St. Louis, MO

As for the Amighetti’s Special, the sandwich accomplished its main goal; completely stuff its eater. Made up of ham, roast beef, and Genoa salami, blanketed with a rich layer of brick cheese on a 9 inch loaf of French style bread, it was a near challenge to take a bite. However, the extra effort to open one’s jaw was worth it, for every bite was an opportunity to taste the delicious sandwich. To improve on the experience, the menu presented St. Louis’ own Ritz root-beer. The effervescent, sweet, and smooth root-beer was an enjoyable company to Amighetti’s Special. To close off our lunch we also ordered a round of gelato. Within the group we were able to enjoy a cup of a sour, but satisfying lemon ice, cherry peach, strawberry, and vanilla, all of which we considered of excellent taste. As we stood up from our seat, with a content belly and a cooled off palate, we regained the energy needed to continue our St. Louis exploration at the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home.

On previous adventures, Alex and Ryan had already encountered this one-of-a-kind home a numerous times. Therefore, Professor Yawn decided to give them the opportunity to explore new land by the name of the St. Louis Art Museum. After dropping them off we rerouted to the Kraus home.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

Hidden behind lush greenery, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kraus Home is located in the upscale Kirkwood neighborhood of Saint Louis. Taking a short drive from the art museum, we arrived for a special tour. Normally, tours are not available on Wednesday afternoons, but the staff of the home were generous enough to arrange a tour for us today! Upon arrival, we immediately gaped in awe of the unique architecture and the natural beauty surrounding the home.

Kraus Homee, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

To begin our tour, we watched an introductory video about the Kraus home and its architect. Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 and designed more than 500 structures throughout the United States. Represented in the Kraus home were parallelograms, hexagons, and horizontal lines, all of which accentuated the Usonian vision of Wright. The Kraus home sits on 10.5 acres of land now owned by Saint Louis County as part of its parks system.

In the mid 1940’s, Russell Kraus, a Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast, wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright requesting him to design a small and less expensive home. Nearly ten years later in 1955, the home would finally reach completion. Mr. Kraus lived there until 2001, when a non-profit raised money to purchase the home and the land was deeded to Saint Louis County.

Throughout the tour, Professor Yawn was quick to point out the horizontal attributes of the home, noting even the grooves between the brick walls were designed to draw the eye horizontally instead of vertically. The Kraus home was designed as two hexagons partially overlapping one another.  The entire home is made up of these two hexagons or its subcomponents  (parallelograms and triangles).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Kraus Home, Ebsworth Park, St. Louis, Architecture

Even the bed, for example, is a parallelogram.

We were fascinated throughout the entire tour. In order to preserve the beauty of the home, we were not allowed to take any photographs inside the home. However, we finished our tour with a few photos on the balcony…

Kraus Home, Balcony, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ebsworth Park
Balcony of Kraus Home at Ebsworth Park, Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

…and the exterior.

St_Louis_FLW_Exterior_Ambassadors_2_Web


St. Louis Art Museum

Meanwhile, in the St. Louis Art Museum, Ryan and Alex were being exposed to various forms of art.

SLAM, St. Louis Art Museum
St. Louis Art Museum

One of the major aspects Missouri has to offer is the free admission into museums (excluding special exhibits).  On the three levels of the museum, there were paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from as early as 500-600 BCE to as recent as present day and everything in between. There were pieces of art from all around the world including Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe. Several famous artists’ works could be found at the museum including Monet…

St. Louis, SLAM, Art Museum, Water Lillies, Monet
Monet’s “Water Lilies” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…van Gogh, Picasso, Seurat…

George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum

…Degas, Rodin, Kandinsky, Warhol, Segal, O’Keeffe, and many more. Outside, there was a short path through a small sculpture garden, mostly made up of pieces from Henry Moore.

Henry Moore's "Two-Piece Reclining Figures" at St. Louis Art Museum
Henry Moore’s “Two-Piece Reclining Figures” at St. Louis Art Museum

As we were leaving, a huge storm rolled in, cutting out our trip to a sculpture garden in the downtown area. So instead, we headed towards Bentonville, stopping for a photo-op at the world’s largest fork, and afterwards, stopping for dinner.


Dinner at Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO

Being the home of the world’s largest fork…

World's Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO
World’s Tallest Fork, Springfield, MO

…Springfield appropriately offers numerous eateries from which to choose.

We choose Cafe Cusco, a Peruvian restaurant that has all the attributes of good Peruvian food, without the risk of Zika.

With the buildings soaking in the last rays of the day on Commercial St., we crossed the threshold into the Peruvian cuisine restaurant. As Peruvian folk music sounded its harmonious guitar in the background, we looked through the menu. With a variety of “platos” or dishes, from vegan salads to meaty steaks, the appetite of some of us were attracted to the fried rabbit, fajita saltada, BBQ pork panca, and lomo saltado. First, however, we began our taste of Peru with a seafood dip and fried avocado appetizer.

Seafood Dip, Fried Avocado, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
Seafood Dip and Fried Avocado at Cafe Cusco

As the initial dishes were cleared, we readied ourselves for our main course. Soon the table was enveloped in the spicy aromas of the various dishes. As for the lomo saltado, a dish of steak cooked with bell pepper  and onions served with fries and rice, each scoop of the fork brought to one’s mouth the zesty spice of Peruvian flavor. Perhaps the best of the dishes, however, was the rabbit, which Ryan enjoyed immensely.

Rabbit Entree, Cafe Cusco, Springfield, MO
The Rabbit Dish at Cafe Cusco

In all, the restaurant was more than enough to make us go back to the corner block venue as we were forever in love with these flavorful dishes. For the meantime however, it was time get back to our traveling van for we still had half a state left to ride through.

 

 

Midwest Tour, Day 5: Marvelous Madison!

We started our morning with a fun-filled trip to the admission-free Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. Because of its layout, when we first walked into the zoo, we thought that it was very small, but we soon learned that it was not. In fact, it kept expanding into a bigger area that we had anticipated. As we wandered the zoo, we were greeted by a furry-faced lion…

Zoo_Lion_Web…and some surprisingly active orangutans. Some of our favorite animals were the polar bears, otters, a white rhino…

the giraffes…

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and polar bears.

Zoo_Polar_Bear_Web

The zoo even had a bird aviary where Alex was almost attacked by a parrot! (Okay, not exactly attacked…)

Zoo_Parrot_Web

The zoo also abutted a pretty City park, where they had green space and Lake Wingra…

…along with many geese!

Zoo_Geese_WebBefore heading back, we took some time to enjoy the beautiful foliage in the area…

After that exciting stop, we were ready for lunch–at DLUX. Alex ordered the Farmhouse burger, a beef patty with a fried green tomato, Monterey jack cheese and bacon.

DLUX_Burger_WebThe burger was delicious, but what really gave it a different taste was the tomato jam that came on the side. Constance had the Sunrise burger which featured a fried egg and the tomato jam as well. Alongside the delectable burgers, we shared parmesan and truffle cream fries that were phenomenal. We then tried milkshakes—Salted Caramel, Apple Crisp, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel. All were awesome.

DLUX_Shakes_WebOur appetites satisfied, we made our way to Monona Terrace, via the farmers’ market, which was set up downtown. The market was stocked with locally grown vegetables, fruits, homemade sweets and breads, and of course, plenty of cheese. Some of us were able to sample the many cheeses in spite of our recent, filling lunch.

We ambled our way into Madison’s Monona Terrace, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built posthumously in 1997, following Wright’s many unsuccessful attempts to get the design approved while he was alive.   Monona Terrace now serves as a convention center in downtown Madison, resting between the capitol and Lake Monona.

Monona_Terrace_Capitol_WebCapitol View from Monona Terrace

Wright designed the complete outside of the building, while Anthony Puttnam, an architect from Taliesin Associated Architects, designed some of the interior.

Viewed from the exterior, multiple curves are a defining element to Monona Terrace’s architecture, adding to an almost space-like futuristic feel. Inside, we passed photos of Wright’s work from all over the nation, while Professor Yawn shared his knowledge of the building. Wright’s theme of circles followed us inside as we observed in the use of lighting, signs, and even a round staircase corridor. The floor, covered in bright burgundy carpet in a leaf pattern, struck us right as we walked in.

Although very different from other works we have seen by Wright, Monona Terrace stands out in its majestic beauty and functionality for the city, two areas Wright strived to make exemplary.

Monona_Terrace_Girls_2_Web

Undeterred by the professionals attending a conference, we wandered the halls and even made it outside to the lake-edge to take pictures and enjoy the brisk breeze off the water.

Lake_Monona_Constance_Alex_WebWe also made our way to the terrace…

Monona_Terrace_Trees_Web…where we enjoyed the lake view.

Lake_Monona_Constance_Alex_Selfie_3_Web…and capitol view.

Mr. Wright would have been proud to see his work come to life, as the convention center served functionally a purpose as well as kept with his original design plans.

After finding our way through the streets crowded with thousands of students walking, biking, and running, we found the University of Wisconsin Law School, ready for our tour. We were guided by a law student who informed us of the strong alum community that the law school has, and described the general day of a typical law student at UW. Our tour guide showed us some class rooms, one of which was the constitutional law class room, and one in which the moot court team holds their practices. We also stopped by the much-occupied library and saw John Steuart Curry’s “The Freeing of the Slaves” mural.

Law_School_Mural_Web

Once our tour guide wrapped up his part, we explored the campus for a while before leaving.

After our enlightening tour at the UW School of Law, we regrouped and returned to another part of the UWM campus for some rec time. We evaded much traffic and many pedestrians en route to The Shell, where students at UWM have the opportunity to ice skate, among other activities, as part of their recreational fees.

Excited to do something not generally available in Texas, we grabbed skates and entered the small arena. What we did not expect was the experience of those who would be skating around us. Natural-born Texans, we both have ice-skated only a few times in our lives, combined, with those living in the North likely to learn to skate shortly after walking, as the tale would be told.

We sucked in our pride, put on our skates, and stepped out onto the slick ice. Close to the stress we encountered at the Willis Tower Sky Deck in Chicago, both of us clung to the sidewalls with death grips to avoid falling at all costs.

After a few times around the rink on the wall, Constance got a bit of a hand at it and slowly sped up and away from the safety net.

Alex, meanwhile, stayed closer to the wall, but made a few friends along the way – even one possible future hockey star, if he is to be believed…. We had less than an hour in the rink but had an absolute ball; and Alex insists she must come back in order to truly master the art of ice skating. (Or maybe to check up on that hockey star…)

Finally, after working up an appetite on the ice, we roved through traffic across Madison once more to find dinner. A cute restaurant tucked in a strip mall, Nile offered Mediterranean food that was very different from what we had tried previously. We began the meal with salad, soup, and an appetizer of Kibbee Balls, a fried meat and bulgur mix that had a great smoky flavor. Alex tried the Mediterranean Shrimp, served in a red sauce with a side of rice, while Constance enjoyed the beef kebab and hummus that was truly, otherworldly good. Overall, the meal satisfied our craving for Mediterranean and impressed us at the same time. It was a great day in Wisconsin; one that made us very happy that our paths had crossed with LEAP and Wisconsin!

RR_Tracks_Alex_Constance_Web

 

Midwest, Day 2: Show Us St. Louis, MO!

Not much happens in Little Rock, Arkansas at 5:00 am, LEAP students were thrilled to find out, as we left the City of Bridges early enough to spend the day in St. Louis, Missouri. After passing the six-hour drive sleeping the scenery away, we made it to the “Gateway to the West” around lunchtime, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed straight to the landmark for which the city is best known

Signifying expansion into unknown territory, the Gateway Arch stands 630 feet tall in the St. Louis skyline, beckoning travelers to explore what the city has to offer. Designed by Eero Saarinen, completed in 1965, and designated as a historic site in 1987, the Gateway Arch is visited by thousands annually from all over the world. Located between the Mississippi River and the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch stands 630 feet high–tall, indeed, especially for two people who do not like heights.

Undaunted, we embraced the moment, commemorating with a photograph.

Arch

We then proceeded to hop into a pod that transferred us from underground into the skies of the city.  I (Constance) don’t care for the pod much.

Pod_Constance_Web

After a five-minute ride, we disembarked, climbed a few stairs, and were confronted with windows to the east overlooking the Mississippi and beyond.

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On the opposite side, we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the Old Courthouse, Budweiser Park, the Wainwright Building, and the Edward Jones Dome, home to the St. Louis Rams.

St_Louis_From_Arch_WebThese views come courtesy of small windows in the middle of the arch.

Alex_Arch_Inside_Web

Taking in our fill of the city, we snapped a couple selfies and got back in line to descend to the bottom once again.

We left the Gateway Arch to return to the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott trials occurred in 1847 and 1850. Construction began in 1816 but was not completed until 1828 by the firm of Lavielle and Morton. Since the first completion, Henry Singleton added an addition of three wings and a center cupola dome in 1839, which lasted until 1851, when the east wing was replaced.

Known for not only the Dred Scott case, the Old Courthouse was also home to slave auctions until 1861. While inside, we explored the different wings of the courthouse, admired the beautiful staircases…

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and different structural intricacies, and posed for quite a few pictures as well.

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The courthouse differs today from the 1839 version because William Rumbold replaced the cupola with a dome in 1861, modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.Standing in the center of the main hall looking up, we had the chance to view the dome from the inside-purples, blues, pinks, and greens all around.

Court_Room_Dome_WebAfter spending as much time as we could inside, we headed out to venture back to the car and drove outside of the city to the most anticipated tour of the day, a Frank Lloyd Wright home.


 

Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Ebsworth Park

We arrived at Ebsworth Park and drove through a winding driveway to arrive at our destination and learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright. Born in 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright was an internationally known architect in the early to mid 1900s. He built homes and buildings after learning from and working for Louis Sullivan, who is known for his work with skyscrapers and who built the Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis. Wright built the home in Ebsworth Park for Russell and Ruth Kraus, a modest couple who doubted they had the funds to afford a home from such a well-known figure in architecture. Instead, the architect surprised them with his acquiescence and proceeded to plan them a Usonian home. Known for its affordability and political implications, Wright’s Usonian theme, seen throughout the United States, encompasses smaller homes, with only one story, usually no basements, attics, or garages, and just enough space to be efficient.

The home is laid out in grids, with parallelograms serving as the major building motif.  Within the parallelograms, however, are embedded triangles and hexagons, and these three shapes make up the shapes in the home.  In fact, there is only one ninety-degree angle in the home (the bathroom); the rest of the home’s angles are either 60 degrees or 120 degrees.

FLW_Constance_Alex_WebWe learned of Wright’s use of compression and expansion as we walked through the tight entryway and entered the spacious main hall of the home. Docent Dave Baumgartner, a former architect in St. Louis, made the tour very enjoyable and provided much insight into the particulars of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural plans.

FLW_Tour_Guide_WebLow tables and chairs, great windows, and open space pulled our view towards the outside of the home and into the great forest beyond.

In addition to the beauty of the home…

FLW_5_Web…we learned various innovations produced by Frank Lloyd Wright (e.g., larger bathrooms), the creativity he used to fit his homes to his ideas (in this case, he created a parallelogram bed for the Krases), to the meticulousness with which he planned out every detail (the screws in the home lined up with the angles produced by the home’s grid).

 

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We were awed by his presence still pervading the space to this day and left with minds blown by the genius that was Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Richard Haas

Intriguingly, St. Louis is also home to a building graced with a three-sided Richard Haas mural, fronted by a strange sculpture of a high-stepping jackrabbit (not done by Haas!).

Haas_STL_Jackrabbit_WebHaas’s mural, which depicts a woman as “Peace”…

Haas_Mural_STL_Web…has eight obelisks and  numerous other adornments.

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Citygarden

We were also able to spend time in St. Louis’ beautiful downtown “urban park and sculpture garden,” Citygarden.  Incorporated into the “Gateway Mall” area, the park is bordered by Eighth, Tenth, Market, and Chestnut Streets – just a short walk from many locations within a downtown area that is actively trying to tie together green spaces and government structures, common spaces and the corporate sphere.

Part of our group was fortunate enough to spend some daylight time in the park, with the sun setting alight the fall colors in many of the park’s varieties of trees.  The procession of gingko biloba trees (also known commonly as maidenhair trees) positively glowed along the Market Street promenade, their yellow leaves glinting off the last of the sun’s rays.

City_Garden_Sidewalk_3_Web

The entire group paid a visit just as the sun set early on the first night of Daylight Savings Time for 2015, with the park’s lighting creating interesting shadows on several of the pieces, such as Fernand Leger’s Femmes Au Perrequet…

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Mark di Suvero’s Aesop’s Fables.

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Constance impersonated (can you impersonate a fictional wooden figure?) Pinochio…

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And Professor Yawn was proud that his pupils, Alex and Constance, finally and truly lived up to their name, serving as pupils in Igor Mitoraj’s Eros Bendato.

Pupils_Constance_Alex_2_WebNot to mention the other fun sculptures…such as Bernar Venet’s “Three Rings”…

Constance_Alex_Citygarden_Web…Ju Ming’s “Tai-Chi Single Whip”…

Tai_Cho_Web…the intriguing Video Screen…

…and the reflecting pond with stepping stones…

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We even saw a rabbit!

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The park is a must-see if in St. Louis.  Even a short stroll through the beautifully landscaped space evokes feelings of tranquility within.  Park maps that provide info on all the art pieces are available; or one can download the app, with even more information on the park’s amenities and scheduled events.

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Wrapping Up

Before leaving, we took another brief stroll to “The Runner,” the statue celebrating the country’s westward expansion.  We had stopped there earlier in the day…

Arch_Alex_Constance_2_Web…and had some with photographs…

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Well, we had some fun again, at the end of a long day, but in the midst of a fun trip.

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LEAP Center Midwestern Tour (Day 5): Madison, WI; Dubuque, IA; Des Moines, IA

Today was the second day of the 2014 Film & History Conference. As yesterday, the featured panels were many, and the titles all appeared to be interesting topics. What appealed to me the most was a panel titled “Jimmy Stewart for president and Ronald Reagan for best friend: Star Image and Political Campaigning,” by Amit Patel. Amit began his presentation by introducing Ronald Reagan’s initial career as a B movie star. In fact, he starred in low-budget films such as Love is on the Air and Santa Fe Trail. In 1942, the film Kings Row finally gave him some recognition as a movie “star.” Interestingly, Reagan was initially a Democrat, but later switched to the Republican party. In 1976, he embarked in a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination against incumbent Gerald Ford. Amit focused on Ronald Reagan’s use of Jimmy Stewart in his campaign. In fact, Stewart strongly supported Reagan, and even participated in a political ad were he stated that Ronald Reagan was his friend, therefore, the American public should vote for him. Reagan lost the nomination, but campaigned again in 1980, and became president. I thought it was an interesting panel because a candidate’s image is probably the most important thing during a campaign, and if the candidate was a known public figure beforehand then that plays in his favor. In addition, the use of famous actors or public figures to support a political candidate is common nowadays, and it is interesting that it was used in Reagan’s campaign, too.

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After attending the Film & History Conference, in the morning, we headed to the Wisconsin State Capitol, in Madison.

Wisconsin Capitol Building
            Wisconsin Capitol Building

A tour guide showed us the most important features of the Capitol, and shared the details of its construction. What interested me most was that Madison had previously had other two state capitols, but they both burned down. The second time around, the Capitol had recently discontinued its fire insurance, so the state did not have enough money to rebuild it. Ingeniously, the state had the idea to tax railroads that were passing through Wisconsin at the time, and with that revenue, they rebuilt the Capitol between 1906 and 1917. The architecture of the capitol is mesmerizing, featuring marble from many different countries, such as Greece, Italy, France, and Germany, as well as some beautiful mosaics.

Wisconsin Capitol Building, Interior
Wisconsin Capitol, Interior

Perhaps most interesting, the capitol staff apparently have a very liberal speech code in the building.  Numerous exhibits were posted around the capitol rotunda protesting the performance of Governor Scott Walker, and one impressively vocal protester’s shouts could be heard throughout the building.

After the tour, we decided to go to the observation deck at the top of the building, and experienced true cold for the first time on our trip.

Ariel_Constance_Wind

The winds were so strong that it was hard even to close the door behind us. Nonetheless, it was worth it because the view was beautiful.

Wisconsin_Capitol_View

Leaving the Capitol, we took a stroll in the brisk Wisconsin air to find ourselves some nourishing lunch. We finally settled on Marigold’s, a local deli, where we reveled in the many options available. Among the delights we delved into were lavender white mocha and grilled ham and cheese with a hint of strawberry jelly. Packed with locals, Marigold’s was definitely a winner.

Out into the invigorating weather we went again to make our way to another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the Monona Terrace. Opened in 1997, the Terrace was built posthumously and served as the cause of much strife and contention during his career. Using Wright’s design of the exterior, Wisconsin contractor J. J. Findorff and Son Inc. carried out the great architect’s dream, while his previous apprentice, Anthony Puttnam, designed the interior.

Once inside Madison’s event center, we explored the gift shop full of Wright memorabilia before embarking on a tour with guide, John.

Frank Lloyd Wright Bust
                Frank Lloyd Wright Bust

Pointing out certain Wrightian things, such as the dome on the west side of the building and the arches in the grand ballroom, John proved to be a formidable docent as he never ran out of interesting facts and stories to regale. Braving the gusty winds, we had the chance to view Lake Monona, which Monona Terrace balances precariously over, thanks to the intricacies of Wright’s design.

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Awed by the view and many selfies taken, we headed inside to embrace the warmth it offered and finish our tour.

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Seeing it was getting late, we rushed back to the car in order to make it to a few last minute shops, original to Madison. Among those, we re-caffeinated and browsed a wonderful cheese boutique, Fomagination. Overwhelmed by the many options and tastes, we took in Wisconsin’s finest and tried to contain our enthusiasm at all that was available. It was incredibly exciting to see so many things unavailable in the great state of Texas. We loaded up on cheeses and cheese accessories before tumbling back into the car to begin the final leg of our trip.

We admired the beautiful fall landscape of Wisconsin; the rolling hills and deep yellows, greens, and reds created the perfect ambiance for our drive to Dubuque, Iowa. There, we enjoyed the Fenelon Place Elevator, or Dubuque Incline, claimed to be the shortest and steepest railroad in the world.

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Gripping the seats…

Incline_Constance…up we went on the side of the hill to eventually reach one of the most inspiring views of the trip so far.  Known as “the magic hour” in film circles, we caught the sun setting on the horizon, creating beautiful red and orange tones in the sky and on the trees off in the distance.

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Proud to say we had viewed three states at once (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin) from the top of the incline, we got back in the cable car built in 1882 to return to our vehicle and carry on to the next leg of the journey.

After a short drive, we arrived at our final destinations: The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the Des Moines capitol building. The 4.4-acre sculpture garden is unique and home to 28 sculptures from 22 different artists. Various paved paths provided a route for us to take through the garden, however, curiosity and the lure of new art, propelled us forward.

Man of Letters, Jaume Plensa
Man of Letters, Jaume Plensa

Many of the sculptures were created by artists that were foreign to us, however, one sculpture in particular provided us with the comfort of familiarity: Painted Steel by Mark Di Suvero. Di Suvero also has an art piece called “Proverb” in Dallas, Texas, which we were able to relate to. “Painted Steel” was made out of steel and painted in the same red that “Proverb” is painted. Both statues have similar characteristics, but varying dimensions and structure.

Another interesting sculpture that we saw was, “Back of Snowman (Black)” and “Back of Snowman (White).” These sculptures were created by artist Gary Hume and were located side-by-side in the middle of the park and held a spectacular gleam given off from the surrounding lights. Each of the statues consisted of two round pieces of bronze covered in enamel, one in white enamel and one in black. These statues were especially appealing because each round piece of bronze was perfectly symmetrical and smooth, giving the piece a unique trait of looking seamlessly perfect.

The last sculpture that really caught our eye and our interest was “The Thinker on a Rocky” created by Barry Flanagan. This piece was a large rabbit sitting upon a boulder in the same pose as Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The piece was clearly a satire on Rodin’s famous statue, which only added to its appeal!

While the statue garden was a fantastic experience, we had to continue our night and head to the Des Moines capitol building. The Renaissance style capitol, designed by John Cochrane and Fred Piquenard, was absolutely stunning! The capitol building featured a 23 carat gold dome in the middle of the building and was accompanied by two smaller domes on either side of the building. The capitol took expansive resources and large amounts of time to build and open to the public. The building took fifteen years and a staggering amount of $2,873,294.59 to complete. On June 29,1886, the capitol was ready to be open for use!

Iowa Capitol
Iowa Capitol

Both the capitol and the sculpture garden trips were the perfect ending to day five of the trip!