OKC and KC are OK–and More!

Today the LEAP Center got an early start (5:30 in the morning!) to our trip to Michigan. We are heading north to assist author Jeff Guinn in researching a group called the Vagabonds. This team of influential businessmen and geniuses, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, would go on road trips across America during the summer months, just like we are today! Also like the Vagabonds, we not only have a final destination in mind, but we are willing to take in the sights along the way. In the spirit of our mission, we made our first pit stop in Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma City Museum of Art

As we approached the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were captivated by the building’s clear facade through which we could see a long, colorful glass sculpture true to Dale Chihuly’s style. Upon entering we were able to get a better view of the piece. As we ventured through the third floor, which showcased modern artists, we made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. With the room kept in low lighting, the vibrant colors of blown glass, warped into various shapes and sizes, were accentuated.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly
                                                           Brian Aldaco Admires Chihuly’s Glasswork

This left us in more awe as we admired his works of art,

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly

…which included not only his bowl collection, but also his “Persian Ceiling”….

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling

…and “Reeds.”

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Reeds

Venturing into the lower floor, we were able to explore more American and international art. Exhibited in this floor were works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, Roy Lichtenstein, an Alexander Calder mobile…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Alexander Calder, Mobile
Ryan and Brian (B-Ryan, as we call them) Construct a Mobile

…Charles Willson Peale…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Charles Willson Peale, George Washington
Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington

Thomas Moran…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s “Grand Venice Canal”

…and a nice wing on WPA art…

Oklahoma_Arts_Center_WPA_Paul_Web

…just to name a few. Surrounded by the works of such great artists we left with an improved cultural wealth.

Apart from this, during our Oklahoma City visit we also chased after historical wealth by visiting the Land Run Monument. With 38 different bronze frontiersmen (or Sooners) as a representation of the state’s rush of immigrants eager to receive land in the 1889 Land Run, the monument has become the longest series of sculptures in the world. Strolling among the giant rushing horses and wagons, artistically molded by sculptor Paul Moore to keep a perpetual sense of urgency, we were also inspired to get on the road towards our next city of our Midwestern tour.


Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City

After crossing the Kansas-Missouri border onto Kansas City, we soon arrived at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. With the ground ornamented with various sculptures…

Louise Bourgeois, Kemper Museum of Art, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider Mother”

…from a giant spider to a crying giant, the interior works of art were just as intriguing. We were treated to another Chihuly…

Kemper Museum, KC, Dale Chihuly
One of the Kemper’s Three Dale Chiluhy Sculptures

…as well as myriad national and international artists.  The museum offered a sense of different disciplines practiced within the contemporary arts community. Among the ones included inside the facility were mixed media formats, photography, glass media, and various other forms of unconventional, at times whimsical forms of expression.  Unfortunately, we visited when two of the four galleries were closed for installations, so our visit was only half fulfilled.


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This, however, left us more time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is only a short walk from the Kemper. The Nelson-Atkins museum has a copious outdoor green space, populated by pieces of statuary. Perhaps the most renowned piece present on the museum grounds is Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rodin, Thinker
Rodin’s Thinker

Other works included various pieces by Henry Moore…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure”

…a glass maze called the “Glass Labyrinth” (by Robert Morris),

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Robert Morris, Glass Labyrinth
Robert Morris’s “Glass Labyrinth”

…”Three Bowls” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, which, in addition to being three-dimensional art, also possesses a distinctive smell, giving the art a multi-faceted interaction with the senses…

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Three Bowls

We also saw one of George Rickey’s kinetic pieces of art…

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, George Rickey

Most curiously, we also saw four giant shuttlecocks, one of the many quirky creations of sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen…

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Shuttlecock

 

With just 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we headed inside to take a look at their exhibits. We had the fortune to enter near the Roman and Medieval pieces, giving us a taste of a very different art style from the contemporary and modern works we had viewed at the other museums. After perusing some of the 19th-century masters such as Claude Monet…

Claude Monet, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

…and Vincent Van Gogh…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Vincent Van Gogh

…we headed to the “Naguchi Sculpture Court,”

 

Isamu Naguchi, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Naguchi Court
“Six Foot Energy Void” by Isamu Naguchi

which showcases seven of the artists’ works in one room.

And with the closing of the Museum, we took one last look around the park before heading back to the van and driving towards out next stop: dinner!


Grunauer and Union Station

To wrap up our first day, we ate at a German restaurant called Grünauer. We started out with Jausenbrettl, a sampler platter of German meats. We split several entrées including Jäger Schnitzel Vom Schwein (pork scallopini with spätzle), Schweinebraten (roast pork loin and shoulder with red cabbage), and Bauernschmaus (smoked pork loin, bacon, and a bratwurst with sauerkraut), but the best part by far was the apple strudel and Nutella crepes we had for desert.

Since Union Station was so near, we decided to walk through and around it to walk off the huge meal we had just ate. It is still in operation to this day and still beautiful…

Union Station, Kansas City
Union Station in Kansas City

and has seen many famous celebrities and presidents come through, such as Eisenhower, FDR, and Truman. As we left the station via a bridge which stood over a system of railways (with a passenger train ready to depart and a resting open-top freight cart anticipating it’s delivery), we took in the city’s nocturnal, tranquil ambiance. Thus we satisfyingly completed the first day of our Vagabond research trip.

Nelson_Atkins_Walking_Web

Midwest Tour, Day 8: Kansas City, Home of the MLB Champs!

We began our Saturday morning exploring Kansas City’s own River Market. Although we arrived a bit early, we got a head start on all of the produce, cheeses, spices, and home goods that the farmers market had to offer. The brisk morning air refreshed us after a short night of sleep and we enjoyed strolling through the different vendors, smelling the fresh flowers, appreciating the colorful produce, and tasting different foods foreign to Texas.

City_Market_KC_2_Web

With just a little over an hour to explore, we tried coffee at Quay Coffee and wandered through the shops open at the early hour. With our noses exhausted from the various smells permeating the market, we left to make it to our Segway tour reservation on time.

Led by Kelly, we hopped on the available segways like pros and began the tour of downtown Kansas City.

Segway_Line_Web

We started in an area called Westport, home to bars, shops, and many a hipster. The area prides itself on preserving its history, which we observed in the established community and some of the buildings being the oldest sanding in Kansas City. Founded in 1831 by Isaac McCoy, Westport originally sat three miles south of what is today downtown Kansas City. His son, John Calvin McCoy, is credited as the “Father of Kansas City” and we observed a statue of him during the first part of our tour. We left the area of Westport to continue our tour, segwaying past pedestrians and through a few linear parks. Kansas City, known as the least dense and city with the most green space in America, is home to many beautiful parks. We had the chance to enjoy these areas, albeit, on segway. We followed Kelly along a couple creeks, walking trails, and even spotted public work out equipment along the way. We ambled upon Kauffman Memorial Garden after visiting Westport, a clear juxtaposition to the hip, bar district we had just explored.

Kaufman_Memorial_Garden_Web

The garden, quiet and serene, serves as gravesite to Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, philanthropists to the city in the mid 1960s. We left the garden to continue on our tour, only after appreciating the giant chrysanthemums in the greenhouse.

Kansas City is known as the “City of Fountains,” and one of the more interesting fountains we encountered was a memorial to the Vietnam War.  It was laid out in a series of cascading waterfalls, a reference to the U.S’s cascading involvement in the war.  It culminates in two pools of water at the end, a symbol for the split in public opinion over the war.

Segway_Vietnam_Memorial_Web

We spent the most time on our tour on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins museum, avoiding photographers and muses as best we could. We even had the chance to explore grounds unfamiliar to Professor Yawn, home to sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard (Three Bowls), Henry Moore, and Roxy Paine (Ferment).

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Constance_Alex_Moore_Paine_Web

We also had the chance to get off our segways and try out Robert Morris’ Glass Labyrinth, which we luckily made it out of without running into any of the glass walls.

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Labyrinth_2_Web

We left the grounds, after quite a few photo opportunities, including the chance to see a Claes Oldenburg sculpture (a shuttlecock!)….

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Constance_Alex_Shuttlecock_Web…and an unsettling sculpture titled “Standing Figures,” which is actually a sculpture of 30 headless men standing in rows.

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_30_Men_Standing_WebMeandering through the parks, we also encountered some yoga practitioners, taking advantage of the peacefulness of the park (other than the speeding Segways, of course)…

Segway_Nelson_Atkins_Sculpture_Yoga_Group_Web

From there, we made it back to the Kemper Museum of Modern Art, which we had visited the evening before but had yet to observe in daylight.  We were re-acquainted with Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider”…

Segway_Kemper_Burgeoise_2_Web

 

…as well as Tom Otterness’s “Crying Giant.”

Segway_Kemper_Crying_Giant_WebWe had previously seen Bourgeois’s work in Iowa and in New Orleans, and we had only recently seen Otterness’s work (City Garden, in St. Louis).

That being our last stop…

…we bid adieu to Kelly and her insightful information and headed to scrounge up some lunch.

Much to the recommendation of our tour guide, we decided to eat lunch at Q39, a local Kansas City barbeque joint. We found the restaurant to be very popular and were confronted with an hour wait. With that information, Professor Yawn and Stephanie decided to let us wait and enjoy lunch while they left to grab our bags at the hotel in preparation for our departure this evening. We finally got a table, which was worth every second of the wait, once we received our appetizer of fried onion strings and meals consisting of ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and even better Kansas City barbeque sauce.

Q_39_BBQ_Web

Slightly tangy and very sweet, we enjoyed the barbeque that is so different than what we can enjoy in Texas. We left the restaurant full and ready to take on the rest of our afternoon.

We spent the first part of the rest of our afternoon exploring and learning at The National WWI Museum and Memorial. We arrived just in time to sit and watch the introductory video that left us wanting to learn more, so we ventured into the museum. We began with the WWI timeline that started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and led to Austria declaring war on Serbia.

WWI_Cannon_Wall_Web

This led to an entanglement of treaties and soon after, the five Great Powers were at war.

WWI_Global_War_Alex_Web

The museums timeline was easy to read and separated every year. The year of 1915 showed how the momentum of the war shifted to the east and highlighted the sinking of Lusitania by a German submarine. The year of 1916 on the timeline highlighted the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme. The timeline then moved on to the year of 1917, which is when Germany began to renew their unrestricted submarine warfare. One U-boat had cost American lives, which led to America severing its diplomatic relations with Germany and having to decide upon entering the war. The first American troops landed in France on June 25, 1917 and the spirits of France were renewed. The museum also features sections on Air warfare and others. As we walked through the museum we were able to watch another more interactive video about the war which then escorted us to the back portion of the museum that highlighted the America’s role in the War. The museum was very detailed and included many aspects of the war such as every branch of the military, a woman’s position in the war, civilian’s positions in the war, and an exhibit on war propaganda.

WWI_Propoganda_Alex_WebWe entered a reflections box where we were able to listen to voices from the War. We then took an elevator up to the Memorial where the tower commemorating the fallen soldiers stands. After enjoying the view, we walked back over the glass bridge hanging over the poppies that represent the fallen soldiers of the War.

We left the National World War I Museum to stroll down the hill in front of it, capturing the beautiful fall afternoon with a few photographs.

WWI_Constance-Tree_Closeup_Web

We loved feeling the breeze and seeing the burgundy leaves fly through the air off the trees preparing for the first winter frost.

WWI_Museum_Constance_Tree_2_Web

We walked across the street, following the museum, to enter Union Station in search of the temporary Da Vinci exhibit that the train station holds.  We found the exhibit on the bottom floor of the station and proceeded to get in line, thrilled with the anticipation of learning about one of history’s most prominent inventors and scholars. We entered the exhibit and watched an introductory video about the Renaissance man. Following, we left the compression of the video space and were awed by the expansion of the rest of the exhibit, full of Da Vinci’s inventions.

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Wings_Web

We had the chance to read about his work in military science, flying machines, scientific diagrams about the human body, civil engineering, and inventions that would make everyday work easier and more efficient. We always knew about the inventor’s paintings, “Mona Lisa”…

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Mona_Lisa_Alex_Web

…and “The Last Supper,”

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Last_Supper_Alex_Web…but it was even more compelling to learn about all the musings that were found in his journals ranging from thoughts about poetry to the making of the ideal city. We even had the chance to touch multiple replicas of his inventions, like a pulley and a lock system.

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Pulleys_Web

Following the section about his inventions, we had the opportunity to read about his artwork, which about fifteen have survived to this day due to the precariousness of Da Vinci’s experiments with new techniques. It was interesting to read about his work with the golden ration, which can be seen in his paintings and in his drawing of the Vitruvian Man. We left the exhibit awed by a man that we knew very little about before and inspired to expand our horizons just as he did during his lifetime.

We also had a chance to return to the Nelson-Atkins and see the special Thomas Hart Benton exhibit.  The theme was Thomas Hart Benton and the Hollywood epic, highlighting styles that tied in with epic films, as well as the time that Benton spent working in Hollywood.

Nelson_Atkins_Benton_Exhibit_WebWhile in the Museum, we took an opportunity to see some of the pieces we had missed the day before, such as the beautiful gardens…

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Thinker_Web…Rodin’s “Thinker” up close…

Nelson_Atkins_Thinker_Web…and the strange, intriguing folk art of Philip Haas…

Nelson_Atkins_Phillip_Haas_Summer_Web

Before leaving KC, we returned to Union Station to grab a few souvenirs before beginning the drive out of town.

After a while on the road we stopped at Pie Five Pizza Co., in Topeka, KS, for a quick dinner. Constance and I shared the biggest Greek salad that I had ever seen and a pesto chicken Alfredo pizza that was delicious. We left the restaurant, and took advantage of our stop in Topeka to see the state’s capitol and other sites.

Kansas_Capitol_Constance_Alex_Web

We stopped at the capitol building, standing majestically in the middle of town. We weren’t able to go into the Capitol because it was late, but we did capture a few photos. Before getting back on the road we had to make one more stop. We stopped at the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site. Sadly it was closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to have a glimpse inside provided by the glass doors.

Brown_V_Board_Constance_Alex_2_Web

In the building we saw the labels “White” and “Color” that segregated the school. Even though we were not able to go inside, it was still a very sobering experience.

We hopped back in the van, en route to our last stop for the night, Wichita, to sleep before getting back on the road in the morning for the long trek back to Huntsville.