Friday, October 29, 2010

I like shiny, pretty things....or Chihuly at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens

I regularly travel to Grand Rapids, MI on business. Of the cities in my usual travel rotation, it is one of my favorites. Pedestrian friendly downtown, good restaurants, nice hotel....not to mention productive business meetings (which after all are kinda the point of my being there). My first few trips I explored the downtown area in the evening, even doing this little photo essay. On a cab ride from the airport, I'd noticed a billboard for the Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Gardens. Hmmm, told myself that some trip I'll need to work in a visit. What finally spurred me to action was  this post from Garden Faerie about a Chihuly exhibit at the Meijer Garden.


I have been a fan of Chihuly for years. Made it to several exhibits - from indoors at the Indianapolis Children's Museum to outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and several visits to the installation at the Missouri Botanic Garden. The "someday I need to try and work in a visit", turned to "I *must* work in a visit". Was glad to discover they were open late on Tuesday evenings, and could take advantage of the long sunlight hours in June for my first visit.  Took hundreds of pictures, added that trip to my mental list of future blog topics...but never quite got around to putting up a post.

Another post by Monica, the Garden Faerie, mentioned the exhibit being extended through the end of October, which got me thinking about a second visit. Finding an opportunity to see the sculptures and the gardens in another season. Fate would have it on a recent trip I'd have a few late afternoon hours, between meetings and plane flight home for another quick visit. 2 hours and 300 pictures later, so glad I've discovered the Meijer Sculpture Gardens, and made a return trip.

Perfectly planned for strolling, on my first trip my pedometer showed I'd walked over 5 miles and over 3 on the second. Don't worry there are also trams available to tour you around; I'd done some large loops more than once to get in some fitness mileage. The gardens include an exceptional children's garden (love the Great Lakes shaped interactive water feature!!!), an outdoor amphitheatre, natural and man-made water features, shade/woodland garden area, glass houses/conservatories, a Michigan farm area. Nicely maintained plants - primarily woodies - both deciduous and evergreen. Not what I would call a "botanic garden", but that's not what they are going for. This garden is designed as a showcase for the art, a goal I would say it has met or exceeded!

The Meijer Garden is designed around the sculpture.  A few pieces stood out, really spoke to me. Some due to their interesting concept, others because I was familiar with the artists' other work (Rodin, Calder), and a couple for sheer whimsy.

But it was the Chihuly sculptures I had come to see. His traditional glass, the neon he's been doing the last few years, and the newer polyvitro forms:

Seeing not only the Chihuly but the entire gardens in two seasons was a treat. Often an entirely different look to the art because of the surrounding, the change in light. And in nearly every case, found the fall colors, fall foliage enhanced the art.

Two seasons of Chihuly:
Two seasons of other sculpture:

Visiting a botanic garden across the seasons is a lesson I learned while living in St. Louis. A very wise horticulturist suggested visiting Mobot (Missouri Botanic Garden....or as I wrote it up "The Garden") monthly to help the home garden develop a full season, year round landscape. I made a point of doing this then. And suggest if you live near a public garden to do the same....break out of the habit of only visiting in the mid-summer flower power glory. See what you can see in the other seasons. It may surprise you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Louisville, however you say it, the "S" is silent

I cringe when I hear folks say Lewisville when referring to Kentucky's largest city. Admittedly, not as bad as when they say Ell-ah-noise for the state of my birth. That "S" is also quite silent. As a child we made regular visits to Louisville, because my grandparents had retired to Corydon, IN a small town not far away. Growing up we called it Louie-ville. In college at UK, I learned to pronounce it as the natives do, Looavull.

I only lived in Louisville for a couple of years. However, it is a city of significant events in my life. Met my husband there (while we were living 4 hours apart on opposite sides of the commonwealth), got married there, and our kiddo was born in Louisville. All of which make it a city near and dear to my heart. So when I discovered we'd be going on a trip to Lexington (click here to read that one), I suggested we add a night here.

Spent most of our time wandering around downtown. Last I saw this city was in 2001 as I followed the moving van out of town. Hubby has been back on a couple of business trips, and was dying to show me the new (well, new to me) entertainment district on 4th Street. This downtown area runs roughly from the Convention Center south to the Seelbach Hotel (with the final block closed to traffic and under an open ended roof). Shops, restaurants, bars, lots and lots of bars and nightclubs, this is the hub of the city nightlife. As we walked through, crews were setting up a stage - no doubt for a band after that evening's UofL vs. UC football game.

From the Fourth Street Live district we headed north towards the river. Passing the Humana Building. If you've ever wondered what Michael Graves designed before going to work for Target, this would be one example.
I'd forgotten how wide the Ohio River is at this point. Remarked that it is a wider river at Louisville than the Mississippi is at St Louis. Then remembered that is is the Ohio River that makes the Mighty Mississippi so mighty - when the two rivers join south of St. Louis, the Ohio is the larger of the two. Glad to see the Belle docked in her usual berth, looking as fine as always.

Got a kick out of these signs along the river edge.
Other notable sights, the new KFC Yum Center (where on December 31st the Cats will kick some Cardinal ass), Riverfront Park, Louisville Slugger Field ..........

...............and a bit of urban art - a chicken sculpture grouping that I couldn't quite wrap my head around.

The piece, or rather pieces, of urban art I was thrilled to discover was the bike racks. When I noticed the first one, I thought "how interesting, someone is using that art to lock their bike"....then I started noticing more bikes locked up to other pieces of sculpture. Finally noticed the plaque on the ground next to each.
This put me on a quest to find as may as possible. I'm sure I just scratched the surface, but here's a few.
Ended our trip with a great anniversary dinner at Ruth's Chris. This Ruth's Chris has been the site of other perfect that this trip would take us back the weekend of our anniversary. The restaurant is on the top floor of Kaden Tower, and just happens to overlook Suburban Hospital, where kiddo was born. And gave a nice view of the skyline at sunset.

Driven to and from the restaurant by "Rasta Cab", a charming taxi driver, who answers his phone with that name. Saved his number for a future trip. Which as with Lexington, need to make a point of not letting so much time pass between visits.