What is your favorite art memory?

by Eliza Myers 22. October 2013 01:03

Some works of art take people's breath away. They stick with you long past your short visit. Our staff relate pieces of art that spoke to them while on the road.

"The Pieta by Michelangelo leaves me without words. Housed in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, this marble sculpture does not speak to Jesus’ role as savior as much as it speaks to a mother’s loss of her son. 

The artist purposely distorted Jesus’ size as a full-grown man to illustrate that he was still Mary’s child and always would be. Her grief is human, not heavenly, which makes this sculpture all the more compelling for me."

— Mac Lacy, publisher

"As an artist myself, the expression of various artists has always fascinated me. But nothing compares to literally having my breath taken away upon seeing one of Monet’s many large water lily paintings on display at the Denver Museum of Art. I was in high school at the time, and the calming impact the painting had on me was astounding. I stood there looking at it for at least 20 minutes. It was so spellbinding, I didn’t want to leave the room. It was a moment I’ll never forget."

— Donia Simmons, creative director

"I’d studied Mark Rothko while I was an art student in college. Later, while in grad school at the University of Arizona, I fell in love with two of his paintings in their collection.

So, while visiting long-time friends in Houston, I made plans to see the Rothko Chapel. We entered the chapel with very different expectations. My friends were probably expecting to see pretty pictures of bucolic landscape or perhaps beautiful women or historic tableaus.

It quickly became clear that they weren’t expecting what we saw as we entered that large open room. I was immediately transported to that aesthetic region of my imagination by the large dark canvases. My friends — not so much. We stayed an hour or so, while I was absorbed by the power of Rothko’s work and my friends looked for something they recognized — anything they could call art.

They decided that I was seeing Elvis or perhaps Amelia Earhart — it was plain to them was that, clearly, I was seeing something they weren’t.

The moral to this story is that art is a personal thing. It is intensely personal for artists, and it is always a personal thing for us when we experience it. Even when we’re with people we love and share everything with, the experience of great art reaches places within us that only we and God know."

— David Brown, art director

"I have seen many famous paintings in my lifetime, but the one that stands out the most to me is “Washington Crossing the Delaware” at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although I've seen this photo in many history books through the years, I was in awe of the shear enormity of this painting once I saw it in person. The painting stands over 12 feet tall and 21 feet wide!"

— Kelly Tyner, director of sales and marketing

"I encountered one of the most recognized works of art in the world when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. I'll never forget my surprise at the small size of the portrait. Instead of being disappointed, I felt impressed such a small painting had inspired so many people and works of art."

— Eliza Myers, online editor

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Travel Thoughts

The Phillips Collection in D.C.

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:36

As readers are likely aware, Washington is a fascinating city, filled with a huge variety of things to see and do, including the varied museums of the great Smithsonian Institution.  However, there are also a large number of very significant attractions that are frequently omitted from a standard tour itinerary simply because there is inadequate time to include everything. 

In the scores of times that I have been to our nation’s capital since my first visit back in 1966, I have been fortunate to be able to explore many of these gems that may not immediately come to mind when planning a group’s itinerary. One is The Phillips Collection, just a short walk from centrally-located Dupont Circle, and which bills itself as “America’s First Museum of Modern Art.” What a fine place it was to spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon during my most recent trip to D.C.!      

Similarly, any artistic or educationally oriented visitors to the city are sure to enjoy The Phillips Collection. First, this is a human-sized venue, housed in the boyhood home of the founder with two connected buildings and the adjacent Carriage House, so it does not require nearly the time nor the stamina to discover the riches within, as is the case with some of Washington’s popular but sprawling museums. When it was opened in 1921 by Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune, the entire collection of 237 paintings was displayed in just one room. Today, the complex holds a growing, world-class collection of nearly 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art, hosts internationally-acclaimed temporary exhibitions, and offers a wide variety of programs for adults and students. An extensive Sunday chamber concert series is also presented in the intimate setting of the Music Room, located in the original 1897 Phillips House.    

The collection itself features 19th, 20th and 21st-century European and American Art. It is noted particularly for important works by such impressionists as Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Degas, as well as others by Picasso, Bonnard, Braque and Klee. Such Americans artists as Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Arthur Dove, John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe are represented, as well as photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz and Brett Weston. On display until early May, the featured (and fascinating) temporary exhibit I explored was Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard.

Antique grandfather clock and staircase

Paintings from The Migration Series (1940-41) by Jacob Lawrence

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

Museum of the City of New York

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:27

Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City are typically seen on group itineraries of the East Coast. However, each of these cities has amazing attractions that don’t always get as much attention.

New York City has far more to offer the visitor than can easily be accommodated in a relatively brief tour stay. Among the lesser-known but still very worthwhile and uniquely “Big Apple” attractions is the Museum of the City of New York, across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, north of both the great Metropolitan Museum of Art and the unique profile of the Guggenheim Museum. 

The traveler is sure to find the ongoing exhibitions to be of interest, including the six furnished rooms of New York Interiors (1690-1906), a 25-minute Timescapes multimedia portrait of the city, displays of antique transportation toys and an exquisitely crafted dollhouse. However, the real focus of the museum is on presenting ever-changing temporary exhibitions, frequent lectures by a variety of experts on life in the city and student/family programs.

During my visit, one featured exhibition was Police Work, a collection of Leonard Freed’s stark black-and-white photographs of life on the city’s streets during the 1970’s. They depict the time when the city was not only nearly bankrupt, but beset by high crime rates and social disorder.

A second major exhibit, Cecil Beaton, the New York Years, illustrated the life and New York career of the famed British fashion photographer.  However, the primary attraction is currently is The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan 1811-2011, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Manhattan’s renowned street grid and how it has been implemented over the past two centuries. A related exhibit, The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan, presents eight proposed (and fantastic) designs for the future. Without question, the Museum of the City of New York is the place to whet the appetite of anyone with a particular interest in America’s largest and most storied city.

Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America.  He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).

Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small.  He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see.  He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible.  His blog, “Travels with Bob,” appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”.  

Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at bobho52@aol.com or by calling (435) 590-1553.

Room setting re-creation in New York Interiors (1690-1906)

Police Work...Photographs by Leonard Freed 1972-79, and entrance to Timescapes, a 25-minute multimedia portrait of New York

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

Museum for a 'Mad Potter'

by Brian Jewell 19. February 2012 22:53

Most coastal destinations are known more for their beaches and resorts than for art and architecture. But in Biloxi, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum is one of the region's cheif attractions, showcasing the work of a famous local artist in an architectural setting that is an acheivement in itself.

I'm spending a few days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to celebrate Mardi Gras. While the big festivities are still a couple of days away, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau staff is showing me and some other journalists around the area, beginning with a reception and tour of the Ohr-O'keefe Museum.

The museum highlights the work of George Ohr, a local artist who billed himself as the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." Ohr's "madness" was probably more of a marketing ploy than a real mental illness, but the artwork he produced was brilliant nonetheless. The museum displays numerous pieces of Oh'rs pottery inside a star-shaped gallery, which also features some funny Orh quotes painted on the walls.

The unusual shape of the gallery is part of its architectural design. World-renowned architect Frank Ghery designed the museum, adding a touch of high architecture to the Gulf Coast skyline. Rather than creating one large museum building, Ghery designed the museum as a campus of several small gallery buildings, seperated by landscaped outdoor areas. Passing from one gallery to the next, visitors get a great view of beach, which sits just across the highway from the museum.

In addition to Ohr's pottery, the museum has a gallery with a wonderful collection of African American art. A changing exhibit gallery hosts two different exhibitinos each year, which can feature painting, sculpture and other works by area artists. The museum also has a great visitors center and gift shop, as well as a re-creation of a cabin built by a Biloxi African American family in the 1880s.

Ongoing work at the museum is repairing damage from Hurricane Katrina and opening new buildings that will enable the staff to expand exhibition space.


The museum's African American art gallery


Orh pottery displayed in the star-shaped gallery

A George Ohr quote


Inside the museum's Pleasant Reed House, a re-created 1880s home

Trading at the Prairie's Edge

by Brian Jewell 20. September 2011 01:26

I once heard someone describe Rapid City, SD as "the place where the mountains meet the prairie." There's more to this place than the intersection of the Black Hills and the Great Plains, though — I'm finding that this region is also squarely in the middle of pioneer and Native American culture.

One of the best places to discover Native American heritage in Rapid City is Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries. Located in a historic building in the heart of downtown, this company preserves the tradition of the Indian trading post, while also presenting breathtaking fine art that communicates the Native American spirit.

When I first entered, the establishment seemed like a simple western-themed gift shop. But after exploring for a few minutes, I discovered the trading post area, where artists and others can still buy traditional materials such as buffalo hides, deer antlers, feathers and glass beads. Many area artisans come here to get their supplies for their fine art and tradition Indian crafts, many of which can be seen in the store's galleries.

Around the corner from the gift shop area, a large room holds hundreds of pieces of traditional Indian art, much of which featured intricate bead patterns and quillwork. Items range from dream catchers to spirit shirts, decorated bison skulls and woodcarvings. All of the artwork in the store is hand-made, much of it by artists who use traditional materials and techniques.

On a mezzanine overlooking this room, Prairie Edge displays what they bill as the world's largest collection of glass trading beads. Hundreds of jars of beads line the shelves of this exhibit, organized by color and glimmering like a glass rainbow beneath the display lights.

For me, the highlihgt of Praire's Edge was the fine art gallery on the top floor. This area features incredible museum-quality artwork depicting Native American themes and other images of the mountain Northwest. I was fascinated by a large, three-dimensional dioramama made entirely of sculpted paper; I also fell in love with ledger art, a style of painting taken up by tribesmen who used old business ledgers as a canvas once buffalo hides became scarce. The bold and colorful images seemed to leap off the page, contrasting against the straight lines and careful script of the ledgers. Like the rest of Prairie Edge and much of South Dakota, the artwork embodied the intermingling of white culture and Native American heritage.


Hand-made buffalo robe art featuring Native American materials and patterns.

Some of the thousands of glass trading beads on display at Prairie Edge.

An array of specialty beads prized by Indian artists.



A Legacy of Art

by Brian Jewell 1. March 2011 07:00

So far, I've written a lot about China's history, its imperial dynasties and how that heritage shows up in modern Chinese life. Today, though, we took a welcome break from history lessons to explore the Shanghai Museum, a free public institution that houses some of the best of Chinese artwork.

Beautiful art is among China's greatest contribution to the world, and the exhibits at this museum follow the development of various media from pre-history to modern times. One large gallery traces jade carving in China, from 3.000-year old simple ceremonial tools to elaborately carved jewelry worn by royalty in the early 20th century. A gallery on currency showed the fascinating artistic touches in ancient Chinese coins and more modern paper bills, and a clothing gallery highlighted the traditional costumes of many of the ethnic minority groups in the country.

Among my favorite were the painting and calligraphy galleries. There is an art form in Chinese writing that we in the West can little understand. Masters of calligraphy are considered artists here in China, and their best works are presented on long scrolls in the museum's display cases. Many of the paintings, also presented on scrolls, used black ink or soft water colors to create idyllic natural scenes reflecting the diverse beauty of the Chinese countryside.

Many visitors will also enjoy a visit to the porcelain gallery, which explains how Chinese craftsmen created a new kind of pottery that grew to become a world-famous art form. Some of the finest porcelain works on the planet are on display in this museum, and guests come to realize how fine porcelain pottery came to be known as "China" in the Western world.

Our group spent about an hour and a half in the museum, and at the end of that time, I found myself wishing for much more. If I ever find myself in Shanghai again, this museum will be at the top of my to-do list.

Ancient stone carvings in the sculpture gallery.

A world-class example of Chinese porcelain art.

A Tibetan ceremonial mask.

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Wonders of China

Art comes alive in St. Charles

by Brian Jewell 7. May 2010 06:57

Artwork takes on a whole new hue when you get to talk to the people who are creating it.

Today I visited St. Charles, a town in eastern Missouri known for it historic 1800s downtown and its association with Lewis and Clark's expedition. There's plenty of charm on the brick-lined streets, and many historic sites to visit. But the one that interested me the most was the Foundry Arts Centre.

Created as a railroad car manufacturing facility in the 1940s, the foundry later closed and sat dormant for years. In the 1990s and early 2000s, a community effort helped to turn the facility into an arts center with gallery space for artwork exhibition and studio space where local artists can work.

Today the Foundry Arts Centre is the cultural headquarters of St. Charles, hosting concerts, art shows, lectures luncheons and other events. The permanent galleries on the bottom floor host a series of changing exhibitions of work by local and regional artists. In the upstairs section, some 25 working artists have studios, where they can be found creating paintings, sculptures, fabric art, pottery and other art forms.

My favorite part of the visit was walking through the studios and meeting the artists who work there.  Two of them are retired art teachers who are pursuing their life passions now after decades in education. They explained the inspiration behind their work, and shared some of the processes and techniques they use to create painting and pottery that they love and that appeal to art buyers.

Meeting these guys helped me to put a human face on the artwork, and allowed to see the items in front of me through the perspective of their experience, creativity and passions. If you're only a casual art liker, a visit to the foundry just might turn you in to a bona fide art lover.


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