What if your local art museum closed tomorrow?

If the museum closed, would you notice? When was the last time you visited an art museum? A recent article in the Baltimore Sun notes that, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, only 18.7% (45 million) of Americans reported visiting an art museum in 2015. Statistics from other sources suggest that those numbers may even be too high.

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The article suggests several reasons why fewer Americans may be visiting art museums, and I would encourage you to read the article. But I want to ask you, why don’t you visit? For many of us, I would guess that our responses tend to fall into three categories – lack of time, lack of money, and lack of interest. We’re busy, we don’t want to spend the money, and we don’t really enjoy or think we understand art. We like to be entertained. Our digital world has convinced us that images need to be ever changing, constantly in motion, and full of astounding special effects in order to catch and maintain our attention. In comparison to the latest video game or blockbuster movie, a painting or sculpture seems dead and uninteresting.closing blog 2

Studies have shown that too much technology is changing the way our brains work, and not for the better. Other studies have shown the positive effects of both viewing and creating art. Yet, too many times, too many of us are choosing technology over art.

Can I challenge you with something? Spend this next week logging how many hours you spend with technology – not for work, but for leisure. Make a quick note of the time you spend checking personal emails, scrolling through facebook, posting and liking on Instagram. Include the time you spend watching television, movies, or playing video games. I’m guessing many of us would find that we are spending a incredible portion of our leisure time with technology.

Now imagine how long a visit to an art museum might take? We just visited our local museum on Saturday. it took us twenty minutes to get there, and we spent just shy of two hours there, plus twenty minutes on a return trip. So all told, less than three hours. I spend that much time on technology in pretty much any given day. I’m guessing you do too.

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We happened to visit on a day the museum encourages patrons to spend a little time sketching. So they had paper, pencils, boards, and portable stools available. The galleries were filled with happy sketchers. We spent quality family time together, looked at beautiful art, had interesting conversations about what we saw, and even created some art of our own. How much more enriching was that experience than the hour I spent on Facebook over the weekend?

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Now imagine that art museum is closed. Imagine the one across the street is closed. Let’s include the museum in your town too. In fact, let’s include all the art museums in all the towns of all our subscribers and the fine readers of this blog. Consider what now is the cost? How much have we lost? What banal substitutions will we find to fill the void where once beauty was available?

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Understand that I am not saying there is nothing of value in technology. I write for an art blog on the internet for goodness sake! But museums bring a wealth of art, beauty, and education that simply cannot be replaced by technology.

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So get out there! Find a museum in your town and go visit. Make time. Many museums have days throughout the year when they are free, check that out! Every Friday, we post an event on our Fun Friday feature on Facebook. When the event is in a town near you, come and check it out.

Let’s drive that 18.7% up in 2018!  Leave me a comment and tell me where you visited and what you like about that particular museum!

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What if your Christmas isn’t Merry and Bright?

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad! Joyeaux Noel! Frohe Weinachten! It’s a festive time of year with holiday greetings everywhere you turn. Local radio stations are proclaiming that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and Hallmark Christmas movies are trending high in the news.

But what if you find yourself a little distant from all the holiday cheer? Maybe this is your first Christmas with an empty chair at the table. Perhaps you find yourself away from family and friends, and not feeling much like celebrating this year. Maybe your home has been fractured by loss, illness, divorce. For any number of reasons, many folks find themselves on the outside looking in this Christmas season.

The Census at Bethlehem (The Numbering at Bethlehem), 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Oil paint on wood panel
115.5 x 164.5 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

I know it can be hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” when your heart is broken. Can I suggest a helpful resource? I enjoy doing special devotions during the advent season and have happened upon a fabulous resource from Biola University . The Advent Project is a series of meditations on Scripture, accentuated with music, art, and poetry. I found have the daily emails to be a tremendous help in refocusing my attitude – both turning me towards gratitude for Christ’s first coming, and in creating a real longing for His second advent when He will put all that is wrong right. You can access all the devotions for the month here.

© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.

Two of my favorite websites also have helpful articles for those facing a deep sadness this Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart suggests three strategies for walking through this season. What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas provides some useful insight and tips for those of us walking with you in this time.  Both those articles are well worth your time to read.

Nativity (2 views), 2006
Brian T. Kershisnik
Oil on canvas
17 x 7‘
Utah Museum of Fine Art

Laura and I will be taking some time off over the holidays, and we hope you will too. In the midst of all the busyness of the time, take time to stop, breathe, rest, and remember. He has come, and He will come again!

 

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How to find your Christmas in the park

“Have you been to Christmas in the Park?” That may be the question I heard the most when people found out it was our first Christmas here in the Orlando area. In fact, as far back as September, I was already hearing that question and in fact had locked in plans to attend Christmas in the Park – before I even knew what (or when) it was!

While I may live in Orlando, my children attend school in Winter Park, where my husband teaches. And Winter Park is well known in the greater Orlando area for it’s fabulous downtown and active cultural scene.

For almost 40 years, the park in the center of Winter Park has hosted Christmas in the Park – a joint effort put on by the city, the Morse Museum and the Bach Festival Society.

One of the benefits to being in Florida is that we can happily enjoy outdoor activities at Christmas. Folks come early and stake out a place – chairs, tables, picnic baskets. I saw elaborate place settings, complete with tablecloths, napkins, candles and centerpieces. I also saw more modest preparations of picnic blankets and pizza boxes. While the event doesn’t officially kick off until 6:15 pm, most folks were there well in advance. We met our friends, set up our chairs and our food and settled in for an evening of unexpected delight.

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Ringing the park are nearly a dozen enormous Tiffany stained glass windows. Each window is accompanied by at least one docent/security guard (complete with communication earpiece).

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The windows are not on display at any other time. Just before 6:15, an introduction is made by the head of the Bach Society, and the music begins. Then just as darkness is settling in, the switch is flipped and the windows are aglow for all too see their radiant beauty.

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We spent the next two hours listening to Christmas music, singing along, enjoying time with friends, and getting in the Christmas spirit. Our children began to grow tired, so we went for a walk through the park to see the windows up close.

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The detail and intricacies of the designs were astonishing. The colors were so vibrant, it strains the bounds of credulity to think that no paint was used, it is all in how colors of glass are blended together.

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Taking pictures of briliiantly lit stained glass windows in a park at night is no easy task. So as incredible as these images are, in order to truly appreciate them, you’ll just have to make the trip to Winter Park next year and see them for yourself!

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Christmas in the Park was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season for me. After being introduced to the Morse Museum and the Back Society, I look forward to exploring the offerings of both those organizations in the future. And I’ll be ready on the first Thursday in December next year for another Christmas in the Park!

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What unique holiday event does your town (or neighboring town) host during the Christmas season? Get out there and explore – then share it with us here!

 

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O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Emmanuel  – God with us! What an incredible thought! It’s that time of year again when our schedules seem more crowded than ever, our bank accounts lower than ever, bills mounting, “to do” lists staggering, stress rising. I know many of you will hear “Jesus is the reason for the season” so often that you will tune it out. Please don’t. This post isn’t meant to be guilt inducing or full of trite platitudes to get you to spend less and worship more.

Instead, I just want to share my favorite Christmas song with you, give you some beautiful art to enjoy, and ask for God to come and be with us in the midst of everything else clamoring for our attention.

You probably guessed from the title of this post that my favorite Christmas song is O Come O Come Emmanuel. The hymn was originally written in Latin, with the first published edition in the year 1710. However, there are paraphrases of the lyrics in existence as early as the year 800.  The music we currently associate with the hymn originated in France during the 1600s. There are so many versions of this hymn and of all the verses, some with three verses, others with as many as eight.

When I was in college, our advent chapel services were each crafted around a verse of this hymn, and I found that practice so helpful for shaping my outlook on advent. While I enjoy writing, I am not even in the same universe as the ancients who crafted this hymn, so indulge me as we just take a look at the lyrics and allow them to sink into our hearts and minds.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

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“Mystic Nativity”, Sando Botticelli. 108.6 x 74.9 cm, oil on canvas, 1500. The National Gallery, London.

 

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

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“Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law”, Rembrandt, 168.5 x 136.5 cm, oil on canvas, 1659. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

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“Tree of Jesse”, Marc Chagall. 81 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, 1975. Private collection.

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell They people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

“Adoration of the Shepherds”, El Greco. 319 x 180 cm, oil on canvas, 1614. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

 

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

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© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel Private collection.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

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“Dream of Solomon”, Luca Giordano. 245 x 361 cm, oil on canvas, 1693. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

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“Crucifixion,” Antonello da Messina. 42.5 x 59.7 cm, oil on panel, 1475. National Gallery, London.

 

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

 

Be our King of peace, cause us to go in the ways of wisdom and knowledge. Bring cheer in the midst of misery and gloom by the remembrance of your first coming and the anticipation of your second coming. Show us your power and might as we stand in awe of your works. Bring salvation and freedom. O Come O Come, Emmanuel.

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We Gather Together for what?

How would you answer that question? We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing….so goes the old hymn. Was that your first response? If you know the hymn, it’s probably stuck in your head now, so perhaps that was your answer!

Many of us will gather with loved ones, friends, family, maybe even strangers, and celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But why do we gather? I’m not talking about historical or political underpinnings of the official “Thanksgiving” holiday. My hunch is that most of us have never thought much about why we gather. At the same time, most of us would not want to celebrate the holidays alone. There’s something about our need to celebrate that is most fully expressed as we gather.

I’ve written on Thanksgiving before, and this year, Laura is tasked with the official Thanksgiving Day blog post. So I was trying to come up with something unique and creative to commemorate the holiday. And for inspiration, I went to my trusty companion…google. Gatherings have been a frequent inspiration for many artists. In fact, I’ve already used one of the most famous works:

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Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Oil on canvas, 51 x 68, 1881. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Living in Florida, I found it interesting that many of the famous paintings of various gatherings depicted people enjoying a meal together outside.

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HIp, Hip, Hurrah! by Peder Severin Kroyer, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in, 1888. Gothenburg Museum of Art.

For most of my life, I have lived in climates where Thanksgiving weather necessitates eating indoors. What about you? Will you gather inside or enjoy the great outdoors while you dine?

I love this painting, which was new to me.

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Lunch on the field, Francisco Bayeu y Subias, oil on canvas, 37 x 56 cm, 1775, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

It is clearly a festive occasion – there are wine bottles nearby and a guitar off to the side. The participants are enjoying themselves, perhaps they sang prior to the meal, or maybe they will sing afterwards. It looks like the kind of gathering I would enjoy! Will you have music involved as you gather? Will you sing together?

I was entertained to see that two artists painted such similar paintings that they actually chose the same title.

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Luncheon on the Grass, Paul Cezanne. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60cm, 1869. Private Collection.
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Luncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm, 1866. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

In both of these works, the participants in the luncheon seem at ease with one another. Some of the gentlemen have removed their hats, the ladies are reclining on picnic blankets. There is a level of comfort and familiarity to the scene. I certainly hope you gather with folks whom you enjoy. And that you are comfortable with those gathered around your table (or picnic blanket).

It is possible though that this holiday season finds you alone, the stranger. Who might you ask to welcome you? And for those of us who may be the host of a holiday gathering, who is the stranger who needs a welcoming table?

In our home, we will indeed gather to ask the Lord’s blessing. He has been very gracious to us this year. Enjoy this little clip from A Prairie Home Companion – may you smile, wonder at God’s blessings, and perhaps extend a bit more grace as you extend your table and gather together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Museum in My Backyard

Are you ready for some word association? I say “Orlando”, and you say…….

How many of you said “Disney”? I’d also accept “Mickey” or “theme parks” or “happiest place on earth”. I have a hunch the the overwhelming majority of responses would fall along those lines. In fact, when my husband first began discussing the possibility of moving to Orlando, my words were “what? Orlando? It’s just Disney and old people.” To say that I was not excited would be an understatement.

However, as I began to do a little research on why living in Orlando was fabulous, I discovered that Orlando is a city that has much to offer beyond Disney. This past weekend, my family and I headed out to the Orlando Museum of Art to participate in their Family Day. Once a year, the museum sets aside a day specifically for families. There is free admission, children’s activities, live music, and a general welcoming spirit to families. I have written in the past that my children are no strangers to art museums, but for many families, art museums are not part of their usual weekend faire, and events such as this one present a fantastic opportunity to expose their children to real beauty in the form of visual art.

As this was our first visit to the Orlando Museum of Art, we really didn’t know what to expect. I was thrilled to see that there is a feature piece Citron and Cobalt Tower by Dale Chihuly. We first encountered Chihuly’s stunning glass art when we were living in Richmond, VA, and we have been fans ever since.

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Like most art museums, the Orlando Museum of Art has both permanent and visiting collections.  In the permanent collections, my children were particularly fascinated with many of the modern works. They have a fantastic collection of multi-dimensional art that encouraged our children to both think, and discuss.

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I was particularly captured by the visitng exhibit Babylonian Odyssey featuring works by artist Oded Halahmy. Halahmy is an Iraqi of jewish descent who creates sculptures from metal (in this exhibit, primarily bronze) that reflect middle eastern landscapes and themes. The collection was displayed in such a creative way that truly captured the flavor of his culture. You can still enjoy this marvelous exhibit through the end of 2017.

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My children’s favorite exhibit was easily Bravo! by Chris Raschka. Raschka is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Not only did the museum have his illustrations on display, they also provided a table with many of his books.

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It was delightful to read to my girls and then walk around and enjoy looking at his artwork.

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We were fortunate enough to visit on the final weekend of this exhibit, and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it! we even went to our local library later and checked out of few of his books to enjoy at home.

Of course, since it was family day, the “craft room” was not to be missed. My own budding artists enjoyed the opportunity to create their own masterpieces as a fitting end to an afternoon of art exploration.

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I was grateful to experience this delightful museum in my own backyard. For our family, it was just the right size. We were able to wander through the entire museum without overloading our kids or our own senses. There is a wide variety of art to peruse. The exhibits were well designed and engaging. We are already planning our return visit!

Have you visited your local art museum? If not, why not plan to go this weekend? And when you do, leave me a note about your favorite exhibit. There is so much beauty to enjoy – get out there and see it!

 

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A Peek Inside the Studio

The artist’s studio  – that place where all the magic of art creation happens. Or that place that looks like a color bomb exploded. Not all of us get a chance to pull back the curtain and watch an artist at work. I’ve been working with Laura for four years now, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see her studio, to see where she creates.

Because of my recent move to Florida, Laura and I now live relatively close to one another. So she invited me out to teach her ladies Bible study on the topic of friendship. I loved meeting the ladies and talking about what the Bible has to say about friendship. I think we all left very encouraged. At least I know I did.

To be honest, I was most excited to get a chance to step inside her studio! In my mind’s eye, I have always had this “idea” of what her studio looks like, but I’d never had the opportunity to visit it.

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My initial impression upon stepping inside the door of Laura’s studio was the beautiful assault of color. Like many homes, Laura’s house has neutral wall colors, and neutral carpet colors. And in her studio, that neutral background enables the vibrant colors of the paints, pastels, and  the artwork to shine unimpeded. As Laura has begun to venture out from beyond her “usual” medium of pastels, she has filled her studio with a wide and varied array of paints in addition to the pastels. As a non-painter, I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the supplies. But I was fascinated.

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She had color charts, wheels, swatches, How fun to see even a paper plate where she was clearly experimenting with various color combinations. Where I might look at a canvas and see “blue”, Laura has undoubtedly mixed blues, whites, greens, and who know what else to make a fantastic background for an as yet to be created abstract.

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One of the things about her studio that fascinates me is the multiple projects that are all ongoing. I know she has mentioned before that she always works on more than one painting at a time, but I was still amazed to see all that she is doing at the same time!

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I’m someone who has difficulty reading more than one book at a time; I cannot imagine having three, four, or even five (or more) works of art all in various stages of completion. I have always had a deep admiration for creators of visual art, and seeing Laura’s studio only heightened my wonderment at her creative process.

My visit also gave me the opportunity to meet the man behind the studio – Ken (or as Laura usually calls him when talking to me…Kenny). He is a tremendously gracious man – giving his talented wife the time and space to create such beautiful works of art, allowing two dozen women to invade his home on a weekly basis, and even going out and picking up lunch for all of us to enjoy some time together after the study was over. Plus, he and Laura are the cutest couple!

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After visiting Laura’s studio, I feel like I have a new respect for the artwork that she creates. Getting a peek into all the work that you don’t see when you see her finished works makes them all the more beautiful and meaningful. I also loved that fact that Laura has decorated her home with her artwork.

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In almost every room, she has her artwork lovingly placed. Her art is an extension of who she is, a reflection of how she’s wired. So it is only natural that her studio should overflow into her home. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be closer and to visit!

If you’re ever in the Tampa area, please do contact us. I know Laura would welcome the chance to show you her studio as well. And you might just find yourself coming home with some more artwork for your own home!

 

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Peace on Earth isn’t just for Christmas

“Peace on Earth”…no, I’m not starting to sing Christmas songs already. I’m a strict “not until after Thanksgiving” kind of girl. But in light of recent events there has been a lot of clamoring for peace.

America seems more and more divided lately – republicans vs. democrats, trump supporters vs. never trumpers, black vs. white, standers vs. kneelers. There seems to be no end to the disunity that clutters my newsfeed. Is there no peace to be found?

I want to introduce (or perhaps reacquaint) you with an artist who is famous for his depictions both of war and of peace.

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Peace and War

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881. His father was an artist, who happened to like painting pigeons or doves. Picasso’s early paintings were not necessarily political in nature, and he gained quite a following rather quickly. He is frequently referred to as the father of cubism.

Picasso’s approach to art began to change radically in 1937, when he painted one of his most famous paintings:

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“Guernica,” by Pablo Picasso. (1937)

This painting was in direct response to the Italian and German carpet bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica. Picasso began to see his art as more than just a unique decoration. He had a message and wasn’t afraid to speak it through his art.

“What do you think an artist is? …he is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.” Picasso

Guernica came to symbolize the abject horrors of war and was used as a rallying cry for the Peace Movement of the 1940s. Picasso himself became an active participant in the movement and in speaking out against totalitarian regimes.

Peace and Picasso

In 1949, Picasso painted another watershed work.

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“La Colombe” (The Dove) by Picasso, 1949

Entitled simply “La Calombe” (the Dove), the lithograph was featured on posters celebrating the Paris Peace Conference. Picasso’s daughter was born that same year and he gave her the name Paloma, which is the Spanish word for dove. She is in her father’s arms in the family photograph above.

Since then, Picasso’s dove has been modified numerous times and used as personification of peace.

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Lasting Peace

For centuries, many different cultures have used a dove to symbolize peace.  Art and images have great power to shape the way in which we think. Sadly, true and lasting peace will require more than a lovely painting, a change in one’s profile picture, or a serene bird.

The Scriptures speak of a King who is coming who will “speak peace to the nations”. At His very birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” His peace did not come with political unity, but with His brutal death in the place of sinners.

There is a day coming when wars and divisions will cease. There is a time approaching when reports of mass shootings and natural disasters will not grace the news headlines. True peace will reign when our Prince of Peace returns. And oh what a glorious day that will be:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

Amen. Come and bring your peace, Lord Jesus.

 

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Small but Memorable

Art museums may not be high on your list of places to visit with small children. I can understand that. We’ve heard an annoyed “shhhhh” from more than one art museum docent in our years with small ones in tow. But sometimes, small children and small art museums make for big memories!

We are Bank of America card holders, so we have the opportunity to enjoy a free museum on the first weekend of every month as part of their “Museums on Us” program. Being new to Orlando, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a new museum. This month, we selected the Mennello Museum of American Art.

The museum itself is small, only one floor with a few carefully chosen exhibits, both permanent and rotating. However, it sits on a beautiful expanse of land along the shores of Lake Formosa in downtown Orlando. We were also able to wander through its well manicured gardens which are amply supplied with comfy adirondack chairs for lounging, and engaging sculptures to enjoy.

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No small sculptures

Currently, they are featuring the sculptures of Alice Aycock – Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes. These sculptures are anything but small. My daughters were fascinated just by walking around them and noting all the various details. As they viewed the sculptures from different angles, they pointed out different features and had lively discussions about what the sculptor was creating.

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There are a variety of other sculptures to view along the pathways in the garden. My family was particularly delighted with the larger than life crayon sculpture.

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No small impact

Inside the museum, we noticed that we had arrived on the final weekend of the visiting exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William EgglestonEggleston’s photographs have shaped many in the art world beyond just photographers. American novelist Megan Abbott said, “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch…When you look long enough at his photographs, [like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images] you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

Indeed, even our small children were in another place as they walked slowly and quietly through the exhibit. Ordinary moments in time become extraordinary works of art. In ways that I cannot quite explain, Eggleston’s works were remarkable in their power to capture my attention and my imagination with scenes as pedestrian as laundry hanging on a clothesline.

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

My girls were full of big questions about the photos and why they were so powerful. They began creating whole stories around the snapshot moments captured and displayed on the walls of this small exhibit. Unfortunately, the exhibit has moved on, but I would encourage you to check out the works of this groundbreaking artist.

The Mennello Museum also has permanent exhibits featuring self-taught landscape artist Earl Cunningham, and a fascinating sculpture by Albert Paley, entitled Hector. 

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art credit: Albert Paley (b. Philadelphia, PA 1944), Hector, 1990, steel with red paint. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY

This towering steel sculpture calls to mind the character of Hector from Homer’s Iliad. My husband has had the pleasure of teaching the Iliad and my daughter has read a children’s version of it as well. We had a rather interesting and engaging discussion about Hector the Greek hero and the sculpture.

No small stories

We spent not quite two hours exploring the Mennello museum, both inside and out. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to visit. I have no doubt that we will return. The museum offers multiple opportunities to engage with the art they celebrate. They offer free docent led tours on the first Friday of every month, a monthly free day for families (where your small ones can create their own art), a monthly documentary movie screening, and even a puppet led story time for toddlers.

I was thrilled to find a museum that was accessible, engaging, and thought provoking to enjoy with my whole family. Even my six year old has asked if we can return! But you don’t have to be small to appreciate the Mennello. My husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to some new-to-us artists and look forward to our next visit.

If you’re in the Orlando area, I would encourage you to check out the Mennello Museum. If you’re not, I have a hunch that you have your own small museum in town. Maybe you’ve always overlooked it because of it’s size. You may just find something there you never expected. What’s your favorite small museum you’ve explored? Share your experiences in the comments, I’m always looking for new places to see!

 

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The end…or is it the beginning?

The End. No, I’m not writing the blog post in reverse this week. But we have reached the end of my postings about my recent vacation of a lifetime. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can catch up with my preview post, part one, part two, and part three. I am writing an “epilogue” post in a few weeks, but it’s a bit of a different take. So I’m calling this post the official end.

I could write so, so much more on what we saw and all that we experienced. I’m more than happy to share pictures and details to anyone who’s interested. We had an incredible adventure. I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to share so much beauty with our kids.

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I could write an entirely different blog series on camping with a family, but that one might be more a comedy of errors! All good things must come to an end, and so did our vacation.

The end of a civilization

The last park we visited was Mesa Verde in Colorado. Unlike the other parks we visited, Mesa Verde isn’t so much about the wildness of the landscape, the immensity of canyons, or the breathtaking vistas. The spotlight of Mesa Verde shines brightly on the ruins of the ancient puebloan peoples who made their home among these imposing cliffs.

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Sometimes referred to as the “Anasazi”, the ancient puebloan people were hunter gatherers, and later, farmers. They built thriving civilizations in areas where few of us would dare to attempt living today. In Mesa Verde, many of these dwellings have been painstakingly restored and preserved for us to enjoy.

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The highlight of our time in the park was the tour we took of the Cliff Palace. My girls were excited to take on a steep climb, complete with narrow passages and vertical ladder climbs. By this point in our trip, they were pretty accomplished hikers.

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To protect the ancient architecture, you can only tour the cliff dwellings with a national park service guide. As we walked along, our guide did a fantastic job of telling us the journey these ancient peoples took.

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Mystery still surrounds the story of their demise. We had some interesting conversations with my inquisitive children as they suggested possible reasons for the end of these civilizations.

Not the end, but the beginning

Exploring ruins of a people who have long since faded away reminds me that I am only one part in a much larger story. It is all too easy to think that I am the center of my universe, the be all and end all of my little world. My problems are bigger than others, my successes more worth celebrating, my failures more cataclysmic. And yet, people lived, thrived, and died, long before I existed. No doubt people will continue doing so long after my story has come to an end. I am part of something much bigger.

I believe there is an Author who is writing a great cosmic story. An author who is Himself both the beginning and the end. As I reflect on a past civilization at Mesa Verde, I am reminded of this Author who alone determines the times and places for people to live. While I may be a small piece of the story, He still knows my name. I am not lost to Him.

“And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle 

So if today finds you a little too focused on your own story, remember that you are but one piece in much larger story. Not an insignificant piece, a valuable, important, loved piece. Take comfort in knowing that the One who set the stars and planets in place is writing your story as well. And His story has no end.

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