Tag Archives: Art Museum

ANN ARBOR: Really Old Stuff….

20 Feb

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We stepped outside into the cold winter air, high up in the powder blue sky the sun was shining; perfect for a road trip. With so many things to see and do, Ann Arbor is always a good destination. I like Ann Arbor on a Sunday; parking is free and it is the least crowded day of the weekend. The air was frigid, so we planned on indoor activities. The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) maintains one of the oldest collections of art in the nation in university hands; collecting for 150 years it has amassed more than 18,000 art works. In 1910 the university built the Alumni Memorial Hall, it was to serve as a war memorial, home to the Alumni Association and the UMMA. As the collection grew, so did the need for more space, in 1966 the museum became the sole occupant of the building. In 2009 the museum space was enlarged by 53,000 sq. ft with the addition of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and Frankel Family Wing; during this time the original building was also restored, new galleries and a new UMMA store were added.

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Smooth stone and simple doric columns, to me the exterior of the building looks serious. Inside the historic apse has been redone and the skylights restored, light floods the oval-shaped space. At the far end, marble statues rest upon pedestals looking as if they were awaiting my arrival, I am excited to be here. We stroll through the main floor galleries then head up the stairway; a large funky glass light fixture livens up the space. We wander from gallery to gallery, the transition from the old to the new seamless. The new wing is three stories, stairways are tucked away neatly, natural light filters in. Pieces not on display are housed in ‘open storage’ galleries, allowing the visitor to see more of the museums collections; I love the Tiffany glass. There are large amounts of Asian and African Art, a large cabinet displays stunning silver serving pieces covered with intricate designs. Ceramic vessels, tiles and platters from the Middle Eastern Collection catch my eye, Kris likes the Modern and Contemporary galleries best. We look at the American Art, prints, drawings and photos until we have seen it all; but wait, there’s still more to see……..across the street.

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If I had to guess, I would say  most Metro-Detroiters have never heard of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; today we’re going to change that. I think it is fascinating, a place that most people would find very interesting, even if they don’t think so!  Francis W Kelsey was a professor at the University of Michigan, in 1893 he began acquiring artifacts, thinking that they would help his students understand the ancient world. His first purchase was 108 items from an excavation site in Tunisia, that same year he bought 1,096 objects from dealers in Tunis, Rome, Capri and Sicily. As the collection grew, items began to be housed in a gorgeous Richardson Romanesque stone building named Newberry Hall. Built in 1891 as the home for the Student Christian Association, it is one of the oldest buildings on campus today. One of the unique features of this building is its original Tiffany stained glass window, one of two Tiffany windows in Ann Arbor. By 1953 Kelsey’s collections had taken over the building and it became known as the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. In 2009 the museum grew by 20,000 sq. ft. with the addition of the William E Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

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Today the museum houses the university’s collection of more than 100,000 ancient and medieval objects including Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Islamic archaeological artifacts. On the first floor, galleries are white from top to bottom, large glass cabinets line the walls; items here date back to “BC” and Alexander The Great, it’s hard to wrap my brain around that. Statues rest on pillars out in the open, I better watch where I’m going. We see pottery, terracotta figurines and Roman glass. U of M excavated a site southwest of Cairo known as Karanis; between 1926 and 1936 nearly 45,000 objects were uncovered and sent back to Ann Arbor, the largest collection of objects outside of the Cairo Museum. We marvel at a colorfully painted mummy coffin, Greek pottery and Roman sculptures, it’s amazing all of this still exists, even more amazing, it’s right here in Ann Arbor! Jewelry in both delicate and large pieces, ‘magical’ amulets from the ancient Near East are beautiful. We take the stairs to the second level, pieces hanging on the wall relate to ancient sailors. Upstairs is more colorful, walls painted in gold and russet display items and photographs of excavations. A replica of the famous Villa of the Mysteries mural from ancient Pompeii is done in 5/6 scale; I look at the faces of the figures, it seems as though they are looking right at me, their eyes follow me. The museum holds the largest collection of Latin inscriptions in the west, we see ancient coins, Egyptian Tomb sets and Greek papyri, and it’s all real……..It’s a lot to take in. We are definitely planning on coming back.

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The museums are located on State Street across from one another, it is only a short walk to E William St and the Original Cottage Inn, lunch, here we come! Back in 1948 when Cottage Inn opened, it was the first restaurant in Ann Arbor to serve pizza, really. Outside, the orange brick building is decorated with painted ivy climbing the walls, the old-fashioned sign jutting from the entrance let’s us know we’ve arrived. Inside it smells wonderful, a mix of fresh-baked bread, spices, olive oil, and maybe a bit of pepperoni…The menu is filled with Italian and Greek dishes, and most importantly, PIZZA. Kris and I have been coming here for over 20 years, though the space itself has undergone expansions, renovations and redecoration, the food has always remained the same delicious way. We started with the antipasto salad; meats, cheeses,olives, so good. Our grilled chicken pizza arrived piping hot, mozzarella stretching all the way from pan to plate. Grilled chicken, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, the crust is just as good as I remember. Few words passed between Kris and I as we ate, we had some serious eating to do.

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I believe there is some sort of gravitational pull that exists in Ann Arbor, it will always lead you to Zingerman’s! Making sure to save room for dessert, we find ourselves surrounded by sweet goodness at Zingerman’s Next Door; cakes, tortes, cookies, brownies, chocolates and gelato, it is dizzying. The February special was Mississippi Mud Pie; a chewy brownie layer topped with soft, dark chocolate ganache, toasted meringue and chocolate drizzle, need I say more? Paired with house roasted coffee for me and espresso for Kris, it is dessert nirvana. 

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Cincinnati; Eden Park, Art Museum, Krohn Conservatory

25 Jun


If you visit Cincy make sure to take a ride up to Mt Adams. The ride can be complex but it’s well worth the effort. On the west side of Mt Adams is where you’ll find restaurants, shops, bars, wonderful homes and great views of downtown. We chose the east side, Eden Park. Home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park, and the Krohn Conservatory, Eden Park is one of several hilltop parks that offers spectacular views of the city, and the mighty Ohio River. There are plenty of places to sit and relax here; what do you like, gardens, fountains, a gazebo, scenic vistas? Feeling energetic, take a walk on one of the trails. Driving through the park with it’s elevation changes is a welcome variation from the flat lands of Detroit.



Krohn Conservatory is one of my favorite conservatories, it was built in 1933 at the height of the Art Deco movement. This glass and aluminum structure harbors over 3,500 different plant species in four different houses; Palm, Tropical, Desert, and Orchid.With it’s aluminum railings and terazzo floors it has that wonderful ‘old’ feeling to it that you just don’t get from modern conservatories. I am partial to the Rainforest waterfall, it’s just gorgeous! It was Father’s Day and the place was jammed, it seemed every family had the same idea; to take pictures with dad in this exotic environment.


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Located at the top of the hill is the Art museum, built in 1886 and undergoing several additions through the decades it houses an impressive collection.The interior of the building is a work of art in of itself; Sweeping staircases with wood and iron railings, columns, and even a touch of Art Deco. Take your time and wander both floors; the layout makes for easy transition from room to room, European to American and century to century. The Chihuly glass sculpture strung from the ceiling to the lobby is outstanding. They have an extensive collection of Rookwood Pottery, my two favorite pieces of the entire collection are the Rookwood Fireplace & Fountain. With the special exhibits there is always something new to see here. Admission is Free, parking $4.00




We drove around Eden Park for a bit, up and down the hills. We stopped and took a walk around Mirror Lake, so pretty, and to a couple of the scenic overlooks. Cincinnati has a series of bridges crossing the rivers and you can see most of them from this vantage point. Eden Park is a part of Cincy that is not to be missed!


Time for lunch before heading back north. Hyde Park is one area that has a lot of activity on a Sunday. We found a little cafe to have lunch on the patio, but to our dismay the rain started up again. Just as well, the food was equally as good indoors as it would have been out. When in Cincy you have got to try their signature brand of ice cream; Graeter’s. There is a location in Hyde Park Square and it conveniently sits adjacent to a park with benches and a beautiful fountain. The Buckeye Blitz is truly an Ohio thing, chocolate and peanut-butter, one of those perfect combinations of flavors.  After we finished up our ice cream we took to the road once again, this time towards home.


Cincinnati is one of the great All-American cities that graces the Midwest and makes for a great get-away from The D. Like most of our rust-belt relatives, we share a history of hard times and perseverance. We love spending our tourist dollars where they are most appreciated; hard working industrial towns like our own that have far more to offer than most realize.


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