Tag Archives: art

DETROIT: Glass Art

21 Feb

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The Scarab Club opened it’s doors on Farnsworth in 1928 joining the year-old DIA building in Detroit’s newly formed Cultural Center. The beautiful Arts and Crafts structure was designed by architect and member Lancelot Sukert. Home to an artists club, gallery and studios, artists and art lovers meet here regularly to socialize and talk art. Back in the early 20th century Detroit gave birth to a new art form: automotive design and with it the evolution of automobile advertising art. Many of the original founding members of the Scarab Club were automotive designers, illustrators, graphic artists, photographers, architects and automobile company owners. It’s only fitting that American Dreaming: Corvette, 7 Generations and Beyond is on exhibit in the main gallery.

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The documentary, American Dreaming, about the Detroit artists who designed cars from 1946-1973 is in the process of being completed; the film covers Ford, GM, Chrysler, Packard, Studebaker, Nash and Hudson, this exhibit focuses solely on the Chevrolet Corvette. Introduced in 1953 the Corvette became the iconic American sports car. Here we see original drawings and models created by General Motors designers, the fact that these drawings still exist and are on display for all of us to see is incredible. In the design studios talented men and women put pencil to paper sketching cars straight from their imaginations. Studios were closely guarded, manufacturers considered the drawings company property, artists were not allowed to keep their work, instead most was destroyed. Once the artists figured out what was happening they found a way to sneak their drawings out, it was risky, you could lose your job if caught. They took their chances.

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Just look at the photographs of the framed sketches; side pipes, flames shooting out from dual exhaust pipes, bold colors, sleek designs all expressing the American optimism of the time. Concept cars were futuristic, they could fly through space, drive on elevated super-highways, they were race cars for the ordinary guy. Cars were beautiful, elegant, glamorous, exotic. One of my favorites is the gold Corvette with the #1 by Allen Young, the 1956 by Brock looks like a cousin of the Batmobile; drivers wear helmets, their faces carry the look of speed. We see the Corvette from all angles, some drawings focus on tail lights or the grill, monotone or color they’re all incredibly cool! The plain white paper has yellowed over the years but the designs look as fresh as if they were done yesterday. These rare, vintage drawings still capture our attention. Concept art is finally getting its due and being recognized as fine art.

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We’re grabbing a bite to eat at Bucharest Grill on Piquette Ave. This wildly popular restaurant began as a take-out counter inside The Park Bar. After a parting of ways Bucharest has branched out with 3 Detroit locations. The food is all handmade from original recipes, they serve Romanian dishes, Middle Eastern cuisine and hot dogs. Everything is fresh, fair-priced and delicious! Shawarma is a must, throw in a couple of hot dogs and we’re set.

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We take a seat at the window overlooking Piquette while we wait for our food to be prepared, it doesn’t take long. The chicken shawarma is the best I’ve ever eaten; grilled marinated chicken breast, tomato, lettuce, pickles and to-die-for garlic sauce all wrapped in a pita. The Hamtramck is a kielbasa dog topped with braised red cabbage, bacon and spicy mustard tucked into a sesame seed bun, so good. The Detroiter is knockwurst drenched in coney sauce, grilled onions and cheddar cheese on a sesame seed bun, yum! This place is always packed but they get you in and out quickly. Amazing art and tasty food; not a bad way to spend the day.

DETROIT: Just Another Night…

11 Feb

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Today we’re downtown to check out a couple of new places. Our first stop is in the former Federal Reserve Building on Fort Street. The original building opened in 1927, a lovely three and a half-story example of Classical Revival architecture. An eight-story glass and marble annex designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the International Style was added in 1951. Today the building houses the Detroit News and Free Press, the Rosetti architectural firm (they did the building renovations) and our reason for being here, Maru Sushi.

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It’s late afternoon, there are only a few other diners in the 4,500 sq. ft space, sunlight pours in through two-story-tall windows. The room is designed to look like a fisherman’s net with metal netting acting as dividers and a wave-like light fixture. Japanese artwork, raw concrete walls, natural stone, marble accents, decorate the soaring, open space. The original revolving door entrance to the building has been reinvented as a private booth–sweet. The menu is filled with rolls, sashimi, nigiri, sharing plates, soups, salads and noodles. We’re having the Spicy Tuna, Flaming Crab and Archer rolls. Everything is super-fresh, nice flavor combinations and generous in size. 

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After lunch we wander around the building; the flooring is a combination of original terrazzo with new stone-like paths. A series of wooden ribs sweeps across the ceiling, the reception desk is surrounded by mirrors, rough rock makes up a portion of a wall, bright red accents add a splash of color. Gorgeous marble walls and columns are backlit creating a striking effect. The second floor is open and overlooks the lobby, here we get a birds-eye-view of the restaurant, first floor and Fort Street; sitting areas are comfortable and attractive. I’m glad to see they maintained the integrity of the original Mid-Century Modern style.

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A short walk and we’re in Capitol Park. Did you know this is where Michigan’s State Capitol Building was originally located? Detroit was the state’s capitol from 1837-1847 when it moved to Lansing–hence the name Capitol Park. We stop in at The Albert, a 12-story luxury apartment building. Designed by Albert Kahn (of course), built in 1929, it was originally called the Detroit Griswold Building. It went from an office building to senior apartments to 127 market-rate units and renamed after the architect who designed it. We take the stairs to the 3rd floor common areas; here residents can play games, watch TV, throw a party or just cozy up in a corner and read. The large open space is decorated in bold colors, the outside wall is glass with a spectacular view of Capitol Park. Sitting areas, dining areas, I love the open coffer revealing the buildings original terracotta floor slabs above. The terrace offers outdoor seating and a community BBQ, whatever somebody’s cooking sure smells good! On the main floor we take the back exit to the alley, now we just have to find the right door….

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Detroit’s newest addition to the craft cocktail scene is Bad Luck Bar. The latest offering by the Detroit Optimist Society (Sugar House, Wright & Company) is definitely unique. In the alley a red light glows beyond a glass block window, the snake drawn on the door below the address assures us we’ve found the place. The tiny lobby is separated from the bar by a velvet curtain, a neon eye symbol illuminates the space. The host leads us through the compact, elegant room and seats at the bar. Cherry wood walls are finished with a hexagonal pattern, handmade hexagonal lights hang low from the ceiling, illuminati symbols are tucked into the decor; it feels very upscale. In keeping with the Bad Luck theme there are 13 choices on the cocktail menu, rare and unusual liquors are incorporated into creative combinations. We order our drinks then sit back and watch the show. Kris is having “Death”, I can’t tell you what’s in it but when all the measuring and shaking is complete it’s poured into a skull Tiki-style glass and set on fire, how cool is that? And it tastes fantastic. I’m having the Empress, again I have no idea what it’s made with, it served in a tall fluted glass ad garnished with housemade lavender popping sugar, it’s so good! Come here for the drinks and the experience.

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LuminoCITY Detroit runs until February 18, be sure and check it out! It’s hard to describe, fortunately we have good photos to share with you. It’s called a large-scale interactive art installation experience, I call it awesome. Beautifully illuminated shapes and designs of different sizes are placed in sites around downtown, they twist and flow to a curated light show. Right here in Capitol Park is Arcade, it sort of reminds me of a roller coaster; up and down, sharp turns, each section glows in a different color. Light Weaver sits on the old Hudson’s site, horse shoe shaped structures change colors, first it’s all blue then it becomes red, pink, yellow and orange, whimsical circles dance on the surface.

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180 Beacon on Woodward is a pretty deep-blue ring, it makes me want to jump through it, which is kind of the purpose of the installation. It encourages people to walk around the city, go from one structure to the next, discover something new, stop in at a restaurant, shop or bar. In Grand Circus Park 360 Beacons is a twist of primary colors, across the street is Gateway, the largest piece of the group. A huge multi-dimensional, multi-colored, patterned rainbow greets all who pass. We stand and watch as the color palette transitions from warm to cool, textures and shapes are projected across the surface. Art, technology and design working together, making Detroit a better place.

Chrysler: Stylin’

3 Nov

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If you love cars images in this post may cause excitement, drooling, rapid heartbeat and verbal outbursts. All other readers, please take into consideration what an amazing experience it is to be able to wander around the Design Studio of a major automaker, step foot in the Design Dome, sit inside concept cars, be in the space where designs are born, put on paper and carved into clay, as I said, AMAZING! Chrysler pulled out all the stops for this open house; future and current models are on display, they dug deep into the archives pulling out and dusting off concept vehicles of different eras for our viewing pleasure.

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We have crossed the building from one end to the other finally arriving at the Design Studio, the door is open, let’s go in. From the instant we enter the studio I know I’m going to have my hands full keeping up with the boys; at the very first sight of vintage muscle car art hanging on the walls their eyes begin to glaze over, they don’t know where to look first. I see other visitors with the same affliction bumping into folks, their eyes focused only on what’s in front of them, nothing breaking their concentration. I have to admit, this is way cool… We are in the Product Design area, we come face to face with a gleaming silver luxury sportscar called “Firepower”, very sleek-looking, I love the two-tone interior. In this area walls are a deep putty color, bold, abstract-ish paintings of muscle cars pop on the neutral background. In a large open area trucks, Jeeps and cars intermix with employee work space. On the far side, glass enclosed offices belong to brand executives, we get an insiders peek at the personality of each; one has a great Pop Art poster of Virgil Exner.

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There’s stuff everywhere; photo-art of a 1960 Imperial Dash, a vintage Challenger interior. An actual clay 1970 Challenger dashboard stands on a cabinet, (Hey, I used to have a ’70 Challenger!) this is the original model from which they were made. Underneath we find shifters, switches, panels and gadgets. Renderings fill large bulletin boards, big chunks of clay and modeling tools allow kids and grown-up to try their hand at car design. A Jeep Treo is getting a lot of attention as is the also-never-produced Demon convertible. Through a doorway we enter a room with a Turbine Car, a video tells the story of this exceptional car on a screen nearby.

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There it is, the styling dome… It’s much larger than I expected, lights in the ceiling remind me of stars in the sky, droves of people mill about; Kris, our friend and I each head off in different directions. It’s like some sort of dance the way people shift from one remarkable car to the next, all the while smart phone in hand. There’s a white Challenger T/A, a blue Viper Indy Pace Car, I’m sorta fascinated by the Mopar Drag Pak Challenger, I notice Kris can’t take his eyes off the red Charger concept from back in 1999. People pose for pictures in front of one-off cars and trucks as if they are celebrities. 

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Making my way through the crowd I meet back up with the boys outside on the Design Court; a handful of unique vehicles await us. I like the Africa Jeep concept, there’s a snazzy Chrysler 300 Super S with a blue matte finish paint job, the Mopar Edition Charger looks good, the Challenger GT AWD concept looks tough with the black hood, roof, trunk, wheels and tires.

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Back inside we move on to the next area, the black 1968 Charger R/T stops us in our tracks, muscle car photo art hangs on the wall. Vehicles are scattered about; an orange Wrangler with plaid seats looks ready to hit the trails, folks climb into the grey “Stitch” Jeep, I heard the seats are actually Viper seats. A WWII military Willy’s Jeep reminds us how long they’ve been around, a half-Jeep is mounted on the wall.

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A small section is dedicated to Viper, love the far-out renderings; how about that snake-skin green? Check out the new 340 Daytona, this one has a clay front end, I like the pic Kris took of the Daytona Hemi hood decal. The futuristic drawings of the Challenger are awesome, a large board shows us examples of the Hellcat logo. Trucks are next, this is the first time I’ve seen the 2012 Lil’ Red Express Truck concept, stacks and all. The bright yellow Dodge Ram Rumble Bee truck is extremely popular, I’m glad to see the Bee is still around. A father and daughter work together on the truck clay model, this is truly a family affair.

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Work areas are dark in the next department, more great automotive art hangs about. This must be the Silver section the silver Chrysler 300 concept is stylish as is the Chrysler Nassau concept from 2007, the ME 12 Chrysler is more charcoal than silver, it’s streamlined, elegant, graceful, slick, wouldn’t it be fun to get a ride in this one? The Brilliant Blue custom Jeep plays homage to the old 1976 Cherokee’s, love the color. As I walk I notice shelves stacked with modern wheels, huge automotive photos on the walls, posters with pictures of cars and trucks and their progression through the years.  The boys and I meet up by the Renegade on the scanning machine, even thought I don’t know how it works it’s captivating to look at. We’re so impressed, enthralled and excited by everything we’ve seen, I especially like the way the vehicles are all connected through time; the past, present and future all in the same space. A big thank you to our friend for taking us on this exquisite journey and another thank you to Chrysler for the privilege of seeing the inner-workings of the company. A great time was had by all. 

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Eastern Market: Still, More to Come….

4 Oct

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We’re in the Eastern Market District on a Thursday evening; shops, galleries, cafes and soon-to-open businesses are open late. People fill the sidewalks and streets; special events are taking place as artists from Detroit to Paris put the finishing touches on murals throughout the district. We’re on the Fisher Fwy service drive, Cheap Charlies wears Cey Adams’ mural Mighty Love, next to that we admire the artwork of Shades. Eastern Market has become a focal point for art; walk around any street on any given day and you’ll see what I mean. 

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Down a ways Detroit Wick is packed with people checking out art and scented goods. We squeeze inside; a DJ provides music, there’s a line for cocktails, people mill about looking at items encapsulated in lucite. Cleaning products turned art fill a table, plastic trash bags are making a statement. Over at the Scent Bar (yep, Scent Bar) I check out candles and room sprays, I like all of them; buy one of theirs or create your own. Outside the temperature is still in the 80’s, in front of Shed 2, people have gathered to listen to the Detroit Afriken Music Institution’s “Mothership Landing”, a UFO glows in LED light as Funk music entertains the crowd. We follow a group of illuminated bicycles and watch as bikes decked out in lights, baskets and all sorts of bling promenade down a runway; the audience claps, shouts and whistles for their favorites.

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Weaving through market streets we find a street party on Riopelle, food trucks feed hungry festival goers, a DJ supplies the music and Detroit City Distillery is hard at working making craft cocktails. Tonight Eastern Market Brewing Company is giving a preview of their space set to open in March of 2017. We step inside the 1929 building that until a couple of years ago was home to S&D Packing, a meat-packing plant; today the raw space is cluttered with half a dozen beer kettles, curious patrons, folding chairs, and a table selling EMBC merch. I see a table serving up beer and popcorn, to my surprise it’s free! Kris and I stand and listen to the live band while we eat and drink, they’re playing American Pie, the whole audience joins in at the chorus, the song ends and we’re back on the streets.

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We wander past murals from 2015 and 2016, the art encourages visitors to investigate the entire footprint of the district. Zak Meers is putting the finishing touches on his farm mural, a wall of silhouettes is taking shape; the creative spirit is alive and well in Detroit. Sydney James piece featuring an African-American woman addresses a timely topic, another mural is a blend of colors creating colorful background for mountains, clouds, planets and boulders that bounce across the wall. A lovely young American Indian girl is the centerpiece on the wall of Greenbriar Foods, Greg Mike’s lion head is intimidating, cartoon characters on each side, less so. It’s kind of a strange-but-good feeling to be out here at night, this area is just beginning to come back, long-empty buildings have been gutted and stabilized, they await their new purpose. 

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Pat Perry’s marching band is uniquely Detroit; band members play an exhaust pipe with muffler instead of a horn, the drummer uses a tire, another member wears a truck body and uses brake rotors for cymbals, I love it! The evening light almost portrays them as ghosts, leftovers from Detroit’s manufacturing glory days. A lighted staircase leads us down to the new section of the Dequindre Cut, freshly planted grass has taken root, trees and attractive landscaping has been put in. This is a part of the city I had never seen until the pathway was put it, vacant buildings wait for redevelopment, there’s a new bridge on Wilkins, plaza areas offer pedestrians and cyclists a place to relax. The Dequindre Cut now runs all the way from the Detroit River to Mack. Over on Wilkins Dabls mural is a work-in-progress, a multi-color wall is host to black designs and irregular-shaped mirror pieces, I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. A crowd has gathered around Clifton Perry’s mural, a spotlight draws us over to check out the many characters in the scene. 

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The Jeep is parked where we started, on the far end of the activities, right near the Detroit City Distillery Factory. Located at 1000 Maple just off Gratiot, the 20,000 sq. ft. building has an interesting history. It was built in the 1930’s by Goebel as their brewing facility, it was directly across the street from Stroh’s Brewery, the two were fierce competitors. Stroh’s acquired Goebel in the 1960’s and converted the space to make Stroh’s Ice Cream. Detroit City Distillery purchased the building and is now making their craft Bourbon and Rye right here. The parking lot is filled with cars, a vendor is cooking up sliders on an open grill, they smell delicious. Inside, the building is awash in funky lighting, make-shift bars are serving up cocktails and three varieties of punch, oversize paintings decorate the space. We climb in the hand-operated elevator and are taken to the second floor, portable screens show old music videos. Stills and barrels fill the production area ,windows look out over the city, we are free to wander. We poke around different floors, I see no remnants of either ice cream or beer, some old signs remain. It’s exciting to get a look behind-the-scenes, to see things as they take shape. 

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Eastern Market: More to Come…

28 Sep

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 It’s 85 degrees on a Thursday evening, artists from Detroit, the nation and around the world hit the streets September 15, armed with brushes, rollers, spray cans and gallons; their visions will transform building walls around the Eastern Market District. Their goal: to expand Detroit’s legacy of public art by adding 35 new murals by 50 artists in 9 days! Events throughout the year in Detroit focus on the city’s art, culture, designers and new business. Murals in the Market and Detroit Design Festival overlap in mid-September, Eastern Market After Dark gives us a chance to see the best of both events and affords us a sneak peek of to come in the Market. We start on Gratiot, New York artist Kevin Lyons is perched high in the bucket of a lift putting the finishing touches on his mural.  Round-eyed, goofy creatures in shades of turquoise and coral smile at us revealing names of Detroit Jazz giants in their teeth, Aretha Franklin, Dilla, T3, and Ron Carter are just a few represented. A block down Dalek has created a study in perspective using shades of red, black and blue; a pair of hands reach out from around the corner of the building.

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Further down Gratiot we park near the Maple Substation, Hueman has finished her piece; a mix of warm colors on the right, cool on the left, joined by a face, a hand seems to be brushing away a tear, images are layered one upon another. Nearby, a character rides his bike carrying water to those in need; it’s a magnificent scene. Around the corner a trio of artists are in the process of completing the word “Detroit” on an old Honey Bee Hardware warehouse. Black and white letters are splashed across the brick wall, pastel colors take over on the roll-up door. A few yards over NNII works his roller into gray paint blocking in large sections of his design. Everywhere I look something is happening, murals seem to be growing among the weeds and vines that have claimed the long-vacated area. Pixel Pancho’s old-fashioned portrait high upon a corner looks like it could have been here a century ago.

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We walk down alleys and streets not wanting to miss a thing. Two women sit on the ground filling in the final section on a wall that puts me in the mind of a kaleidoscope; blue, yellow, green and purple designs cover one area; red, pink, yellow, orange and lilac fill the other. We stop and talk, Kristin Farr is based in CA, her fellow artist formerly from Toronto lives here now. So far we’ve chatted with artists from NY, CA, NC and Canada; everybody is having a good time.

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An attractive group of Art Deco style buildings on the east side of Gratiot are slowly being restored; Inner State Gallery, a sponsor of Murals in the Market, has been one of the anchors as other businesses slowly open. The gallery is buzzing with activity tonight, the current exhibition features the art of the muralists working in the district. Outside, white lights are strung under an awning, Cyberoptix is hosting a soft opening of their retail space set to open in November. Inside, the tie lab displays original designs on neck ties, bow ties and scarves; Well Done Goods is also selling jewelry in the space, their retail space in the same building is currently in the works.

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SMPLFD, a Detroit-themed apparel manufacturer is the most recent shop to open. Selling unique designs focused on Detroit sports teams and cultural icons, items include t-shirts, tank tops and super-soft sweatshirts; everything I looked at was Made In The USA. They also sell headwear, sunglasses and tote bags. The building is beautiful, the space is beautiful, clothing is high quality, attractive and clever; a great addition to the neighborhood.

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We drop in at People’s Records, this is one of those shops that’s always fun to have a peek; I love the old black and white portraits that fill the wall, boxes and crates are maxed out with old vinyl. The next building is a fabulous example of Art Nouveau, the former TransLove Energies space is now Detroit Life; same owner, same great art, music and design. We traverse the building from top to bottom taking in photos by famed Detroit photographer Leni Sinclair, posters by Gary Grimshaw, both share an interesting history with the space. The second floor has a fantastic view of Gratiot, the city and the market district; darkness has fallen, traffic lights and headlights fill the lanes, buildings are dresses up in special lighting, storefronts are awash in light; I think to myself, this is so cool… The venue is constantly hosting live music and art exhibitions, we’ll be back.

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We cross Gratiot, it’s got to be 80 degrees still, the night is humid. Murals from 2015 cover several walls, tonight a gorgeous piece with 2 Native Americans is being finished, the artist working by spotlight up on a lift. We watch in amazement as he works. Walking on gravel between buildings we think we’ve covered everything new in this area. Now it’s time to head into the belly of the beast, events are going on all over the main market area; I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.

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What’s up in Highland Park ??!!

21 Sep

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Today we’re in Highland Park MI. The 2.97 sq. mile city about 6 miles from downtown Detroit was once a thriving manufacturing city. Henry Ford purchased 160 acres to build the Highland Park Ford Plant which opened in 1909, in 1913 when he started the first assembly line, population swelled dramatically from 4,120 people in 1910 to 46,500 by 1920. In the mid 1920’s Chrysler Corporation was founded in Highland Park, they purchased the Maxwell plant covering 150 acres, the site served as their headquarters for the next 70 years. Population declined when the Davison Freeway opened in 1944, cutting through the center of the city, the trend continued after the 12th Street Riot in 1967, Ford closed operations at the Model T plant in 1973. Chrysler moved its headquarters to Auburn Hills in 1993. The city was left without thousands of jobs and lots of vacant buildings. Nature took over when industry left, open fields and towering Maples are home to birds, pheasants and other wildlife; it’s quiet, peaceful.  We’re on Midland Street, in the old Lewis Metal Stamping Plant, artists Robert Onnes and Robert Sestock purchased the huge building, turned it into artist studios and named it The Factory

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We’re here at The Factory at 333 Midland for BIG SCULPTURE, an invitational show made up of Michigan artists, music, food and drink; over 200 sculptures and installations are on display indoors and out. After we park on the street we approach the front of the building, brick and stone it is Art Deco in style, I like the details around the entryway, the curved end of the building. We enter the yard, towering sculptures dot the landscape in all directions, it’s raining so we head indoors to the 23,000 sq. ft. building. Factories are unique structures; block walls, enormous walls of windows allow the space to be drowned in sunlight, old signs remain from when this was an active plant. I stand still, looking around I can imagine huge machines stamping out parts, noise so loud workers point and nod to communicate; the hustle and sweat that goes into making things. Now days the space is home to 17 artist studios, the tradition of making things here continues. 

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We are greeted by Tim Pewes “Mega Bat” suspended from the ceiling, the space a maze of temporary walls creating mini galleries. We meander from exhibit to exhibit; Peter Daniel Bernal’s “pinata’s” are suspended from the ceiling making a powerful statement. Steve Mealy’s beautiful masks are encircled by a bicycle rim and tire. We enter the ModernContainerGallery, funky pieces light up the back wall. Everywhere we look there’s something wonderful to see, 3-dimensional art hangs on walls, rests on pedestals, sculptures stand tall. Down a hall we find more galleries, frames hold interesting scenes, life-like sculptures of heads wear leaves and acorns by Pamela Day, a wall of sconces by Alvaro Jurado includes antique metal trucks lit by bare bulbs and black rubber tires, the next gallery feels like the outdoors; ivy, sod, moss and greenery dangle, hang, weep from strings and beams reflecting the scene on the other side of the window–it’s quite lovely.

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The rain has let up, we step outside, Richard Bennet’s sculpture rises up to the sky, it reminds me of planets in the solar system, whimsical pieces in stripes bend and curve, I recognize a sculpture by Olayami Dable, the scraps of mirror first grab my attention, his work is unmistakable. I love the tall metal letters that spell out DETROIT, the thick wishbone-like piece, the giant reeds and cattails in the distance. The annex building adds another 12,000 sq. ft. of space; a forlorn-looking man made of wood is chained to a stool near the entrance. Inside a modern wood and metal staircase leads to a balcony in the otherwise wide open space, a child slides on a wooden sculpture laying on the floor. Upstairs we get a better look at the hanging mobile-like pieces, we can take in the whole room from here. Orange cut-outs balance on a white cube, cool clay pieces cling to the wall, Susan Aaron Taylor makes things from felt she creates herself, her animals are lifelike. 

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We’re taking another walk through the main building as not to miss anything. Just outside the entrance I see a metal sculpture mounted on a bare wall, made of tiny metal pieces welded together it swirls, surrounding an outdoor light. Kris points out a glass piece by Albert White, the sun is coming out, lighting up the deep blue glass. We continue our walk past characters, shapes and forms hanging on the wall or posing on blocks or squares; a giant fishing pole protrudes from the wall titled Hook, Line and Sinker. Some of the art is humorous, some of it serious like Sandra Osip’s Hell In A Hand Basket, some of it like Catherine Peet’s Sea Monster is silly and fun. Kris is fascinated by the detail in some of the works; circuit boards, tiny monitors, mechanical pieces all used together to create attention-grabbing works. The exhibit continues until October 22, the Factory is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am-4 pm. 

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We’re having lunch in Woodbridge, Pie-Sci has been open about 2 months now after doing weekend stints serving gourmet pizza at Woodbridge Pub. The Trumbull storefront is decked out in bright red trimmed in black, the color theme continues inside. The menu hangs on a wall, the pizza of the day is described on a small chalkboard near the counter. Pizza is divided into 3 catagories; white pizza comes with garlic oil, traditional red sauce comes on varieties like Meatlovers and Veggie D.  We scan the menu of a dozen combinations, order at the counter then have a seat in the dining area. The soda machine is filled with Detroit City Soda, I sip on diet cola while we wait. Patrons come and go picking up and ordering pizza, it smells delicious in here! At last our pizza is done, we are having the Pulled Pork: white pizza, pulled pork, pickled onion, mozzarella topped with red cabbage coleslaw and Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq drizzle, yum! We also ordered the special of the day, Curry Train: green Zaatar curry, eggplant, mushroom, red onion, mozzarella, also excellent. 

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Our last stop is Will Leather Goods on Second Ave. The attractive store has a cozy little coffee shop tucked inside that serves great coffee, tea and pastries. It’s one of those cool hidden gems you can always count on for good service and good products. The designated coffee shop area is decorated with items from an old Detroit Fire Station; gives it nice character. Kris is having a cold brew while I’m in the mood for a hot cup of java, mine comes with a tasty chocolate square. We move out into the main showroom, relax in one of Will’s comfy chairs and drink up our coffee in one of the most delightful places in the city to just chill.

 

 

 

LANSING: Old Town & More

14 Jul

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We are in Michigan’s capital city, Lansing, interestingly enough, Detroit was originally the capital of Michigan. Due to concerns over Detroit’s location, such as its proximity to Canada and the desire for a more central location, Lansing became the capital in 1847. The city became an industrial hub with the founding of Olds Motor Vehicles in 1897; factories produced auto bodies, wheels and parts, Lansing produced Oldsmobiles until 2004. The city also manufactured plows and other agricultural tools; the Lower Village Town, now called Old Town specialized in making these tools, the oldest of Lansing’s villages, the first home in was built here in 1843. Factories closed, jobs disappeared, beautiful Victorian buildings were abandoned,Old Town fell on hard times. As is the case with many urban areas across the country these days, new life has reclaimed this charming district, turning it into a destination with public art, eateries, boutiques and galleries. Let’s look around.

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We park on Turner, fancy gold lettering fills a windowpane advertising the Creole Coffee Company, inside, diners scoop up forkfuls of shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict. We approach the counter, order two cold brew coffees to go and check out the space while we wait. Vintage signs hang on exposed brick walls, antique-looking lighting illuminates the dining area. This restaurant is part of the Potent Potables Project, a group of 3 men changing the face of dining in Lansing. This establishment serves breakfast and lunch daily from 8 am – 2 pm, oh, and the coffee rocks. Walking to the end of the block we notice murals and sculptures, at the corner we make a left on Grand River.

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Up a ways at N. Cedar is Preuss Pets, the coolest pet shop we’ve ever been to and always worth a visit. The 22,000 sq. ft. building is jam-packed with gerbils, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, fish and birds. Displays are creative like the lime green, blue and orange school bus with the frog at the wheel or the red convertible atop the aquarium supplies. I look around from cage to cage, the gerbil is taking a break from running on his wheel to get a drink, little brown bunnies are taking a nap. The fish section is huge, colorful fresh and saltwater fish glide through the water, each aquarium is unique, you can buy live coral, the shapes and colors are amazing. A small parrot is doing gymnastics on his perch, canaries sing songs, a cockatoo greets me with a ‘hello’, I bid him farewell and we’re off. The Old Town General Store is filled with Michigan goodies from beer and wine to gourmet food and merchandise. Metro Retro is a collection of funky items both new and vintage, the old Glamour magazine covers made into wall hangings are neat-o. 

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Architecture is purely Victorian, lovely buildings with ornate brick and trim make up the streetscape, hanging planters overflow with petunias that perfume the air, banners give a shout out to Old Town. We make a left at the Brenke Fish Ladder, built in 1981 it allows fish swimming up the Grand River to bypass the dam. The river is also a popular spot for fishing, catfish, carp and sunfish all call the river home. The Lansing River Trail invites pedestrians to stroll alongside the mighty Grand, Michigan’s longest river; looks like the turtles are sunbathing today.

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Back on Turner we head to Meat BBQ for a late lunch. Seated on the patio we sip on cold soft drinks under the afternoon sun, a large platter of nachos arrives: tortilla chips bear the weight of pulled pork, bacon, brisket, bbq sauce, cheese, onion, tomato, jalapeno, avocado and a drizzle of sour cream, Dee-licious! Though the nachos really would have been enough we added on sides of blue cheese potato salad, yum, and sweet and spicy cole slaw, good. The bar at The Creole is open and it’s Happy Hour. The restaurant doesn’t open until 5 pm, so we have the place to ourselves. Kris orders an Old Fashion, it’s the French 75 (champagne, lemon, gin) for me. We nurse our cocktails in the charming, air-conditioned, New Orleans-like space; the bartender tells us about the building which is over 100 years old. The Creole takes up the other side of the Creole Coffee Company and is also under the Potent Potables group. The lease actually states the walls cannot be changed, they are the work of former Creole Gallery owner Robert Busby, love that! We talk about Old Town, Detroit, food, craft cocktails and the Detroit City FC, a good time was had by all…..

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Next we pop in and out of independent shops that line the district; Craig Mitchell Smith has a beautiful array of glass art pieces, we walk through to Bradley’s Home and Garden with its modern furnishings, Lead Head Glass terrariums, Tessino jewelry and Lori Mitchell figures. October Moon is a great gift shop with a little bit of everything; specialty food items, linens, dishes, handbags and unique cards. Lamb’s Gate Antiques is filled with a wide variety of cool pieces; lamps, dishes, collectibles, furniture, toys– I like the sweet old ceramic figurines.  We have come full circle, the Jeep awaits.

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Our last stop for the day is the WJ Beal Botanical Garden on the grounds of MSU in East Lansing. Founded in 1873 I read that this is the oldest, continuously operated, university  garden in the country. Prof. Beal established the garden as an outdoor teaching and research laboratory. We are on campus following W Circle Dr, we park near the library, Beaumont Tower looms in the distance. Walking past the fountain we come to the entrance of the garden, the metal gate and surrounding fence look straight out of a fairy tale. A pergola offers shade to visitors and plants alike, benches invite passing pedestrians to sit for a while. Grassy paths run between garden beds, plants are planted in collections of economic, systematic, landscape and ecological groupings–I honestly don’t know what any of that means, but they sure are pretty to look at!

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Familiar flowers like Phlox, Bee Balm, Cosmos, Allium, Foxglove are in full bloom, a leafy shrub is covered in small, white flower balls, bees are busy at work collecting pollen, the butterflies are crazy about them too. Flowers vary from spikes and individual clusters to cone-shaped and narrow-petals; all stages are represented from bud to finished bloom. A mirror-like pond reflects the attractive surroundings, dappled sunlight reaches through trees onto the well-maintained lawn. We spy a bunny in the shade having an afternoon snack, a butterfly reading a plant label, daylillies in assorted colors and a gazebo offering us a panoramic view of the grounds; a peaceful respite tucked away in the big city. We’re keeping our eye on Lansing, so much happening in Old Town, businesses are starting to get a foothold in the new R E O Town district too, we’ll keep you updated.

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TOLEDO: Old West End

30 Jun

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We are in Toledo, Ohio today for the 44th Annual Old West End Festival. Spread out over 25 blocks in the Old West End neighborhood, activities include historic home tours, garage sales, antiques, food trucks, music and an art fair. We pick a centrally located street in the neighborhood to park on, sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians in search of a great find or that ‘can’t live without’ item at one of the many garage sales. Small children have set up lemonade stands on the lawn, homeowners have relocated their grills to the front of the house and are selling hot dogs with all the fixings, I spot an ice cream truck parked up ahead, a band plays on a large front porch.

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  The houses in the neighborhood are an eclectic combination of architectural styles, very Toledo. We stroll by traditional Tudors with stucco, wood beams, leaded glass and large front porches. Queen Ann’s, Victorians, Romanesques, Arts and Crafts and Edwardian’s are well represented. I love the detail in the trim, doors and stone. Elaborate gardens and well maintained landscapes fill front lots, antique urns are spilling over with colorful flowers and vines. Graceful entryways are welcoming, window boxes are packed with annuals, wrought iron surrounds balconies and yards, many homes have sleeping porches. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries this is where the wealthy families of Toledo resided.

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Garage sales trail out onto driveways and lawns, tables lined end to end lead us to backyards; bottles of ice water are for sale at every stop. From the really old to the not-so-old, items range from furniture and clothing to antique hardware, sterling silver, souvenir spoons, housewares, glassware, kitsch and seasonal decorations. As we walk from house to house well-behaved dogs rest on shady porches, a pair of cars drive down the street draped in a fish costume, how fun is that? Artists display their wares hoping to sell them to passersby; framed paintings, stained glass, and bold, colorful, hand painted furniture get our attention. One house has gobs of vintage items for sale, the sides of their car have been covered in bamboo, a portable tiki bar follows behind. Down the street another art-car is covered in stones, car parts and toys in every color of the rainbow. The Freeman-Hirt home on Glenwood Ave is on the home tour, the line stretches down the block, I think it’s my favorite house in the neighborhood. Built in 1896 it’s a mix of architectural styles, conical towers, shingle and clapboard siding, concave gables, the witches hat dormers are awesome.

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Block after block we pass beautiful homes, ornate apartment buildings, lush green lawns, food stands and antiques. Did I mention the super cool phone booth for sale? On the side of a lovely old building an acrobat swings on a length of white silk, a young girl gives a hula-hoop a whirl. Music is being played in a neighborhood park, listeners sit at tables drinking cold beer. We make our way through the marketplace, art fair and a quick pass through the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion, the air conditioning feels fantastic. We are done, time for lunch.

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Tony Packo’s is a Toledo tradition, with two locations in town we choose Packo’s At The Park by Fifth Third Field where the Toledo Mud Hens play. The interior displays cool old neon signs, vintage black and white photos and baseball related items. Our server takes our order quickly and returns promptly with icy cold soft drinks; in no time at all lunch arrives. The Fried Pickle Salad is heaped onto the plate, piles of mixed greens and romaine are topped with blue cheese crumbles, bacon, grape tomatoes croutons and, you guessed it, Tony Packo’s fried pickles; served with house Italian dressing, it’s really good–hey, don’t knock it till you try it! The two-dog combination comes with two Hungarian hot dogs slathered in house hot dog sauce ( think chili), mustard and onion. I love that slight crunch when biting into the hot dogs. We choose the paprikas dumplings with gravy for our side and they are delicious as always, yum!

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Kris likes to drive around cities we visit and see what’s new, the Uptown District is beginning to come to life with Handmade Toledo leading the way. The 10,000 sq ft building from the 1930’s was originally a car dealership, through the years businesses came and went, today it is a combination maker shoppe, workshop space, gallery and event space. The Maker Shoppe’s main focus is the work of local and regional artists, makers and designers, all items are for sale. There are lots of Toledo-centric items such as T-shirts, coasters and mugs. The pieces are of high quality, paintings are eye-catching. A nice variety of jewelry is offered along with ceramics, candles and textiles; they even have beans from one of the local coffee roasters. Speaking of coffee……..

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Before we hit the road and head north we stop in at Black Kite Coffee and Pies, a local coffee shop on Collingwood. A gorgeous mural covers an entire side of the building, a tribute to the street, neighborhood and city the shop is located in. Inside, a white tin ceiling adds character, pendant lights hang above the counter, a refrigerated case displays the days offerings; all food is made in house, from scratch. We each order a cold brew, and are immediately distracted by 4 large donuts on exhibit. Holey Toledough(great name!) creates handcrafted doughnuts in flavors like maple bacon, siracha honey sesame, pineapple macadamia and raspberry limoncello and sells them through local businesses and farmers markets. Unable to choose just one, we go for the raspberry and the pineapple, eat half and switch; both are very good. Coffee and doughnuts, not a bad combination…. It’s been a great day in Toledo, just a hop and a skip from Detroit, we’ll be back.

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DETROIT: What’s up at Heidelberg??

16 Jun

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The Heidelberg Project has been drawing visitors from near and far to Detroit’s East side for 29 years. Created by native Detroiter Tyree Guyton, the project is an ever-changing, constantly evolving, open-air art gallery covering a two block area once dense with family homes. Heidelberg and controversy are no strangers to one another; in 1991 and again in 1999 the City of Detroit demolished several homes in an effort to close the project, stating that it deterred development of the area. Since 2013 there have been a number of fires, houses have been burned to the ground; arson is suspected. And yet, on this lovely, summer-like day, visitors roam the neighborhood streets taking one photo after another, cars parked along the curb wear license plates from Ontario, Illinois, New Mexico and of course, Michigan. Conversations in several languages can be overheard. Colors are cheerful, the mood hopeful, discarded objects appear content in their new purpose.

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Sidewalk squares are decorated with Tyree’s signature faces, polka dots are painted in the street, old tires are stacked two deep and re-used as planters. A doghouse belonging to Congo The Art Dog has been erected on a grassy patch across the street, cut-outs allow visitors a silly photo-op, clocks are a recurring theme throughout the landscape, the openings in a section of chain-link fence are stuffed with white shoes. The backyard of Tim Burke’s Detroit Industrial Gallery is filled with whimsical sculpture; giant flowers sprout from the Earth, beings created from found objects stand about, there’s a lot to look at. The Polka Dot House still stands, I can only imagine the stories it could tell…..

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Long dead trees provide the foundation for artwork and shopping carts alike, a toilet looks awkward sitting in the open. The foundation is all that remains of one house; hundreds of items surround the perimeter, baby dolls and stuffed animals wear smiles, making me think they know the answers to so many of life’s questions. Portraits cover automobile hoods and boards, pretty glass panels hang from a wooden frame near Mt Elliot. We peek into the basement of a house on the next block, an assortment of blue-painted shoes are scattered on the floor, a rusty antique stove has baked its last cake. Further down, vinyl records are attached to the frame of a house, completely open, an old-fashioned radio sits central in the space. An old boat has run ashore, dozens of stuffed animals are wedged inside, a giraffe is about to board, perhaps they are planning a trip?

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We walk down the sidewalk past a playground where polka dots have taken up residence, sculptures are created from old doors, trophies cover a makeshift floor and there are more clocks. Kris and I point things out to one another, funny how we each notice something different, art is subjective. Here in the quiet our imaginations run wild, I like that all the unwanted shoes are grouped together, that the discarded gloves have found a new home on chair legs, that some of the old “taxi” signs are still around. To me it is a testament to survival, persistence, perseverance; something every Detroiter knows about.

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It’s a short drive to Milano Bakery and Cafe on Russell Street in Eastern Market; the bakery, originally opened in 1958, has been at this location since 1999. Inside you’ll find a bevy of breads, pastries, whole cakes, tarts, cookies, well, you get the picture. Today we are having lunch in the cafe, large menu boards hang on the wall above the pastry cases, one for pizza, one for sandwiches; everything sounds delicious. We place our order at the counter, Kris takes a seat at a table while I study our dessert options. 

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Before we know it lunch is delivered to our table. We chose an onion roll for the pepper-jack roast beef sandwich; roast beef topped with sautéed mushrooms, red and green pepper, onion, pepper-jack cheese and Milano’s homemade sauce. The onion roll is toasted so it keeps the sandwich from becoming soggy, the meat is tender, the cheese has melted, all the flavors have combined into one tasty combination. Sandwiches come with a side, we had potato salad and ordered an extra side of pasta salad, both are very good; the pickles are excellent too. About the time we came in the door, our willpower went out, it’s impossible to resist temptation with such a gorgeous selection of pastries in view. Choosing which to have is an entirely different dilemma….. Caramel Bumpy Cake proved irresistible; moist yellow cake topped with pastry cream and submersed in caramel frosting, yum! Scrumptious food, delectable desserts and fair prices keep us coming back.

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CLEVELAND: Art, History And A Grilled Cheese Sandwich…….

10 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland where new and exciting things are going on all over the city. Today we’re on the East side, University Circle, re-visiting a couple of museums that have undergone recent renovations. The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society was founded by industrialist Frederick C Crawford of TRW and opened in 1965. Exhibits trace the automobile through its development in Ohio and across the nation. John D Rockefeller, who attended Cleveland Central High School and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, founded Standard Oil in Cleveland, the city comes by its automotive history naturally. We begin our visit on the lower level, with the newest exhibit, REVolution. With about 50 automobiles on display we see the evolution of design and technology from the 1890’s to the 21st century. 

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Paint jobs gleam under halogen lights, vehicles are gathered into groups, a replica Standard Oil Company gas station complete with vintage gas pump is off to one side, historic photos of Cleveland have been enlarged big enough to cover walls. We meander through the maze of cars, chrome bumpers are huge, hood ornaments elaborate, all the cars in one section are made of stainless steel. Vehicles wear name badges of Studebaker, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Hupmobile and more familiar ones such as GTO, Impala, Cadillac and Belvedere. The wood on the Chrysler Town & Country is beautiful, the concept AMX is really cool.

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The ‘Road Trip’ display includes the Jordan House car, an early version of a camper, there’s an old trailer too; the Need for Speed section highlights race cars. The World Touring Hupmobile has survived its travels, we see a Stanley Steamer, a turbine car engine, vehicles that ran on alternative fuels; we learn about tires and check out accessories that at one time had to be purchased separately but are now standard equipment, I’m talking bumpers, headlights, even windshields!

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Upstairs, Setting the World in Motion is all about northeast Ohio’s impact on the automobile and aviation industries in the first half of the 20th century. By the 1930’s over 100 automobile manufacturers called this area home. There are about 50 vehicles on display, each manufactured in Cleveland. Roscoe Turner’s only surviving Wendell Williams model 44 looks as though it’s flying through the room, Turner broke the world speed record in 1933. The gondola from the “Spirit of Goodyear” blimp was active for 31 years and flew over such events as the Kentucky Derby, the US Open tennis matches, NFL and MLB games, you wouldn’t get me up in that thing!

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In the old days, entertainment was often based on transportation; air shows, car races and the like. Cleveland was home to National Air Races and the Great Lakes Exposition in the late 20’s and 30’s with Lake Erie serving as a stunning backdrop. Free tickets for the air shows were dropped from planes with little parachutes attachedI love the collection of souvenirs on display; programs, posters advertising Billy Rose’s Aquacade, drinking glasses, spoons and numerous trinkets. We have reached the newest addition to the museum, a glass pavilion built to house the newly restored Euclid Beach Grand Carousel.

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To me nothing defines the mood or character of the early 1900’s better than an old-fashioned carousel; this one is gorgeous! We received tokens to ride when we paid our admission, now we choose from 58 hand-carved, hand-painted wooden horses. The ride begins, we rise and fall to carnival-type music while passing scenes depicting Euclid Beach Park and other Cleveland icons, a smile crosses the face of every rider…..Come to think of it even the spectators are smiling. This is one of only a few carousels to return to the city where it was originally located, how cool is that?

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Next we make our way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, this will be our first visit since the renovation and expansion project has been completed. The original Neo Classic building opened in 1916, there have been several expansions through the years but nothing like this. Gallery space has been increased by 33%, a 39,000 sq ft glass enclosed atrium has been added to connect the new to the old, there’s a cafe and a 76-seat fine dining restaurant called Provenance; welcome to today’s art museum.We head directly to the atrium and are in awe of what we see, it resembles a plaza or a town square. The glass ceiling allows the light in and affords us a view of the outdoors. Rectangular beds are filled with ground cover in varying shades of green, wood benches give a park-like feel to the space. In the distance dwarf trees bask in sunlight of the day, cafe tables are filled with hungry visitors, a mezzanine level overlooks the activity, the existing 1916 building makes up the south side. 

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Our main focus of the day are the new galleries, we visit the East Wing first. Home to Contemporary and Modern art along with Impressionism, Abstract and Photography, all of our favorites are in the same section. Hardwood floors lead us down long hallways, in and out of spacious galleries, past Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer. We check out Rebecca Norris Web’s photography exhibit, My Dakota, before moving on.

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Though we have visited the museum a number of times, no visit would be complete without walking through the Armor Court, we have great affection for the original building and the rotunda, it’s wonderful. While we’re here who can resist Tiffany or Faberge? The West Wing is also new, the ‘glass box’ is a gallery in which all four walls are entirely glass; it’s like being in the middle of an amazing garden that just happens to have spectacular Indian and Southeast Asian sculptures set about on pedestals, wow! Kris and I are extremely impressed with the transformation, if you’re in Cleveland you have to check it out. 

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Time for lunch, we are headed to another Cleveland original: Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit Ave in Lakewood. The restaurant space is decked out in quirky, eclectic items like vintage outdoor lighted decorations such as snowmen, pumpkins, penguins and the Easter Bunny; it works great with the antique tin ceiling. Owner Matt Fish takes ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches and elevates  them to gourmet with combinations like the Parmageddon with potato and onion perogi, kraut, sauteed onion and sharp cheddar or the Lake Erie Monster with crispy battered jumbo cod, sweet slaw, jalapeno tartar sauce and american cheese. There are dozens of combinations to choose from or create your own.

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We are seated at a table near the bar, we’re hungry so we concentrate on the menu and make a quick decision. First out is the Attack of the Green Tomato: battered, fried green tomatoes covered with an outstanding southern herb remoulade, topped off with fire-roasted corn salsa, delicious. Our Hot Italian Grilled Cheese arrives, it’s huge! Honey ham, pepperoni, salami, basil marinara, roasted garlic, banana peppers, provolone and romano on fresh-baked grilled bread sprinkled with herbs and grated cheese, excellent. If you’re a beer drinker, you may be interested to know they also offer 150 beer selections—-seriously. It’s been another great weekend in Cleveland, the city has a lot to offer without all the hassle and expense of those bigger cities people flock to. Only about 3 hours from Detroit it makes for a fun, easy get-away.