Movie backdrops fill Boca Raton Museum

 

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Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)
Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)

Imagine taking a selfie against the scenery in “American in Paris,” Singing in the Rain,” “North by Northwest” or “Sound of Music.”

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is making these movie moments possible with its new exhibit, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Second in a travel series that makes art destinations the reason to go, the Boca Raton exhibit is an amazing, immersive experience.

Opening April 20, 2022 and continuing through Jan. 23, 2023, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop brings 22 large-scale scenic backdrops made for the movies between 1938 and 1967 to South Florida so what has pretty-much become a lost art can be enjoyed and their artists, appreciated.

After attempting a selfie, visitors will see and understand that backdrops were created for the camera view of a scene.

To achieve an immersive ambiance that recaptures the classic scenes for the show, interactive videos have been done by digital designers and sound engineers. (Watch two videos at youtu.be/8Z1bi3P1Luc and  youtu.be/qvVc2i4euQY.

At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)
At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)

The exhibit is co-curated by two people who were instrumental in salvaging the backdrops from the studios: Assistant Professor of (Art) Practice at the University of Texas at Austin Karen L. Maness who co-author The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop and is Director of the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection and multi-award winning  production designer Thomas A. Walsh.

The backstory is that Lynne Coakley, head of J.C. Backings Corporation picked up more than 2,000 backdrops from MGM storage in the 1970s. Coakley then partnered on backdrop protection and education with the Art Directors Guild Archives in 2012 directed by Walsh, then the Guild’s president.

“This show is about the joy of re-living something you grew up with, that you always thought was real. It’s about getting as close to that magical moment in time as you can,” said Walsh in a statement about the show.

He thought visitors will be astonished by the backdrops’ sizes.  “Being in the same space with that giant, familiar scene. It is difficult for people to get their minds around the awesome size of these magical spaces, until they see them in person. People are often shocked and surprised by the scale and visual impact of these massive creations,” he said.

American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)
American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)

With the aim of preserving the backdrops and making them available for study, Coakley and Walsh launched the Backdrop Recovery Project partnership with J.C. Backings.  A major recipient was the University of Texas’ art department and Maness. About 20 of the backdrops in the exhibit are from the UT collection.

Referring to the North by Northwest backdrop, Maness said, “This is the grandaddy, the Babe Ruth of all Hollywood backdrops…Especially because it was such a key player in the telling of this story.”

According to Maness, just as important as the stories the backdrops tell, is that the exhibit honors the artists who created them. Visitors will be able to see their brush strokes. “This has become my passion project, to tell their stories. I will be their champion in this lifetime” she said.

Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)
Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)

Maness who had conducted extensive interviews with the last surviving artists and their families, said in a statement about the exhibit’s importance, “It was essential to capture these artist’s stories before they disappeared.”

In addition to the UT backdrops, “Singin’ in the Rain” and the 1938 tapestry backdrop for “Marie Antoinette” are loaned by the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles.

The exhibit will have an educational component and presentations. For more information visit at bocamuseum.org/visit/events.

Art destinations: Modernism where palm trees and cacti flourish

Calder exhibit during Modernism Week at Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert (J Jacobs photo)
Calder exhibit during Modernism Week at Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert (J Jacobs photo)

 

First in a travel series where art and architecture are the raison d’etre

Some folk travel to play a golf course or see a golf tournament. Some people search for great down-hill skiing experiences. Others are attracted to historic places. Beyond visiting family and friends, there can be a myriad of reasons from Art to Zoos to plan a vacation around a particular place.

Here is another reason: add art experience to your travel destination choices.

Modernism Week, an annual architectural festival that celebrates and tours mid-last century homes and styles in the Palm Springs-Palm Desert area, end this weekend on Feb. 27, 2022.

But the art and architecture of the area is worth putting on the destination do list any time of year. For tours and more information visit Modernism Week — the epicenter for midcentury architecture and design. To experience the mini version go Oct. 13-16, 2022.

Bus tour during Modernism week. (Photo by David A. Lee)
Bus tour during Modernism week. (Photo by David A. Lee)

But no matter when you go, stop in at the Heather James Gallery to see museum quality works that co-owners James Carona and wife Heather Sacre, are currently displaying. A visit here is as good as going to a small, fine art museum.

Among the spring-summer exhibits are “Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley: Modern Minds” and “Abstract Expressionsm: Transcending the Radical,” that are up thru July 31, 2022. Also on exhibit is “Andy Warhol Polaroids: Wicked Wonders,” up through June 30, 2022.

To find out more about the gallery see the HeatherJames/celebrating 25 years video.

Heather James Fine Art is at 45188 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260 (Other HJ galleries in Jackson Hole, Montecito, CA, NY and San Francisco.)

 

 

Snow Moon

 

February Full Moon is the Snow Moon ( J Jacobs photo)
February Full Moon is the Snow Moon ( J Jacobs photo)

In Chicago, moon gazers won’t be surprised to learn the February full moon is called the Snow Moon. Weather forecasters are predicting rain turns to snow Wednesday night into Thursday as temperatures go below freezing.

The full moon will be at its highest illumination between 10:56 and 10:59 a.m. CST on Feb. 16 when it will be directly opposite the sun. But it will look full for three days from February 15 through Feb. 17. So, look after sunset this week.

The February moon is also called the hunger moon because winter can be harsh on food sources.

For more information visit TimeandDate, NASA Solar System Explore and Old Farmer’s lmanac.

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Springtime differs according to two groundhogs

 

Woodstock Willie predicts and early spring (J Jacobs photo.)
Woodstock Willie predicts and early spring (J Jacobs photo.)

Of course, the US boasts different temps and climates but just looking at the east and central part of the country, spring was predicted differently by two famous groundhogs on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day.

Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania saw his shadow so predicted six more weeks of winter.

But Woodstock Willy in Illinois, though reluctant to leave his home at first, didn’t see his shadow so whispered to his handler that spring will come early.

Both groundhogs (woodchucks) drew large crowds for their predictions and the activities their towns are hosting.

For more on Punxsutawney Phil, visit Groundhog Club.  For Woodstock Willie visit Prognostication and for more on the movie filmed there see Groundhog Day.

Thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday and Hallmark Holiday Monday

 

LA Skyline. (Photo courtesy of Discover Los Angeles)
LA Skyline. (Photo courtesy of Discover Los Angeles)

You know Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14 and you likely know that Super Bowl Sunday is the second Sunday in February. But in this year of 2022, Valentine’s Day abuts SB Sunday.

The game will be at SoFi Stadium, home to the LA Rams and LA Chargers, 1001 Stadium Drive, Inglewood, CA at 6:30 ET. LA is a fun town to visit. See Discover Los Angeles for area attractions.

According to an NFL Super Bowl LVI site, tickets and accommodations are still available to see the Rams take on the Cincinatti Bengals. So, there is still time to watch in person to soak up the LA atmosphere.

What’s; interesting about the Super Bowl game is who is the home team. Because the AFC and NFC alternate home and away teams and the AFC takes even-number years, the Bengals will be the home team more than 2,000 miles from Ohio. They are likely to get the Chargers locker room while the Rams will have their own lockers even though they are the “away” team.

But since I’m a Bears fan and am still waiting for them to repeat their mid-1980’s successes, I will be watching the commercials. I know not to expect the Coke bear because Pepsi is a prominent sponsor. However, Budweiser said it will be back and KIA announced it is swapping out its fun hamsters for a robot dog.

Check commercials released so far by NBC Los Angeles for some, very, very short trailers.

And if your team didn’t make the final cut, relax and enjoy the half-time show. The NFL and Roc Nation announced that Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar will be performing.

As to Valentine’s Day, check Proflowers or FTD Valentines-Day. Also, I have found that the local grocery store usually has a good selection. As to finding  really good chocolates, consider Lake Champlain.

Go back in time to mid last century

Bus tour during Modernism week. (Photo by David A. Lee)
Bus tour during Modernism Week. (Photo by David A. Lee)

Think about a getaway for movie stars close enough for call backs and retakes but far enough from Hollywood to really be a home away from home and you have a star-studded neighborhood in the Palm Springs, CA area.

Now picture several home groupings that boast mid-century modern architecture zoned similarly to 1800s historic designated areas so that changes have to conform with the period and you’ll have more than 30 neighborhoods in and near Palm Springs.

The area welcomes visitors to tour the neighborhoods by bus, bike and double-decker streetcar during Modernism Week, an annual festival celebrating mid-century design, architecture and culture. The event includes talks, a featured home tour and parties.

Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms home in Palm Springs. (Jake Holt photo)
Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms home in Palm Springs. (Jake Holt photo)

BTW, the outside of Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms home on East Alejo Rd. that backs up to Dinah Shore’s back yard is typically on one of the tours. It is in what is considered the Movie Colony/El Mirador neighborhood. And there is a tour that goes to Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage.

Modernism Week is Feb. 17-27, 2022. Find tickets and more information at
modernismweek.

Three fun winter happenings

Wisconsin Team 2 of Sculptora Borealis won the National Snow Sculpting Championship in 2021 with “Inoculation”
Wisconsin Team 2 of Sculptora Borealis won the National Snow Sculpting Championship in 2021 with “Inoculation”

See snow sculptures. Ice skate, Explore an ice village with illuminated caves or a Nordic village with downhill and cross-country skiing. Put Wisconsin and Michigan on the travel excursion list to catch these events and ideas before winter ends.

 

Ice castle kingdom

Stay at Geneva National Resort and Club’s The Ridge in Lake Geneva, WI where guests can now explore an illuminated ice kingdom complete with caves, fountains and frozen slides. Opened Jan. 22, 2022. The Ridge guests get the best available tickets to the ice kingdom, including the difficult-to-get Saturday times.

Call ahead about tickets if driving over to Lake Geneva and not staying at Geneva National. Current expectation is that it will remain open through February depending on the weather. The resort also features ice skating, cross-country skiing and fine dining.

For more information visit Geneva National Ice Castles

 

Winterfest
Walk around and judge for yourself amazing snow sculptures created by 15 state teams from across the county at the US National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva.

Held Wednesday when snow arrives through Saturday for the judging, the annual Snow Sculpting Championship takes place at Riviera Plaza and flat Iron Park during the city’s Winterfest, Feb. 2-6, 2022.

Wisconsin Team 2 of Sculptora Borealis won with “Inoculation” last year and Florida’s Less Latitutde, more attitude,” took second with “the Power of the Mind’s Eye.”

Winterfest also includes ice sculptures and entertainment. For more information visit Winterfest 2022.

 

Crystal Mountain

Downhill ski at award-winning Crystal Mountain that controls snow quality with its own machines, has good cross-country trails and an excellent ski school. Located in Thomsonville, MI, Crystal Mountain is a scenic, Nordic style resort village with several accommodation choices, spa and large, indoor pool.

For more information visit Crystal Mountain.

Illinois State Museum seeks Mother Road items for anniversary exhibition

Route 66 (Photo on US gov site)
Route 66 (Photo on US gov site)

Maybe you have heard singers croon “Get your kicks on Route 66,” from the iconic travel song composed by Bobby Troup in 1946. Originally, known as the Will Rogers Highway and the Main Street of America, Route 66 was established in November 1926.

In Illinois, there are signs along the famed route beginning downtown Chicago on Adams Street across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute of Chicago. But this well-traveled road that takes you from Chicago to LA., supposedly started around the south side of the museum.

Now the Illinois State Museum (ISM) which has been chronicling important and interesting Illinois events and places since founded in 1877, is putting together an exhibition on the “Mother Road” to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026.

The museum is seeking collection help to expand what it has related to the Route. What’s needed are both items that bring alive Route 66 history and those that can add to its current story.

According to a State of Illinois press release, the family of Route 66 traveler Bob Waldmire is donating much of his art and personal belongings to the museum.  The Waldmire donation includes a roadside display stand for selling postcards and the hood of his 1965 Mustang, hand-painted with a map of Route 66.

The release explained that  Waldmire traveled from town to town along Route 66, creating and selling art and postcards in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s.

“No one symbolized the freedom and opportunity of the Mother Road better than Bob Waldmire,” said Illinois State Museum Curator of History Erika Holst.

To contribute or learn more visit ISM Route 66 collecting initiative. Also learn about the ISM and its locations in Springfield, Lockport and Dickson Mounds in Lewistown at Illinois State Museum.

Four top ideas for a fun and different holiday gift

Long Grove Confectionery. ( JJacobs photo)
Long Grove Confectionery. ( JJacobs photo)

Shopping on-line makes holiday gift-choices COVID safe and fun. Just try to do the shopping now while orders have a good chance to make it to their destinations by Christmas. You also are likely to find some things you would like. Hey, give yourself a gift.

For the traveler or travel wannabe National Geographic has a holiday special –   for $39/year that includes immediate digital access, 12 print issues, and a tote bag. Find the details at NationalGeographicHolidayGift.

Find the perfect gift online at a historical or landmark site such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Wisconsin or Taliesin West in Arizona. Both of Wright’s famous homes have books, home décor items, ties, clever socks and jewelry. Visit Shop – Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for Arizona and Shop – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin (taliesinpreservation.org) for Wisconsin.

Check out the giftshop on-line at a favorite museum such as the Art Institute of Chicago. The shop has great scarves, books, calendars, jewelry and home décor items. Look for gifts at MuseumShopartic.

Share your love of fine foods. Order from a favorite coffee or candy store. A couple of examples are Door County Coffee and Tea which is the go-to place in a Wisconsin vacation spot and Long Grove Confectionery in a historic Chicago suburb.

Visit them at Door County Coffee & Tea Co.  and at Long Grove Confectionery Co. and Chicagoland Favorite! Decadent chocolate gifts for business & beyond! – Long Grove Confectionery Co

 

 

Art Preserve is short travel trip or part of a larger getaway

New Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. ( J Jacobs photo)
New Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. ( J Jacobs photo)

Instead of merely zooming (the old-fashioned sense of the word) in on your fall destination, check out places along the way to stop that you might not get to in a separate trip.

A surprising thing happened as we planned a Door County getaway for October.

Looking at the map ((we use GPS and paper maps) we realized we could break the drive up from Chicago into two destinations with a short stopover in Sheboygan. We know and have been to the American Club in Kohler, but why Sheboygan?

The John Michael Kohler Art Center downtown Sheboygan on New York Avenue has opened an exceptional branch called the Art Preserve over on Lower Falls Road that celebrates intuitive Wisconsin artists. Not only is the building artistic, its contents include large and sometimes full collections from each artist.

P:aintings, jewelry, sculptures and, ceramics are among art collections at the Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. (J Jacobs photo)
P:aintings, jewelry, sculptures and, ceramics are among art collections at the Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. (J Jacobs photo)

I had seen good intuitive exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum so hearing what the Art Preserve would have and that it would open in July I was excited about stopping there on our way to Door County for a fall color trip.

The art work is remarkable!

Fantastical animal sculptures. (J Jacobs photo)

The Art Preserve may seem small on the outside but that is an illusion. The art fills three floors.

Visitors wander around well-placed sculptures and home-made structures that have been taken down and moved there. They then move on to startling paintings on dividers and top notch (I want one) ceramics on tables and in cases. There are also artists’ amazing renderings of animals and people.

Some artists' houses and rooms ar included in the Art Preserve. (A Jacobs photo)
Some artists’ houses and rooms ar included in the Art Preserve. (A Jacobs photo)

To stay within COVID protocols visitors should register their anticipated arrival time before leaving home. Once there, take all the time you want but allow for two hours.

If familiar with the parent museum you probably guessed the bathrooms are tiled with art (yes people go into each).

Bathroom tile (A Jacobs photo)
Bathroom tile (A Jacobs photo)

A good place for lunch is the Café over at the Kohler Art Center where you order at a small counter and the food is brought to your table. My husband and I each had a superb salad.

We spent the day in Sheboygan but it only is about three hours from our destination in Door County so it could have fit into the morning.

However, the Art Preserve is worth a return trip.

The Art P:reserve is at 3636 Lower Falls Road, Sheboygan, WI. find more information at Kohler Art Preserve. The JM Kohler Art Center is at 608 New York Ave., Sheboygan, WI.