Category Archives: museum exhibit

My Mount Horeb story in Minneapolis Star Tribune

If you are looking for a Wisconsin road trip….Read this:

Midwest Traveler: Small-town museum in southwest Wisconsin has big vision

The Driftless Historium in Mount Horeb, Wis., is an impressive tribute.

Most small-town history museums I’ve visited have been cramped and cluttered places with haphazard displays of local castoffs. Wandering through them reminded me of rummaging through my grandparents’ attic as a kid.

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Chicago history museum/noninna/riverwalk — Chicago 


Back on the megabus/windstar bus and so far so good despite some initial chaos at the bus stop when crowds of riders were trying to figure out which of several buses were theirs.

74ED114A-14D5-4B30-B5F7-0C03587F05444B5D59C8-9CB8-4045-B541-1A0B329805CBWe ended up at the Chicago history museum yesterday- we were eager to beat the heat and opted against the Singer Sargent  show at the Art Institute for fear it would be too crowded and close to the lollapalooza throngs. The museum had some cool things including a temporary exhibit on Chicago blues with fun interactive elements. We made our own record covers, sang karaoke on stage with Koko Taylor (who I saw live several times) and worked a sound engineer booth.  I learned that Crate and Barrel started in Chicago and had an early partnership with Marimekko, the Finnish textile design company that I learned more about in Helsinki.



14D3C01D-F8FC-43E6-B109-B3AC2FC7527EDinner at Nonnina was enjoyed by all, which was a relief since ours can be a discerning crowd. Surprised by how packed it was at 6 pm on Saturday night. Excellent Italian. We walked along the new-ish river walk and were impressed by all the hubbub, people everywhere on and off the water,  at cafes, restaurants and  public spaces, hanging out on docked or moving boats. The city was all lit up at night and looked great. The one potential issue is all the private boat traffic. The river is pretty narrow and there seemed to be a lot of traffic from kayakers  to boat tours and public water taxis to fancy cruisers and little dinghies. Very democratic but chaotic.

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Blackstone District, Bemis Center, Hotel Deco – Omaha

Our Blackstone District “art nest”

We have passed through Omaha many times, sneaking in a quick visit to the Indian restaurant in the Old Market, but we have never stayed overnight to explore. So here we are, staying in a spacious 1920s era apartment (thank you Airbnb) in the recently revived Blackstone District on Farnam Street, about 2 Miles west of the old market area. It consists mainly of about 4 blocks of interesting restaurants, bars and a few shops in older brick buildings in what was not long ago, we’ve heard, a rundown area. So basically, our kind of place.

We stopped at Blackstone Meatball because we’d never been to a meatballery before and sure enough they had quite the selection including a meatball flight (a variety of 5) and the meatball of the day (chorizo). We split a small meatball slider – pork with peppers, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic. Very moist and flavorful. Almost light.

we also chanced upon an artist’s in residence open house at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, located in a big red brick former warehouse near the old warehouse district. It’s been around for decades but we’d never heard of it. Our Airbnb hosts suggested it. Walking around the studios that double as living spaces on the second floor, we met an artist from Dublin and another from Riga, Latvia. Word has it there are 10 artists in residence who get a three month live/work studio here — as part of one of the top international residency programs. The work was pretty avant-garde. The main floor is a huge gallery, which was devoted to a one -woman show of “Hot Mess Formalism” by nyc artist Sheila Pepe, with giant fiber macrame installations, as well as ceramics and other mediums. To mark the show, free “hot mess” ice cream (a strange mix of vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips and bits of red licorice was served in little Chinese takeaway cartons. We were advised by some of the artists not to try the other option — avocado ice cream

we also dropped by the Hotel Deco downtown which has a tiny intact original Art Deco lobby and some interesting little bar spaces. Omaha is looking good!

Dinner was at a good small plates place, Strinella, a short walk from our Airbnb, well-recommended by our host. We were too full for ice cream nearby at Coneflower, which is just as well since there was a long line, maybe 50 people, waiting to get into the little place.

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Design Museum/District, Old Market (Story Restaurant), Cruise, Airbnb, Cashlessness – Helsinki

Still playing post-vacation catchup:

What do Nokia, Angry Birds, Fiskars,  and Marimekko have in common? They were all designed by Finns. This I learned at the interesting Design Museum here in Helsinki. I also learned about the Finnish designer Timo Sarpaneva who did a lot of glass designs for the company littala (or iittala) which i thought was Italian but apparently is named after a Finnish town.

This from Wiki: Timo Tapani Sarpaneva was an influential Finnish designer, sculptor, and educator best known in the art world for innovative work in glass, which often merged attributes of display art objects with utilitarian designations

He perfected a glass blowing technique that involved rubbing the hot glass with a wet piece of curved wood, creating a bubble inside the glass that is manipulated,  becoming part of the design. He also designed fabrics and did many drawings. Cool museum. I love the clothing people wear here, lots of vivid colors, patterns and designs ( a la Marimekko.)

I walked to the nearby design district, visiting little shops like Lokal, where a sweet saleswoman recommended other shops and even a flea market in the area. I have been struck by how kind people are to this hot, tired, one-armed American tourist (i.e. me).  One man (handsome man too) stopped to ask if I needed help as I was staring at my battered map. Later, I met a angel of sorts – a beautiful young woman with long blond hair, modeling one of her $350 personally designed orange silk dresses – who closed up her shop and led me a few blocks to the #3 tram. And gave me a hug before she left.

Helsinki room with piano

Down at the harbor, I got lunch in the renovated 19th century brick market hall at a place called Story. As my mom noted in her journal 25 years ago, “no memorable food here” but that’s ok. I am even tired of smoked salmon. I jumped aboard a 45 minute cruise around the harbor to rest and almost fell asleep. The fjords spoiled me for other ferries.


I’m on the second floor of this Kallio neighborhood apartment block.

I leave very early to tomorrow and have practiced walking the tricky 11 minute route to the airport bus stop, which I will walk at about 5 am. I couldn’t find the bus stop at first but finally figured it out this afternoon.

Staying at this Airbnb hasn’t been as easy as the others. The host is very kind but she doesn’t communicate very well and the directions she gave to her place were insufficient, as were directions for getting in. I also couldn’t reach her by phone when I had this trouble. (She later told me she can’t pick up at work.) She lives in a hidden spot that is not a bad location, once you find it but that ain’t easy. She seems to assume her guests have cellphones that work without WiFi, which is not the case for me. Next trip I will consider buying a data plan again and travel insurance. I also was struck by how cashless travel is, especially in Stockholm. If you don’t have a credit card, you often cannot do what you want to do. I watched one man be turned away at the cool photography museum in Stockholm because he only had cash. The museum refused to take it. Which is odd, because it used to be that merchants didn’t want you to use anything but cash. On two occasions, my credit card didn’t work in Stockholm, due to the merchant’s machine, not my card, but it was still a little alarming., especially since i only have one credit card. In one case, Francine had to buy my metro tix.




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Djurgarden, Rosendals Tradgard, ABBA, 6 Nytorget – Stockholm

Playing catch up post-vacation:

We walked eight miles today, according to dirck’s phone and I believe it. We met Francine and Russ at the Stronstall metro stop and used our 3-day metro pass to take a vintage tram circa the 1940s ( Russ loves!) to Djurgarden, a lovely island park with scattered mansions, museums, gardens and a very cool place to eat — in a greenhouse cafe with “biodynamic” garden called Rosendals Tradgard. We had salads and open faced sandwiches with produce from the gardens. Lovely. And full of locals on a sunny Sunday morning. Reminded me a bit of Central Park or Petersham Gardens at London’s Richmond Park.

Dirck and Russ went to the Vasa ship museum while Francine and I did the campy ABBA museum. We aren’t huge ABBA fans but it is a clever museum with fun interactive elements including an opportunity for visitors to perform on a darkened stage with holograms of the four band members. I couldn’t convince Francine to do it. We each auditioned to be a fifth member of ABBA by singing in a karaoke booth and having our performance graded. Not sure Francine or I made the cut.

In the late afternoon, Dirck and I found a hidden path down by the lake/canal to the west and south of our Airbnb that was like a hidden Bohemia. As we walked along a wooded dirt path, often lined with hollyhocks, we passed a huge and busy pool complex, a stage with salsa dancers, a guy playing a tinny piano, sunbathers and swimmers, mostly young and attractive, a few food trucks and small cottages that looked like something out of haight ashbury, and docked boats. Hard to believe the city was just above us.

Dinner was at 6 nytorget, (named after its address) in the bustling SoFo (South of Folkungagatan Street) neighborhood, which was well recommended by a young dad I met yesterday at the football match viewing. Popular local spot, packed with families and couples and friends, excellent innovative Mediterranean fare pork, tuna, and other fish and meat dishes. We shared a table with a very blond Swedish couple and their two very blond kids. And then with four people speaking French (brown hair).

Sad to say goodbye to Russ tonight and Dirck tomorrow morning. Francine and I get a little more time tomorrow. Hate saying goodbye.

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A surprise Des Moines encounter at the Louisiana Museum and dinner kitchen-side at Relae — Copenhagen

IAt the glorious Louisiana Museum, a contemporary art museum about a 45 minute train ride north of Copenhagen, we chanced upon a huge exhibit of work by Gabrielle Munter, a German painter we didn’t think we knew. Except the portrait used for the brochure cover and the main poster looked familiar. Turns out it was on loan from the Des Moines Art Center! That was strange.

Loved everything about the museum – the setting (on an estate with lovely grounds high above the North Sea), the architecture (a lovely old country house with modern almost Japanese-style additions that wind here and there), the grounds (sweeping lawns, gardens, paths through the woods) and of course the contemporary art and sculpture. The cafe was lovely too. Good food and we sat outside at a table overlooking the water. We have had the most amazing weather.

Tonight we splurged at Relae, a restaurant run by one of the many Noma-trained chefs in this city. We sat at one of three tables overlooking the kitchen which was fascinating, with all the chefs and servers moving around in sync with each other. It felt like we were watching a culinary ballet. The food was one of a kind. All super fresh and locally sourced and unusual. We got the “Relae menu” which was a handful of small exquisite courses.

The young couple next to us, who have a restaurant in Singapore, got the “Relae experience” which was twice the food and presumably, the cost. A few examples of what we ate: a thin pressed patty of raw trout topped with what we were told was green strawberries; two thin perfectly pink slices of incredibly tender lamb, served with sliced cherries and bits of roasted pinecone (or something like that); desert of ice cream encased in a thin skin of rhubarb. (There was no written menu so doing my best here.) No desire to eat like this all the time but it was a new Nordic splurge/adventure.

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Very cool 21C Museum Hotel coming to Des Moines — visited one in Bentonville, AR


21C Museum Hotel, Bentonville, AR

When we visited Crystal Bridges Art Museum last fall in Bentonville, Arkansas, we were very impressed with the new 21C Museum Hotel (21C as in 21st Century)  nearby on the town square. With art installations everywhere and an upscale restaurant and bar, it felt almost like a continuation of Crystal Bridges.

Now comes word that a new development in downtown Des Moines will also have a 21C Museum Hotel. (See this Des Moines Register story click here) Can’t wait to see it!!


The Hive Restaurant bar at 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville, AR.


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Prince Show and the Bachelor Farmer Cafe – Minneapolis

My favorite piece at the art show honoring the late great singer Prince at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was a portrait by an apparently well-known Minnesota “crop artist” who used a variety of crops (bromegrass, grits, canola, etc.) as her medium. The show was only two rooms worth of stuff – a lot of photos, some painted portraits, a giant mural and some glass sculpture but always nice to wander through the bright high-ceilinged spaces of the museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

my favorite bachelor

Lunch was at the bustling Bachelor Farmer Cafe in the warehouse district where we had fresh-tasting squash soup and an very Scandinavian-feeling open-faced toasted sandwich. The cafe is at the front of the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant, where we had a great meal over Memorial Day weekend.

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Do not miss the “tape show” at the Des Moines Art Center

It is way cooler than it sounds, this show with giant site specific installations by artists who,use tape as their medium. Check out the photos here for proof. Our long overdue visit happened to coincide with an open house for kids and families from Findley Elementary School who worked with one of the artists on a installation of colorful bouquets taped  onto the gleaming white exterior of the Richard Meier wing. How cool is that? The kids seemed so excited to be the belles of the ball at the art center which threw a reception for the kids complete with servers with trays of delicious looking kid-friendly appetizers including grilled cheese sandwiches. And in the I.M. Pei wing long tunnels made of very strong tape were strung across the galleries, strong enough for kids and even their parents to crawl through. I love that the art center was willing to do that! Continue reading

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Crystal Bridges, 21c Hotel/ Hive, Oven & Tap — Bentonville, AR

IMG_1952Another “hit” (vs miss) as expected in this perfect little north Arkansas town brought to you by Walmart. This is our second trip to Crystal Bridges and the museum continues to vow. The setting, deep in the woods; the architecture, a dramatic series of curvy buildings in and around a small lake; the art work, a fantastic collection of American art, especially the last 50 years or so; a classy restaurant dining room with terrific food; what’s not to like?

IMG_1004The drive north from Hot Springs, especially the initial stretch on two lane highway 7, was spectacular. Curvy winding roads up and around and down woods-carpeted mountains, really gorgeous.

IMG_1018After the museum, we visited the 21c museum hotel downtown, ultra modern with a museum on its walls of very interesting art and a stylish restaurant called Hive where we had a drink, sitting under a big piece of plastic  orange honeycomb with a big toy bee hanging out in it. Tonight we had an excellent dinner at Oven and Tap  downtown– edamame, meatballs, fried chicken. Can’t complain.



Tonight we are at airbnb # 6, all good. It’s a nondescript little house in a suburban subdivision in nearby Rogers, with a comfy bed and bath and the owner is away camping so again, just us.IMG_1958

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