We made our final day trip of this home stay to Springfield, MA to check out the 3rd wave coffee scene, find the murals and visit the local art museums. We have been taking full advantage of the 17 daily trains that run from New Haven to Springfield frequently, utilizing the train for our trips into New Haven and Hartford. We extended our use of the CT Railroad by riding from the Meriden Station through to Union Station in downtown Springfield.
We have to admit that our only experience of Springfield derives mainly from passing through on I-91 on our way to Vermont and back. So this trip presented us with the opportunity to get to know more about the city and its history.
First to the coffee – no joy! Sorry to report that the downtown area is bereft of 3rd wave coffee establishments. There are a number of specialty coffee cafes and roasters just outside of Springfield – particularly west of the river.
The street art mural scene however provides great joy. Springfield, with the support of the Common Wealth Mural Collaborative, launched Fresh Paint Springfield in June of 2019. FPS is week long mural festival which also features many other cultural and food events throughout the week. A total of 22 murals were completed by 17 professional muralists with the help of local mural assistants. Fortunately, the mural festival was a big hit and will return for its second run in June 2020. We have included a sampling of photos of some of the moving, imaginative and colorful murals we saw on this trip.
Springfield boasts two fine art museums located in a quadrangle of distinctive buildings which also house a science museum, a museum of Springfield history and the Dr. Seuss Museum. Both of the art museums came about as the result of wealthy Springfield art collectors donating their personal collections to form the museums.
We spent most of our time at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts owing to our affinity for French Impressionism. The D’Amour has a small but impressive gallery of French Impressionist works along with galleries featuring 17th, 18th and 19th century Dutch, Flemish, French and Italian paintings.
The other art museum is the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. The GWVS collection consists mainly of Japanese and Chinese porcelains, bronzes, jade and arms and armor. There is also a smaller gallery dedicated to art of the Islamic world. The Japanese armor and arms were the high point along with the painted tiles in the Islamic gallery.
Springfield like many former manufacturing hubs in the northeast has seen better days. We noted a lot of work going on to renovate and utilize the many still standing factory buildings for retail, office and habitational space. The area proximate to the museum quadrangle is home to several beautiful cathedrals and several historic residential areas where 19th century row houses have been renovated.
Springfield by train was an excellent day trip albeit no specialty coffee!
Our third CT Road Trip of this home stay found Maria and me traveling to eastern Connecticut to visit the William Benton Museum of Art. The Benton is located on the Storrs campus of UCONN. We followed Route 66 from Middletown to Willimantic which took us through a part of Connecticut that still retains a very rural feel with small towns and many historic homes, buildings and farms.
We made Willimantic our first stop to check out Grounded Coffee Co. http://groundedcoffeecompany.org/ and search out street murals in the otherwise depressed downtown area. Grounded Coffee sits right on Main Street in a historic structure built in 1831. The cafe occupies the ground floor. The owners did a nice job working around the central four-sided fireplace in creating a comfortable and pleasing space. In addition to a full menu of coffee and tea drinks GC offers a light food menu. GC is definitely the best choice for coffee in the Willimantic area in our opinion.
Willimantic has been very active over the last several years in sponsoring and promoting street murals. We found many interesting murals, a number of which are historical murals depicting the history of “Thread City” as a textile hub during the first half of the 20th century.
The Benton Museum https://benton.uconn.edu/# is a very small museum located in the heart of the Storrs UCONN campus. There is no admission charge and unfortunately very limited parking (four spaces) adjacent to the museum. We were fortunate to arrive to find one of the spaces available (get a pass at the front desk for your car window to avoid being ticketed or towed).
The museum has a permanent collection in the main gallery – From Old Masters to Revolutionaries: Five Centuries of the Benton’s Best and an additional two galleries featuring current exhibits. We were able to tour the entire museum in under two hours. We found two of the three current exhibitions to be worthwhile – Halt the Hun: Atrocity Propaganda in World War 1 and DEMOKRACJA GRAFIKA.
“Halt the Hun” featured posters created by artists to rally Americans to support the war effort by buying Liberty Bonds while “DEMOKRACJA” provides insight into life in Poland during the Cold War. UCONN has had an exchange program with the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow since the 1980s which is where the majority of the prints on display were produced.
We recommend the museum with the caveat that you check out the current exhibitions before visiting as the permanent collection is small (but good).
For our next trip in January we are planning to cross state lines and venture north for more fika, street murals and fine art.
Be seeing you!
Our second road trip of this home stay found us in New Haven at the Yale University Art Gallery (http://www.artgallery.yale.edu ). We were particularly interested in seeing the three exhibitions currently on display.
Of course all road trips require sustenance in the form of coffee pre-activity and a meal with wine post activity. We enjoyed fika at Fussy Coffee ( http://www.drinkfussycoffee.com ) on Winchester Avenue. In addition to great coffee and light food, Fussy is strategically located next to the Farmington Canal Greenway which made for an easy and pleasant walk to Chapel Street for our museum visit. An added bonus of this location was the opportunity to view Kwadwo Adae’s mural “locomotion” which is on the FCG about three blocks north of Fussy Coffee (#streetartfromthe road).
After viewing the exhibitions, we made the short walk down Chapel Street for our repast at Atelier Florian (www.atelierflorian.net ). The focus here is on seafood. We tried the mussels, calamari and seafood tacos accompanied by white wine and found all to be delicious. A terrific spot for a mid-afternoon break.
P.S. As an added bonus we have included several paintings from prominent artists that we viewed on our way between the exhibitions.
William Bailey: Looking Through Time
This exhibition consists of a number of oil paintings by long time Yale art professor William Bailey. Bailey focused on still-life paintings at a time when abstract painting was very much in vogue. The majority of the paintings on display are large still-life oil paintings. The colors are muted yet vibrant while stylistically relecting many different artists and periods. Photographs of eight of his paintings on display are included below. Many of these paintings were done during his visits to Italy.
Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art
This exhibit includes paintings, wood carvings, textiles, pottery, photographs and drawings from the Yale collection as well as several other institutions. The exhibition includes pieces from a variety of first nations and tribes across the United States. The curators have been quite clear in the narrative to acknowledge that much if not all of this work was essentially stolen from the rightful owners as tribes were forced onto reservations. Yale has returned hundreds of artifacts to tribal nations over the last several years.
Ceremonial Dress from Southwest China: The Ann B. Goodman Collection
This exhibit provides 15 splendid examples of ceremonial clothing worn for special occasions such as birth, marriage, death and harvest. The clothing is incredibly intricate and detailed. All of this clothing was made by women who typically do everything from gathering the cotton, dyeing the material, sewing and embroidering the outfits. The groom’s wedding outfit in the exhibition was made by his bride to be! There is also a display of hats and jewelry that were worn at these ceremonies. This collection was recently gifted to Yale but is only on display through January 5, 2020.
Greetings from Sacramento, CA! We spent a couple of days here to check out the street and mural art scene and sample some java and tea in the bargain. Sacramento has a vibrant street art scene that is fully supported by local government and businesses. Sac sponsors a mural festival annually. Additionally, the Wide Open Walls organization promotes diversity through art – which is very evident from the art itself.
With just a short stop in Sac we knew we would only be able to scratch the surface in regard to viewing the murals. We chose to focus on the mid town area where there is a concentration of art in the alleys which run between the back of buildings on many blocks. The mid town area is a mix of residential and commercial properties with many well preserved Victorian style houses.
We have included photos of a few of the murals below to provide a sense of some of the work. If you are interested in seeing the street art in Sac when you visit there are a number of good on-line resources.
Of course, any visit to a city would be unfulfilling without the opportunity to visit several of the finer purveyors of coffee and tea. Based on our research and the recommendations of the baristas we met on the coast we selected Temple Coffee and Old Soul Coffee. You can read more about both firms by visiting our friends @fikawithfiona.
We are heading south on the 99 to Fresno for repairs to the Beast.
Be seeing you!
After leaving the spectacular scenery of Mt. Hood NF we rolled into Portland for a four day stay. We set up base camp at the Hampton – Pearl District which allowed us to explore a number of the interesting and eclectic neighborhoods on foot. We followed our general city visit modus operandii for a city visit – lots of coffee and tea, museums, live music, books and local restaurants.
We had not been in Portland for many years, and yet we were still surprised at the amount of growth that has taken place. PDX is incredibly vibrant! There is something here for every interest, taste and lifestyle.
The coffee scene is outstanding and our baristas generously supplied us with additional recommendations for shops and restaurants that were not on our radar. Our dining highlight was Casa Zoraya – a recently opened restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine. We have no previous experience with Peruvian food so all we can say is – it was delicious!
The Portland Art Museum (PAM) is a medium sized art museum located in the Pearl District. PAM has a small collection of Impressionist works and a good sized collection of Northwest Native American artifacts. PAM is definitely worth a visit in our opinion.
Regardless of the weather get out to the Portland Japanese Garden at Washington Park. This garden is reputed to be the finest example of a Japanese Garden outside of Japan – it is a place of beauty and harmony – you will feel better after visiting.
We always enjoy visiting independent book stores and in Portland Powell’s City of Books is not to be missed! It is the largest bookstore in the world and they stock books on every coinceivable topic one can imagine.
Lots to see and do in PDX and the surrounding area. Also, remember only tourists use umbrellas!
Off to Astoria and the Oregon coast. Be seeing you!
Off the road in Boise to celebrate our 40th anniversary in style. Heading to the Owyhee Canyonlands in Eastern Oregon tomorrow morning.
We had the pleasure of taking a private tour with Danielle Mastrion of City Rovers while making a brief visit to the City. Danielle is a well known muralist and painter. Several of her works are featured below. The featured street art can be found in Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and the Lower East Side. Many of these murals were commissioned by the Little Italy Street Art(LISA) project. Information about the history and current status of the project is available at lisaproject.org.