Friday, July 21, 2023

Summer Art Museum Visits

Cincinnati Museum of Art

U of M in Ann Arbor
Summer vacation means visiting family and stopping at national parks along the way. But I also seek out Art museums and because my husband is an art professor, and my kids are art lovers, everyone is on board.

U of M
University of Michigan has a surprisingly good Art Museum. I think university museums are under-rated and under-used by a lot of the public, especially out of state visitors. But there are gems such as BYU's Museum of Art and Ohio State's Wexner Center that can be added into a traveler's itinerary at no cost. University of Michigan's museum has an impressive contemporary collection with Louis Nevelson and Diebenkorn. There are traditional oil paintings and cabinets with ceramic pieces from around the world. While on campus, check out the Archeology Museum and the Life Science Museum. That's an entire afternoon of looking at ancient artifacts, wooly mammoth skeletons, and priceless works of art for free!

Cincinnati museum of Art
Cincinnati Museum of Art blew us away. My family gave it a unanimous 10 out of 10. There is something for everyone Ancient Egyptian coffins, Greek sculptures, German etchings, English armor. I loved hearing my kids talk about the Hudson River School and Ashcan School paintings, as well as Harlem Renaissance favorites. There's a wall of Picasso's and Monet's Water lilies. One guard explained that while they don't have the biggest collection, everything they have is high quality. We happened to be there on a Wednesday, when they stay open until 8pm and we still didn't have enough time to see it all. (Granted, we didn't get there until 4pm, but still.) The outdoor sculpture garden goes on for miles.

Kentuck Knob in Pennsylvania

As we made our way across the midwest and into Pennsylvania, we stopped at Kentuck Knob, a Frank Lloyd Wright house. We'd planned on seeing the more famous, Falling Waters, but it was sold out weeks in advance. This was slightly less expensive and maybe slightly less impressive, but we were spoiled with how few visitors there were. And the walk from the house back to the visitor's center is almost as fun as the house itself, as there are sculptures along the way, including a section of the Berlin Wall and a couple of Andy Goldsworthy's.

The main reason for our family roadtrip was to visit family in Illinois and Pennsylvania. It was a miracle that all of my parents posterity but one were able to come from 10 states to be together for a week. that's forty-seven of us, snacking at the farmer's market, watching fireworks in my hometown, riding rides at Hershey Park, having family sing-alongs, talent shows, and corn hole tournaments. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't time for Art. My brother and my Art History Professor stopped by the Brandywine Museum to see the Wyeth collection.

And although, I didn't make it there, or to the Philadelphia Museum as I'd originally planned, I did go with my sisters and mom on a self-guided walking tour of Lancaster, PA's murals. They weren't impressive to our family of art snobs, but it was still a lot of fun to be out and looking for the next stop on our scavenger hunt. Whether highbrow or low, on a pedestal or on the street: Art is for EVERYONE. Be sure to make it a part of your next travel experience.


Homemade Soap

Homemade soap was another fun camp craft. We used soap kits, but one of my co-workers use milk from their goats to make soap, and it sells like crazy at the farmer's market.
We passed around essential oils to smell, each student choosing their favorite to use for their soap. Then they chose a mold, a color and any extra stuff, like sparkles to mix in. They melted soap blocks in a microwave for a short time, stirred their scent and color and poured it into a mold. It was a very short project, but when you add in the discussion and essential oil sampling 30 minutes ended up being perfect for 6 students at a time. They ended up looking like little candies, but


Hand-dipped Beeswax Candles


Part of the fun of an agriculture themed camp, is learning how you can use things from the farm to make things for your home--things you might buy at the farmers market. Our class discussions started with the importance of bees in agriculture and the fact that the honeybee is our state insect. We discussed how candles were made during pioneer days, with systems of dipping multiple candles at a time. Since one of our administrators at the school has a beekeeper husband, she was able to get us a lot of free beeswax. The rest, we had to buy. It takes a lot to melt enough wax to fill a coffee can which makes tall narrow cans (spaghetti sauce) or even old, metal thermoses are even better. 
Wax cools quickly, so it took me a couple classes before I was able to  acquire a hotplate for my room to keep it hot enough to work with. If it's too hot, it doesn't really stick.  I kept the can  in a boiling pot, rather than on direct heat. Students worked in groups of 5 or 6, holding a wick with a bolt tied to the bottom. They'd dip it once, count a few seconds and dip it again before getting to the end of the line for the next layer. Once the candle is thick enough, the bolt can be cut off the bottom and the wax around it remelted. Wicks will need to be trimmed when the project is finished,  and then put one on a candlestick and light it. Beeswax smells great and feels authentic. It's a great homestead-y project.