Monday, August 25, 2014

The Summer Sun in the Gardens of AIC

The Pritzker Garden
Today everyone is officially back in school, so it might seem like summer has technically come to a close.  But if you hadn’t picked up on this yet, it seems our summer weather has only just begun – just in time for the remaining 29 days of the season.  So, until the Autumnal Equinox gets here, you should get yourself to the remaining summer events at the museums!  You might have noticed that we’ve been to a few already this summer, and we will be posting about a few more this week (to make you feel just the slightest bit more sociable now that everyone’s cooped up for the session). 

One of our recent trips was to the Art Institute of Chicago. Last month we went to the AIC for Martini Mondays, a summertime event bolstering “libations, light bites, live music and special exhibition viewings.” This particular program (different from the monthly “Art After Dark” and “Night Heist” events the AIC already hosts) varies from month to month in location, trying to make use of the outdoor spaces of the museum before leading inward to a particular exhibit inside.  July’s event started off in the Pritzker Garden – the bright, sunny courtyard amid the trees, located off the east side of the Modern Wing.  There were several tables offering generous amounts of antipasto options (the Art Institute provides some of the best food at these events), as well as a few bartenders mixing up pretty martinis (pictured right!) and the standard bar classics.  Visitors dined and sipped as the sun lowered in the skyline, all to the tune of a live jazz band at the end of the courtyard.  It was as lovely as it sounds!

Post-martini, this event was to lead back inside for a special look at the “Chicagoisms” exhibit.  Sadly, there was a miscommunication and “Chicagoisms” ended up being closed that night, so the museum instead had the Classics hallways opened for the guests.  Although I had been looking forward to viewing the “Chicagoisms” architecture exhibit, this was no great disappointment.  The cool blue hallways hosting the Greek, Roman and Byzantine works are among my favorite spots in the museum - for the jewelry, artwork and sculpture as much as for the views overlooking the pretty garden and fountains of McKinlock court below.  As an added bonus, we got to watch the sun finally disappear behind the buildings downtown.

The sun sets over McKinlock Court

This event provided visitors all the best things that summer in Chicago has to offer.  The weather was perfect, and it was easy to see why the AIC would add a third program to their already full schedule of social events.  The gardens of the museum are so peaceful and visually beautiful, and yet we are only offered a few short months to enjoy them.  Incidentally, tonight is the last Martini Monday of the summer.  So get yourself there before the summer does officially end!  You can go here to buy tickets.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Since early May, Museum Explorer has really been “with the program,” so-to-speak.  It kicked off with the release of our article on program carts published by the National Association of Museum Exhibition (N.A.M.E.) in their Spring issue of The Exhibitionist (vol. 33, no. 1, Spring 2014). The issue, dedicated to ‘Intentionally Designed Spaces,’ includes our contribution “Exhibition Carts: Intentionally Design Spaces on the Move” by Museum Explorer staff, Rich Faron and Jessica Banda. The article is still available from N.A.M.E. on their site (here), but here's a refresher excerpt:

“Program carts are wonderful tools for responding to this increasing pressure facing exhibitors. As a method of flexible program delivery, these carts provide activities that fulfill a variety of purposes, from conveying mission content, to serving as a changing marquee, to supporting local school curricula. Because carts bring staff, objects, and an exhibit-like experience into direct contact with visitors, they provide an intimate and simple means for establishing and building a dialogue with the public.”

Our article was so well received that of the dozen articles published in that issue, ours was among only 3 that were selected to be highlighted on the N.A.M.E. web site and made available via PDF through a link with their web site.

But…that wasn’t even the biggest deal.  In May N.A.M.E. invited us (Jessica Banda and Rich Faron) to participate in a Twitter Chat that was by all accounts, including our own, a huge success.  The chat was hosted by on June 26th by Dana Allen-Greil (Digital Outreach Manager at the Smithsonian Museum, National Gallery of Art), and included participants from museum of all kinds from all around the country. If you missed it you can still recap and read the tweets by clicking the link.

But wait - that’s not all! It’s one thing to write, talk and tweet about carts, but in the end the most important thing is to actually design and build carts!  We’re proud to report that we are currently designing and working with our fabricator on 3 brand new cart designs for Lincoln Park Zoo, the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, and the Naper Settlement in Naperville, Illinois.  Additionally, we’ve been developing some brand new program materials for the History a la Cart programs at the Chicago History Museum!

So…we are keeping busy!  But so far it has been a great summer and here’s hoping that it keeps on ROLLING!