Joe and I have lived in Kansas City together for almost 11 years. And I've lived here since I was three, with a brief five year stint in Lawrence and a year in Philadelphia. But this is home. I feel like I know this city. Know it pretty well in fact. But I'm still constantly surprised by all the things we miss out on experiencing. Lack of time, our routine, weekend laziness, we get stuck out in the burbs sometimes. But we try to take advantage of the great art, museums, architecture and other amenities in our city as often as we can. (That life list helps me keep all this fun crap in my mind though, thank god, planetarium/Union Station post coming soon.) It especially helps us get out and mix it up in the city when we have out of town company staying with us.
In all the time we've lived here and in the multiple visits that Joe's parents have made, we've shockingly never taken them to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. The Nelson is one of my all time favorite places in the whole wide world. I've come here countless times, on school field trips as a fifth grader, where we sat down in a long row in front of this enormous Asian screen covered in dragons and had to sketch our own dragons and then write a dragon themed story. Wandering around as a high school student absorbing all the Impressionist art that I adored, trying to comprehend the modern art that was way over my head at the time. Taking guided tours with Joe, spending hours just quietly looking and thinking. Most importantly, that restaurant right above and below, Rozzelle Court, is where Joe and I got engaged. Of course we headed right there first on Saturday when Joe's parent's arrived. Time for lunch and a little touring and reminiscing. Did I mention the key lime pie?
We visited the whimsical and playful shuttle cocks that make the Nelson sculpture garden look like one enormous badminton court. They used to be controversial, which I thought was ridiculous, but I think 99% of visitors adore them now. I do. We wandered around outside on that bright, cool spring day and then headed back inside to wait in line to take a look at the original rules of basketball from one James Naismith. Though everyone knows I'm not a huge sports fan, as a KU girl I can't help but feel a little giddy at the chance to peer down at this little slice of typed history. Peppered with tiny hand written corrections and notes, it was fascinating to picture young men shooting hoops into peach baskets while wearing woolen uniforms. In stark comparison to the modern televised March Madness, bracket highlighting, intensive game watching, followed by ensuing bracket chaos at our house this week.
We didn't visit every collection in the entire museum. We didn't want to kill Joe's parents. Taking about three hours, including lunch, we hit the highlights. The ridiculously gorgeous and extensive Asian collection, with full rooms of reconstructed temples and statues right out of India and China, rooms where you stand in revered silence, admiring the detail and colors that have lasted through centuries.
Curvaceous Indian gods and goddess saved from the walls of temples, though carved from stone, so fleshy and lifelike I would swear their body temperature is 98.6. You want to rest your hand against their smooth rounded bodies. Don't, you'll get reprimanded.
After wandering around Asia, we headed over to the Native American exhibit which is wonderful, newly redone, and laid out in a geographical pattern, letting you wander through the collection in groupings from the plains to the Northwest to Alaska. I could spend hours here. Examining small figural calendars, baskets woven with tiny quail feathers and bits of shell, graphic black, white and red masks, sculptural figures like this guy below, who was actually in my dream a few night ago, laughing and taunting some school children. Odd, but compelling. Then to the new building, which isn't really that new anymore.
We hit my favorite, the African art section. While fairly small, they have some really spectacular pieces, particularly some masks and large beaded stools like the one below. Not Joe, the blue, red, white entirely blanketed in tiny seed beads guy behind him. Yes, all that color is from beads. It's amazing, intricate and I can only imagine how much time it took to create it.
Sherry and Roy, the wax guard who has been watching over the modern art collections since the late 1970's, and used to terrify me as a kid. Uniforms have changed, Roy stays the same. Not even needing a haircut.
We toured the immaculate photography exhibit of Ray Metzker, whose stark use of light in his black and white photographs from Philadelphia and Chicago in the 1950's to 1970's capture the city life of everyday people, in highlighted brilliance. After all these varied collections, you can't ignore the Block building itself. Sweeping white curves, smooth planes, quiet sunlit corners. It is a relaxing, informal and welcoming space, in perfect modern balance to the original museum structure.
I think Sherry and John enjoyed the afternoon. I know I did. Having the opportunity to take some of my favorite people to spend the day at one of my all time favorite places made for a pretty stellar Saturday. Just call me next time you're in the area, I'll take you too.
That evening we headed out to dinner at our local Mexican restaurant, Guadalajara Cafe, which I've blogged about numerous times, it's that good. Sherry specifically requested that we take her there after all the talk. We dined, margarita-ed and tried some delicious authentic fare selected for us by our waiter. Sunday morning we had some friends over for brunch, including a friend of Sherry's who lives in Kansas City, my mother who gets along with Sherry so well that it's a little scary, and Tara, Mike and Maddie. Because every brunch needs an adorable baby! Otherwise what's there to take pictures of? Breakfast casserole? Bagels? Sleepy people drinking coffee?
Though it was a bit of a whirlwind 24 hour visit, I'm thrilled that Sherry and John took the time to swing down to Kansas City. We got to hang out, take in the sights and share some of the reasons I'm proud to call myself a Kansas Citian. And now I need to go pack for our trip to Omaha!
Photos by Joe Sands, a couple of the art piece shots were from me. But mostly Joe, of course.