Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Detroit Institute of Arts, a Sparkling Gem on a Winter's Day

For those of you in the metropolitan Detroit area, if you haven't been to the "new" DIA, shame on you and get yourself to the museum!  My husband and I have been there twice now.  The first time was for the advanced opening for members.  It was a wonderful experience.  The galleries are gorgeous and it's new layout is very user friendly.  It's almost indescribable how wonderful it is.  Really.  It's fabulous.  

The second time was this past Sunday.  We had spent the morning doing the usual: hangin' out, drinking our coffee, reading the paper... and it would have been lovely to just stay holed up in the house, snuggled under afghans, reading - but we had decided on Saturday to visit the DIA on Sunday and we were sticking to it.  Boy, am I glad we did!  It was just as wonderful as before.   I had said to my husband that I didn't want to "do" the entire museum.  It just becomes overwhelming and a chore, rather than an enjoyable experience.  We decided to visit some of the galleries that hadn't been open at the grand opening or that we'd missed the first time and of course, revisit our "favs".  Speaking of which, I have a new "fav": the Prints and Drawings Gallery.  There's an energy in drawings that isn't present in paintings, but that's a whole different blog entry...  When you go, look for the small little Ingres drawing of a woman.  It is just exquisite.

To tackle the DIA in this manner is really the way to enjoy a museum and being members allows for such a leisurely visit because you feel like it's "yours" to enjoy on your timetable, as many times during the membership period as you like.  Of course, living within a reasonable distance helps, too.  But, you know what I mean... think about the times you've been to a museum (or zoo!) that you're not a member of.  There's the tendency to go on a "forced march", to go to all the exhibits, all the galleries, (all the animals) - to make sure you get your ticket's worth.  No wonder children tend to roll their eyes when you say, "Let's go to the____  museum!" 
 
We've always been members and when my Lizzy was around 4 years old, I was a student at the College for Creative Studies, which is located behind the DIA.  I used to go there much more often and knew where all the galleries were located within the building.  I would take Lizzy there on occasion - which one of my professors thought was absolutely amazing that I would take a 4 year-old to the DIA.  I explained to her that we didn't go for an extended period of time,  we just went for brief visits to a couple galleries for my fulfillment and to acquaint Lizzy with the museum and hopefully build an appreciation for art in her, but there were always three things on Lizzy's "must do" list:  go up and down the "roundy" stairs (the spiral staircase); get white cheddar popcorn in the Kresge Court; and visit her favorite room: "The Pink Room".   It was a gallery that was filled with Fragonard paintings,  Louis the somethin' or other gilded furniture, pink walls, pink satin bedding, pink upholstery, pink, pink, pink... a little girl's idea of heaven.   This was during the same time that the DIA had to cut back on hours and close certain galleries on certain days due to budget cuts.
  
On one particular day, we were on our pilgrimage to "The Pink Room" and when we arrived at the particular spot where it should have been.  It was "gone"!   I remember standing there, holding Lizzy's little hand and turning around, looking and looking - certain I was in the right spot since I knew the layout of the museum so well.  A guard spotted us and asked me if he could help us.  Puzzled, I explained to him about "The Pink Room" and how it was her favorite room and how I thought that this was where it was.   He said, "Well, you're right. It's over here." and led us over to the wall where lo and behold! he opened a concealed door and let us into "The Pink Room".  He opened the gallery just for the two of us, for Lizzy and her enjoyment of "the Pink Room" and explained to me that due to budget cuts, this gallery wasn't open on this particular day.  Now, how cool was that?  I'll always remember that the act of kindness.  He could have just turned us away, but he chose to brighten a little girl's face instead.
  
"The Pink Room" is gone now due to the renovations and revamping of the museum.  I don't imagine it'll be missed much.  It wasn't my favorite gallery - too frou-frou for me - but it will certainly remain as a fond memory of time I spent at the DIA with my Lizzy.

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