Arting with Peter

May 21, 2021

I renewed my membership with the Art Institute of Chicago, in anticipation of our family’s visit to Chicago, with all the benefits a membership confers — no lines, no reservations, admission to special exhibits, multiple guests — for starters. To make it pay for itself, I’ll need to visit Chicago a time or two more (this year!), which is the best benefit of all. Peter actually shares my membership, meaning he can go anytime in the next year, with guests and get all those benefits, too. Bonus.

Before we headed down to the museum, we met James for breakfast! That was totally unplanned, but easily arranged. He attends the University of Illinois in Chicago now, having left Arizona State a couple years ago.

Among other things we learned about Chicago, we learned that dining out requires a fair amount of advanced planning because popular restaurants are hard to get into without reservations, including, shockingly, breakfast places. We met at a place that sounded wonderful, but learned there were no available tables until the following weekend, and those were limited. How weird. So we started walking and looking and decided to return to the place we ate at yesterday. When we got there, there was a very long line to get in (on a Friday!), but we decided we could talk in line as easily as at a table, so we waited in line… and were seated maybe 45 minutes later. We covered a lot of ground catching up on James’ life in Chicago.

(James walked with us the 1.3 miles down to the museum, then split off. We’d invited him to join us, but he works in a restaurant and had to get going.)

This was along Michigan Ave, in front of the Wrigley building.

I love looking up:

Next stop: Art Institute.

We first checked in for the Monet exhibit, which we were lucky enough to catch before it wrapped up. “This exhibit includes 70 pieces, and features some of the French Impressionist’s most famous paintings alongside sketches and drawings. It traces his deep ties to Chicago.”

We then began a pleasant meander through the warren of rooms and halls on the second floor as we waited for a text telling us it was our turn to enter. We wandered at our own paces, usually meeting for moments at a time in front of this Van Gogh, or that Pissarro. I’d say we spent most of our time in the Impressionist section of the museum, but also saw modern American art (Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Georgia O’Keeffe, Archibald Motley). The best? Was hearing Peter’s take on a painting.. what he liked, what spoke to him. Fascinating, really. He’s already begun to acquire prints of some of his favorites.. they are collecting in his room in Ann Arbor, awaiting a hanging strategy. I guess art acquisition is the fun part… mounting them is a bit tedious. Still, I love that he is cultivating an appreciation for art and developing and following his own taste instincts (I mean, of course). Very fun for me to observe.

Some shots…

Van Gogh’s The Bedroom

And just a collage of snippets of some of my favorites..

(Motley, O’Keeffe, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Renoir, Caillebotte)

Then it was our turn for ….

(This photo seems blurry, but with impressionist art, maybe that doesn’t matter?)

The Monet exhibit was extensive and so worthwhile — Paris bridges in the fog, fields of haystacks, lily pads, and all manner of other things. It was excellent and great fun to see it with Peter.

Monet snippets:

Jim hung in.. and then: Jim assumed the position. I have photo-captured Jim in museums around the world in some variation or another of this very pose. I could open an exhibit of my own. (He’s always game, though, which is the best.)

After a few hours, we began our walk back to the Acme, this time heading a bit west down Monroe, then up State. We passed this old landmark (and I remembered actually shopping there on my first visit (I wanna say 1987 for a conference) — closed in 2006 — now it’s owned by Macy’s).

We ended up feeling hungry after all that museuming, so stopped at Smith and Wollensky on the river (though we sat in the bar with no view) for drinks and “angry shrimp” appetizers:

And…after hanging out in the hotel for a bit, it was another late night dinner, this time at a traditional Brazilian meat restaurant. We’d eaten at one in Brazil, funnily enough, which was an experience. This was also an experience!

The place (on Erie and LaSalle) was huge and hugely popular. Large parties, most dressed to the hilt, most African American, filed in, one after the other. We had a reservation, but it took awhile to get seated. It was loud, bustling and food was the main attraction. You start with a vegetable & sides bar… which was expansive and impressive. You fill your plate, even though they warn you not to fill up on these dishes, tempting as it is. They also keep the pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) coming and don’t sell wine by the glass, so Peter and I shared a bottle (these are new and fun experiences with that boy…).

You have two round markers (that look like coasters) that you’re supposed to use to indicate you’re ready for more meat, or not. If the green is up, wandering meat carvers will stop by your table, and if their cut of meat is to you liking, they’ll slice it right off the spit in front of you — filet mignon, ribs, lamb, pork, sausages, even chicken… and so many more choices. It’s overwhelming, but also just excellent.

A bit after the fact and messy, but here’s our table toward the end:

We all really enjoyed the dinner, especially Peter who declared it his favorite so far. Another wonderful day of being tourists in Chicago!