Before graduating from college I spent a summer abroad learning to paint, photograph, and stumble may way through the Italian language in Florence. The mornings spent in that second floor painting studio looking beyond the towering windows to the courtyard below, all while brushing layers of paint over a stretched canvas were truly as idyllic as they sound. I would spend the hours after class wandering through the courtyards of statues and perusing the halls of some of the most famed museums in the world. It’s hard not to romanticize Italy and its storied past of artists finding inspiration in their cities, but the longer I visited and returned to these museum courtyards, sketching the figures in front of me, I couldn’t help but feel that same ownership for these places. The same feeling of ownership happened after my husband and I started to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art more often. We would bike to the expanding campus to learn about new artists or photograph the grounds. Now when we walk in we both get excited to revisit our favorite pieces and spend a little extra time in the areas that are new to us. Even sitting in their atrium for a coffee and sweet is a worthwhile way to enjoy the setting at LACMA. There are endless museums to choose, but the ones that I find most memorable are those that have a sentimental element. Whether it’s the MOCA museum in Los Angeles where I spent a good thirty minutes in front of what would later become my favorite art installation, or MOCAD in Detroit where I attended my first Michigan based art opening after leaving Los Angeles, or The Art Institute of Chicago where I had my first post-college interview (…which didn’t go too well). While abroad the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is where I spent my first few afternoons after exploring the city solo several years ago, and MUMOK in Vienna was where I saw one of the best exhibits of Conceptual Art since learning about the period in my art history classes. The list of memories is endless but the thread that connects all of these places is that either a piece of artwork or the building itself captured a good memory, something that will continually make me long for a visit. This list is a purely a starting point and the challenge is to filter through the endless monuments to art and find the places that inspire rather than only draw the crowds.
Recounting these museum stories brings back endless memories of vacations, weekend afternoons, and solo days spent only for me. These are the places that take a little bit of time to explore, days dedicated to visiting each floor and room, and moments spent reading the statements each artist has poured over. They often make you question why you are looking at something or how you are supposed to act around it, but each museum is an opportunity to find a connection that fits. Looking back over my list of museums, the standout places that provide my own little bits of inspiration may not be where the iconic statues are found in the Italian courtyards or up the worn marble steps inside old chateaus and villas. Their histories may only be in the tens of years rather than the hundreds, but their meanings and memories are equally as important.
White staircase photo by HMN Photography.