Sunday, June 10, 2007

Feeling Like Grown-ups - the Nelson Atkins Museum's Bloch Building

This afternoon we went to an art museum. I know this may seem a bit pedestrian to many of you, but as the father of a young child, I know that it is rare that the entire family goes to a cultural event.

We went because it was a special occasion. Since we moved here, the Nelson Atkins Museum has been under renovation. We toured the original, stately, 1933 Neo-classical building when Joy was pregnant and many of the exhibits were closed. My favorite paintings were those of Thomas Hart Benton, a Kansas City painter of Americana I have always found compelling, but I wondered where their truly modern art was hiding.

Now I wonder no more. The Nelson Atkins unveiled the Bloch Building, their new addition, this weekend with a big gala that included performances by the Symphony, the Rep, and the Ballet; interactive art for the kids; and lectures galore. The Bloch Building has been receiving raves for some time from the likes of The Washington Post and Time Magazine, so we decided to check it out. The building is stunning, graceful, and as elegant a place to see modern art as MoMA. Just look at the Donald Judd sculpture to the right - the Bloch is made of transparent glass and is largely underground, so light defuses downward creating a glow around the art. As a result, the building, spectacular as it is, recedes into the background and simply highlights the art. In other words, it does just what a good museum should do.

But beyond the chance to experience art, our adventure to the Bloch Building was a reminder of how much our lives have changed. When we lived in Champaign, Joy and I used to go to concerts, to theater, to art museums all the time. We reveled in contemporary culture. Going to the museum today reminded us both what we had given up in having Sam and reorienting our lives. We felt adult again, looking at the paintings and sculptures and photographs and discussing the new building's virtues. Our discourse was beyond the daily grind and Sam's latest adventures.

And yet, through it all, we were dealing with Sam straining to move on, see new things. He was a constant tug back to reality. I love Sam, and I had a wonderful time showing him art works and pointing out things for him to focus on, but it is remarkable to realize how quickly our lives were transformed almost two years ago. I wouldn't want to return to our old life, but there are things I miss. It's a reminder of how important "grown-up time" is, getting dressed up and enjoying each others' company away from our regular existence. It's something that would restore us and need to consciously pursue.

Still, Sam was remarkable at the museum. He, of course, wore his monkey:

But this time, we had numerous people mention how much they loved the monkey. One man even remarked, "That's the most humane way to keep up with them I've ever seen." I couldn't agree more, especially if it lets us go to more events like this one.

No comments: