Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:**
It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.
For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself…
…and then we were released from service. The following weekend, after a brief overnighter at Fair Oaks Farms, we returned to Chicago for our third time this year after memorable trips for C2E2 and Star Wars Celebration Chicago. (It was our fifth total within the past twelve months. Frankly, we’re growing a little tired of that three-hour drive and are fairly certain 2019 won’t lure us back there yet again. Probably. We think.)
In my defense, this trip was all but preordained months ago. Also previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last October we attended Ace Comic Con Midwest, walked around downtown to kill time, and made a brief stop to avoid unwelcoming weather:
For temporary shelter we ducked inside the Art Institute and perused their free gift shop. I was surprised to find a small but healthy graphic novel section with recent works such as Emil Morris’ My Favorite Thing is Monsters. A teenager and I took turns boggling at an utterly massive coffee-table tome devoted to the art of Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of Tank Girl and Gorillaz. I settled instead for a Piet Mondrian magnet. Anne and I then departed, agreeing the time wasn’t right for a spontaneous museum tour at $25 per ticket. Another weekend some other year, perhaps.
The year was 2019. The time was Memorial Day weekend.
Some time after that gift shop interlude we looked up the Art Institute’s permanent collection to see what works were on display. From its stiff name alone I’d assumed it was simply a local art school with class assignments by some of their nicer students pinned to walls and kitchen appliances. We were sure they’d be pretty and whatnot, but would that be our thing?
Our jaws dropped as we perused their site. The reality was a stellar lineup to rival the Met in Manhattan, the Guggenheim, or the surprisingly cool Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica. The Institute shot straight to the top of my birthday brainstorming list and faced very little competition ever after. (Sorry, Vincennes. Maybe next year?)
We arrived fifty minutes before they opened, parked a block south and walked around the grounds for a bit to get the lay of the land. The original building dates back to 1893 (the lions were added the following year) but has been subject to numerous expansions over the decades, most notably the modern wing in 2009 that brought their total area to nearly a million square feet, making them the second largest art museum in America (behind the aforementioned Met). Setting aside an offsite lunch break, we were inside for four hours and still saw less than half the exhibits. Encore presentations will happen in the distant future. Maybe not in 2019, but the hundreds of works we did see will hold us for a while.
Dozens of patrons were already lined up at the north entrance to the modern wing when we approached. We joined them for a few minutes till we realized they were museum members taking advantage of their early-access privileges to check out a special Manet exhibit or perhaps other offerings.
After lunch we reentered through the original wing and worked our way back to where we’d started…
…and those were just the buildings. Then there were the paintings. Oh, my, yes, the paintings.
To be continued!