Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is the most beautiful, serene place closest to my front door (besides my own bathtub). The lush trees and flowers and plants made me want to just sit and stare for hours on end. You can always find a little piece of heaven/summer here in the Conservatory.

The Conservatory is divided into seven or so houses of different plants: the Palm House, Show House, Fern Room, Sugar and Fruit Plants, the Aroid House, Desert House and the Children's Garden, as well as outside gardens and pathways.

The Palm House: With a 60 ft high roof, the beautiful tropical trees gracefully reach up and over you as you enter the Conservatory. Don't forget to check out the Double Coconut Palm, the Chocolate trees, and the Scheelea Palm.

The Show House: Each year, the conservatory presents three unique flower shows in the Show House. This ever-changing room offers something beautiful, artistic and inspiring every new season. Don't miss the spring show featuring azaleas, the summer tropical show, and the holiday show during December.

Calamondin Orange- Philippines
The Fern Room: Jans Jenson, who designed the conservatory in 1906, wanted to give visitors a glimpse of what Illinois looked like in the dinosaur age. Mosses, ferns and cycads amongst a swampy lagoon bring us back to prehistoric Chicago. Check out the waterfall, the tree ferns, and the cycads! (Travis and I didn't actually get to see this room, due to the damage caused by the hailstorm last summer. Hopefully it will be open soon! It sounds amazing!)

The Sugar from the Sun Room: As soon as you step into this room, even the air smells sweet. Overhead, plants in the SUNLIGHT section grasp at the sun's warming rays through the greenhouse glass. Bananas, oranges and pineapples are growing all around you- truly beautiful, romantic and alluring.

Beautiful Blown-Glass Flowers
The Aroid House: Because many aroids are popular houseplants, you're sure to find something familiar in this room. This house also holds a number of new plant varieties developed over the years at the conservatory, including the Garfield Anthurium. Don't forget to admire the Trumpet Tree, the Calabash Tree, and the beautiful yellow blown-glass flowers that sit in the pool.

The Desert House: This house holds one of the region's most varied collections of cacti and succulents. Travis and I loved walking through this particular room because of the weirdly shaped and strange formed plants, some with long spikes, others with short spikes and the ones with fuzzies or bumpies or both. One of the coolest plants here is the Century Plant, a huge plant that does nothing for a decade or two before it finally shoots up a enormous 30 ft stalk and blooms gorgeous flowers, and then does nothing again for awhile... Don't forget to check out the Boojum Tree and the Jade Plants as well!

The huge fish in the Aroid Room's pool
The Children's Garden: Designed to be part ornamental greenhouse, part children's museum and part playground, this room is where all of the fun continues! With interactive exhibits and a slide, children can learn how plants use the sun, water and the nutrients from the soil to grow, and how we use plants in our every day life! Check out the Conservatory free weekend family programs and other fun things to do with the kids.

The Outdoor Gardens: There are three main gardens in the Conservatory's outdoor garden exhibits- the City Garden, where hardy urban plantings and recycled bits of cityscape challenges prevailing notions of what a public garden is supposed to represent; the Demonstration Garden, the city-lot-sized garden where visitors can learn about community and organic gardening in Chicago; and the Monet Garden, an adaption of impressionist painter Claude Monet's well known garden at Giverney, France.

One of my favorite plants was the Old Man of the Andes, found in Argentina and Bolivia and living in the Desert House. It looks so funny, covered in thick, white hair that serves as a hiding place for it's spiky quills.

The atmosphere and climate itself brings people far and wide to the Garfield Park Conservatory- free heat during the cold winter, just steps from an "El" stop seems to be too good to be true. But it isn't! Admission is free every day, and there are even free events and programs for kids and families going on year-round. 

Want to hang around and don't know where to go? Check out Garfield Park!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I got to visit an Art Adoption Agency- Atlas Galleries!

Thank you to Atlas Galleries and Associate Director/Curator, Emily Watson-Rice, who invited me to their showing last Friday. (The Gallery is located right off of the Chicago Red Line stop.) They were revealing the new paintings of artist Michael Cheney, who has been awarded "Chicago Artist of the Year" for two years in a row! I got to interview Emily, as well as speak with the artist himself and peruse over his work along with over 50 other Chicagoans (as they sipped champagne and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres).

Before the showing, I went to their office and main gallery in the Bloomingdale's 900 N Michigan building. The gallery was all the way at the top of the mall, and I passed so many exquisite, fashion-forward (but expensive) boutiques and shops as I went up the escalators.

When I walked into the gallery, I was immediately surrounded by vibrant, vivid, color. The walls surrounding the entrance way, extending far back into the room, were covered with beautiful paintings of everything you could think of. I didn't have much time to enjoy them because I was there for a meeting, but if I had the time, I would have spent many hours there- I promise you!

The girls working in the gallery are all happy, helpful and so welcoming. Emily herself introduced me and walked me around a little to get a feel for the gallery and its different pieces, and then we sat down to talk.

The first thing I asked her is how she selects art for the gallery- what sorts of expression and emotions she gravitates towards when she's trying to select a piece. "We're a sort of family here," she said. "We choose artists that are mid-career to established, and once we've decided to show their work, we continue in a relationship with them for as long as the artist keeps painting." She went on to explain that she tends to choose uplifting pieces with a more positive message rather than shocking. "My clients, when they come home, usually want soft, toned pieces, or lively, whimsical pieces that bring light and color into the room and make them feel secure and at peace. No one wants to see a depressive piece every day, and no one wants to associate something that they're decorating their home with, with pain or fear."

When I asked her what she thought were the strengths of the gallery, she thought for a second and then looked around at the paintings. "I really think that the Gallery's strength is its openness, welcome environment. We're really down-to-earth and approachable, here to educate people, not force them to buy anything. Whether someones coming in to buy their first piece or a painting for their extensive collection, we just want to make their experience pleasant and memorable. We even have college students come in sometimes, studying for a project or a paper."

Throughout the conversation, their approachable-ness and colorful, positive environment definitely was apparent. They try their hardest to establish a place where you can go in and explore the paintings and talk with them about the different artists and their work without any of the snootiness you can sometimes find in art galleries, or on Michigan Avenue in general.

As a curator, Emily's favorite thing is working with her clients, who live all over the world. She calls her job and the gallery an "art adoption agency" because of her passion for finding the perfect piece that will fit in someone's home and be apart of their unique daily life. She's lived in Chicago for 20 years, and loves the fact that Chicago is a "city within a garden". She and her husband hardly have to pay for events anymore- with the free concerts in the summer at the Pritzker Pavilion, and the other great things to do around the city.

Check out her Chicago World here.

After talking with Emily, I went to the showing, which was being held at their other location, down the street at 535 N Michigan. (My feet were really hurting at that point- stupid high heels- and so I took the #145 Michigan Express bus). I was a little early, so I walked through the gallery and was in awe of the art! The artist's impressive expression of Chicago's architecture and people is unique and beautiful. I was pleased to be apart of this beautiful showing.

More on the artist and the paintings here.

** quotations are paraphrased

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Took a Bike Ride...

SOOOooo... It was a nice day and I wanted to take a ride on my husband's bike. He's not very tall for a boy, but compared to me (I'm so proportionately short) he's tall, and his bike is big. But whatever, right? A bike's a bike, and as long as I can reach the pedals and the ground somewhat when I ride I can manage, yeah? WRONG.

First of all, my husband has only had this bike for two months and it's already dying. He rides it over ten miles a day during the week and almost 30 a day on the weekend. And in the span of a little over two months, he's gotten in all sorts of scrapes, bang-ups, and fights with the curbs. The wheels are bent and wobbly, the chain loose, and the pedals make this screeching, squeaking noise like an antique or a crybaby.

And that's not all. I hop onto the bike and push off, and the back wheel is so warped that it bounces like a horse- and the brakes are so far down on the handlebars that in order to not die I have to stand up, lean waaayyyy forward, and literally almost careen over the front of the bike in order to stop. And the brakes hardly work because the wheels are wacked. And I can't touch the ground when I'm braking cause I have to stand up on the pedals to reach them.

In conclusion- I ALMOST DIED. A dying bike almost killed me.

No beautiful bike rides in Chicago for me, I guess. Hope you all have better luck! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Alisha's Chicago World

Hi! My name is Alisha Moore, and I live in Chicago, IL. I'm 21 years old, newly married, and living in East Garfield Park, right off of the Kedzie stop of the Green Line. This is kind of like my journal of adventures, I guess.

If you haven't looked at my blog about Chicago- a Line-by-Line, Stop-by-Stop preview of the 'El', you should check it out! This blog is all about my own personal adventures exploring the hidden nooks and crannies that make up my beloved Chicago.

This blog is more personal and more informal, about my walks, sights, and encounters with Chicago and Chicagoans!

A little bit about me- I was born in Detroit, MI (actually, Southfield, but no body knows where that is- basically a suburb of Detroit) and moved to Chicago just over a year ago to go to Moody Bible Institute for Urban Ministries. I was there for a semester, but couldn't afford it so I had to leave. At the time, I was confused and frustrated at God for sending me out here if I was only going to fail after only one semester. But He had something completely different in mind, and just six months later I was dating the man I was soon to marry.

Travis Moore, my beloved husband (I call him my strong one), is 22 and born and raised here in Chicago. We met during a homeless ministry we both attended (its called Chicago's Beloved, you can check it out here) and although I wouldn't say it was love at first sight, our strong friendship grew pretty quickly. I love him to death, and he supports me whole-heartedly in all of my crazy endeavors. Most of my adventures include him! Marriage in itself is an adventure in itself, and you'll probably witness some of my marriage lessons unfolding through my posts. I'm learning as I go!

My parents recently moved from Detroit to New Hampshire, to work and serve at a Christians work-camp/ rehabilitation center in the mountains. Growing up, I was homeschooled most of my life, so my dad and mom were very present in both my siblings and my childhood. I struggled with depression, sexual addiction and personal pain and trauma, and although they probably tried their hardest, we were never very close. As I passed into adolescence and young adulthood, I carried the burden of eating disorders and self-harm as well as feeling very out of place in the world. Having no friends and little time for creativity or self-expression, I fell deeper and deeper into my depression and isolation.

At 18 years old, I was on the verge of suicide when I decided to instead leave home. I was homeless for two and a half months, moving from place to place, couch to couch, trying to find a job, a place to live, and some happiness. I praise the Lord for taking care of me in this time- I had a hard time adjusting from my isolation and defeated-ness to a functioning human being. He brought into my life a couple from my church, whose own kids had left for school or moved out, and they took me in for over a year. There I learned how loveable, valuable and captivating I was in the eyes of God. They taught me how to be a human being, with the days of self-harm and sexual addiction, and from the day I moved in with them to the day I left for Chicago, I attended counseling, recovery, and small group.

My recovery and my life has been very difficult. Even now, married and two years free from addiction and three years since leaving my parents home, I struggle deeply with my self-image and my value. I praise the Lord for saving my life, and for continuing to give me breath through this hardship. Today I decided to get back in shape since struggling with my eating disorders. I've never pursued losing weight before, and I'm terrified. I am so scared of it going out of control, or it being another way for me to try and assume control, and I need so much to just give it to God. Give it to God. Give it to God.

You see, in order to deal with all those things in my past- the depression, the eating disorders, the self-harm, the sexual addiction, the abuse, the isolation, the homelessness, the pain of being alone for so long... I had to give it all to God. Self-image issues? Give it to God. Marriage issues? Give it to God? Weight loss? UGH... thats a hard one. Give it to God...

This is just a small blurp of my testimony, and more will probably piece together as the days go by. My Life Adventure begins and ends with the Lord, so my Chicago Adventure will also. Thanks for starting the adventure with me- and I would love to hear your own! Hold on to your boots, because The Adventure Starts Here!