Just Visiting: The Art Institute of Chicago (Van Gogh’s Bedroom)

The Art of Accessibility visits Chicago’s famed Art Institute to be immersed in Vincent Van Gogh’s sketches and paintings (as well as other works of art). ChiArtInstitute1312

The Art Institute is breath-taking.  While fairly sprawling, its collections are cohesive and comprehensive, but from a wheelchair accessibility point-of-view, the Institute seems to  lack understanding of the spirit of “accessible”.

IMG_7239Entry into the Van Gogh exhibition was on the second level. As shown above, there were two ques to enter at the pillars, with the introductory verbiage on the left wall and enlargement details on the right. As you went in on the right, you begin to see Van Gogh’s journey to Arles. There was no set path to follow; consequently, there were often bottlenecks as people viewed and backed up to view again, various works.

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But works are art are often hung at “eye-level,” and eye level seems to mean the viewer should be roughly the same height as the curator who hung the exhibition.

Even without the wheelchair, I’m 5’2″ tall, but in the chair, any work under glass such as this painting, had to be viewed at a severe angle to avoid glare.

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Then there was the opportunity to see works body blocked by those in front of you, which, I guess, is the price to be paid for infirmity.

The worst part of the whole thing occurred in the gallery which housed the three bedroom paintings. There are subtle differences among them, and I had managed to work my way to the front of the crowd, with the intention to just slowly move along with the crowd to view them.

However, a uniformed attendant (guard?) decided that I was actually trying to get out of the gallery and moved me even further in front of the crowd and moved them back so I had a clear path out of the gallery. He then continued to clear paths until I was out of the exhibition completely. I could have, should have, spoken up, but I think I was too dumbfounded to utter a protest.

The exhibition, of course, emptied into a gift shop, but there was hardly room for me to see what was available (sorry, Liz!), and the gift shop exit led you back to entry, on the side of the introduction, where everyone exiting decided they suddenly needed to read the what they missed.

Can you say “log jam”?

IMG_7252The rest of the Institute is fairly easily accessible, with a few tricky places.

As I said, my chief difficulty has to do with the eye level  of art and the accompanying signage. This seems to be a universal problem, which could be easily remedied if the curator(s) borrowed a wheelchair from the concierge desk and travel the exhibition or galleries before deciding final placements.

Look at it from a different point of view and make art truly accessible to all.

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The Last Full Measure of Devotion

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There are a couple of things you need to know about me: I am not a political animal and I do not watch television.

I watch streaming, via Netflix or Amazon, but I do not watch broadcast television or cable TV. I’m usually a season or more behind in even knowing what’s out there.

Currently, I’m watching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which is copyright 1990.

On November 19th, 2013  — just next month — it will have been 150 years since the national cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. 150 years since Abraham Lincoln gave us a two-minute address that continues to be relevant today.

In July, I visited Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, which is on grounds managed by the National Park Service. It’s strange visiting a place like that, knowing what would happen in the Lincolns’ future — that he would be elected President, that one of their sons would die in Washington, that the President himself would be assassinated there and never return to the only house he ever owned….

And behind all of that is the huge and bloody stage of the American Civil War.

In 1959, the last Civil War veteran died, and with him, I think, went our last connection to the domestic war that slaughtered 600,000 men– some of whom had gone to school together, or were relatives of each other. Without a Civil War veteran to remind us of the high price we paid for a continued union of States, we have fallen back to the shrill rhetoric and dearth of compromise that led up to secession and war. These days I see, and I hear, the similar passion and fervor that led this nation down that path.

We are a nation of related strangers. Our forefathers all came to this country from somewhere. This is what makes us fabulous.

My adopted grandfather’s family can be traced back to the 1700’s in what is now Germany; they fought in the Revolutionary War, and they fought in the Civil War (Pickett’s Charge, to be exact). What makes this nation work is its design — the three branches of government, and the checks and balances it’s supposed to have. Has the design evolved over the years? Of course it has. Is it perfect? Oh hell no.

But it is the best we have.

We still have the right to vote (yeah, let’s not get into that whole Electoral College thing right now); we can still call or write to our elected officials (yeah, let’s not get into that whole are-they-gonna-bother-to-listen-to-me thing right now).

We can still participate in the system; we can still influence and change the system, if we choose to, and even in choosing not to influence and participate, we have the freedom of choosing.

That’s pretty crazy cool, I think.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Unglamorous Office Assistant

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I’ve been looking for a new office position since mid-July. I’ve sent letters and resumes, I’m registered at three temp services. I can code and data-enter two hundred electric invoices in a week, and can knock out a stack of water invoices (like above, a hundred of them) in three days. That includes scanning to attachment to make the accountants happy.

My old boss Kari, whom I followed to two jobs, would tell you that I’m ridiculously punctual and reliable, and that she never had to worry about me working unsupervised. I can think on my feet, and the success of my employer is my top priority.

So why aren’t I working?

I’ve been reading a lot of LinkedIn articles and letters, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I’m not glamorous enough.

My resume is filled with practical, but decidedly non-exciting, skills.

Yes, I can mail merge. I can create mailing lists. I present a professional appearance and demeanor. Of course I type. I file correctly (Far, Fat, Few, Fuse), I answer the phone using correct spoken English and syntax. I take messages with the caller’s name, phone number, time of call, and message — and I try to glean more information so that the message recipient has more to work on than, “Ms So-and-So wants you to call her back.” I compose letters using a bare minimum of information from my boss, again utilizing correct grammar and spelling.

How long have I been using MS Word? I have no idea. I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t, but I was typing on a Selectric then. Yes, I can create newsletters using Publisher, but for a real challenge, try it in Word (which I did when creating marketing material in real estate). I have legible handwriting, and I know how to minimize risk to my employer. I can document incident reports, when necessary, precisely and succinctly. I have grown a receptionist position into an administrative assistant position by taking on more responsibility and freeing my director for other things.

But I do not have the great, huge, billboard-inspiring accomplishments like “Overhauled entire filing system while verifying employment and income for 100 waiting list applicants and catering a dance recital for 60 coworkers’ children.” Not having the great, huge, billboard-inspiring accomplishments just means that to me, there are more important things to do than quantify every thing I do for my employer so that my resume looks more impressive next time. I like being support personnel, I don’t want there to be a next time.

Let me be the support person you hired me to be.

(Resume available upon request.)

Back to Basics

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“Basic” can be defined as “forming an essential foundation or starting point….”

I spent yesterday and part of today reworking my resume for a staffing service, and I was hung up on how they wanted me to fill out the “Career Profile.”

In six brief bullet points, they wanted me to say what I do, not who I am.

I found it difficult because I discovered that I am adjectives, I am -able words: Dependable, reliable, capable.

Is that really what I am? Adjectives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing Upon A Star

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Today’s is the last motivational/inspirational photo I’ll be posting here.

I’ve opened a storefront on Fiverr.com, wherein I will send daily photos to your inbox for $5 for 7days (that’s only 71cents a day!!).

You’ve seen the quality of my images; if you’ve enjoyed them, I ask for your support by subscribing or gifting a subscription to someone.

I’m not collecting email addresses, I’m not going to spam you, everything is handled through Fiverr.com whose site takes credit cards and PayPal.

For those choose not to subscribe, thank you for allowing me to share my images with you these last few weeks!

I’ve created a new blog around the corner to introduce the Fiverr storefront and show samples of the work.