What I’m reading #2: Where the Surrounding Streets are Exhibits

The second piece I read recently ran in the New York Times, with the above title in the old-fashioned newsprint version.

It talked about three very different things, with similar goals:

• The reuse by the artist Angel Orensanz of an abandoned synagogue in New York, adapting it for use as a studio to help others create and present art;

• The Museum of Chinese in America sponsors a walking tour that focuses on food, which was a major tool for the fusion of Chinese immigrants into New York daily life.

• In Yorkshire, England, the Bronte Parsonage Museum leads a walking tour around the community where Charlotte and Emily Bronte lived their lives and wrote their major 19th century novels, including “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights.”

The nutshell of the article was a comment by the president of the American Alliance of Museums, Ford W. Bell: “Visitors are fascinated by authenticity. It is one thing to see the Bronte house and … how they lived, but then to walk the same sidewalks and get a feel for what life was like then creates a totality of experience beyond the physical museum.”

Obviously, the Brontes never lived in Chicago.

But Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong and Saul Bellow did. Some of the sidewalks have changed, but as my colleague Lisa Stone would say, “there’s so much to be learned as the genre of art environments can’t be considered without considering the complex issues of preservation or loss.”

Chicago is one giant art environment. Come explore it with us on May 2 and 3!

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