Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The University of Chicago's new Logan Center for the Arts

the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago

In all my memories of being an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, it always looks like this, oppressive grey skies, the perpetual threat of rain, a certain gloom. That's what the weather was like on Saturday, when I went to visit my alma mater's new Logan Center for the Arts.

I trudged across the midway in my boots as I had so many times before, so many years before, to get to the art on the other side.  And I was very glad I did.

the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago

What a gorgeous building!  Beautiful and new.  Freshly constructed, freshly painted, and just what the university's art students deserve.  When I was there in the late 90's and early 2000's, there were new facilities for the business school and the biology department, while the Midway Studios, where I took my art classes, had lapsed into a saddening decrepitude.  A shell of its former self, its rafters were the home of nesting birds and squirrels, and it was so hot in the summer that our nude model complained.  Here are the studios, right next door to the Logan Center.
Midway Studios at the University of Chicago

I still have fond memories of the classes I took there.  That was where I learned how to sculpt.

earthenware clay head by Tiffany Gholar

And where I took my first (and only) photography class.

thorns, black and white photo by Tiffany Gholar

And also where I started abstract painting.

raspberry divine, oil painting by Tiffany Gholar
I painted Raspberry Divine during my senior year of college.
On my way back across the campus I saw a familiar sight: the wild parakeets of Hyde Park.  There are two sitting back to back in the photo below.  I heard their unusual call and knew it had to be them.  Makes me wish I had a longer lens to really capture them.  They're green, like the leaves of the trees.  There was an urban legend floating around campus that they were lab animals at the university once.  Other sources say that the birds were escaped pets that somehow found each other and formed a community.  They really are a very striking presence.

wild parakeets in Hyde Park on the campus of The University of Chicago

I also passed by The Orthogenic School. When I was doing research for the novel/screenplay that was my thesis project, I had a chance to visit.  It is a residential school for children and teenagers with mental illnesses, and the environment is therapeutic by design.  They call it milieu therapy.  It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life.  I can still say that even now, even after all the interior design magazines I've read and Merchandise Mart showrooms I've been in.

The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School

Looks very inviting, doesn't it?

I am glad that the rest of the campus is becoming a more inviting place for students with creative interests.  When I was a student there, I felt so out of place at times.  So many of my classmates were lured away from other majors by the siren song of the economics department, while others dreamed of becoming doctors or lawyers.  I knew it was an excellent school, but it didn't have the major I wanted (creative writing) and so I had to design my own major.  I was often accused of being a flake and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life because of that.  People just didn't understand.  But at least the administration of the university gets it now.  Not that there's anything wrong with "the life of the mind" as they call it, or learning about theories.  But I am glad to see that there will be more opportunities for students who want to practice the arts that they are learning about and make paintings, music, poetry, installation art, and theater, to get it out of their heads and into the real world.  I look forward to going to more events at The Logan Center.  It makes me feel proud of my school. 

I propose an amended Latin motto for it: Crescat ars vita excolatur, which means, Let art grow so that life can be glorified.

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