You might think most museum employees dream of curating blockbuster exhibitions, conserving priceless works of art, or running the place. But I’ve always had my sights set on another target: Artie the Lion, the official Art Institute mascot. I don’t know exactly what it is about him—perhaps the pie-shaped nose?—but from the first time we met three years ago, I was instantly endeared to this colorful, flower-faced, fuzzy lion.
So, when we got word that the bronze Edward Kemeys lions on Michigan Avenue were going to sport Bears apparel for the upcoming NFC championship game this Sunday, and that we needed an Artie appearance on short notice, I jumped at the prospect of getting to fill his foamy, slipper-like shoes.
Being a mascot is way harder than you might think! First of all, you can’t talk. I mean you can, but you can’t break the illusion. No answering questions, no side commentary, and no laughing (although plenty of silent laughing went on behind the mask). Then there’s the physical challenge… I’m only 5’3″ and Artie’s usually played by mascot professionals over 5’7”, so there was some extra leg fabric drooping by my feet. And of course there was my general unfamiliarity with the suit. As you’ll notice in the photo above, even walking out of our offices proved difficult: I needed someone to carry my tail. Finally, my moment in the spotlight! When you’re in a mascot costume, you’re entertaining 100% of the time. Thankfully, I took my cues from veteran mascot Staley the Bear, who’s a real pro! We danced, played Rock, Paper, Scissors, imitated famous works of art, and really hammed it up for the cameras.
All in all, it was certainly the best way to start my Friday morning. And while I hear I might have been the first female to ever inhabit Artie, I’ll be happy to see one of our two regulars return for the next event where he’s needed.
—Jocelin S., Social Media Coordinator
Now, we normally don’t put helmets on the lions until one of our hallowed Chicago teams has made it to the final championship game/series, but we’ve decided to make an exception for Bears vs. Packers.
Tomorrow we’ll be adorning one of our lions with a Chicago Bears helmet (last used for the 2007 Super Bowl and currently waiting on the museum’s loading dock) and dressing the other lion with an over-sized Bears scarf and earmuffs. For those of you attending the game, take note—weather.com predicts a high of only 22 on Sunday!
Feel free to join us (as well as Artie the Lion and Staley the Bear) at 10:30 tomorrow morning for the installation on Michigan Avenue. Bear down!
POSTED BY Liz N., ON January 07, 2011, Comments Off
There’s always something happening at the Art Institute: artists visit to talk about their processes, curators take on complicated installations of exhibitions, conservators use cutting edge scientific techniques to study artworks, and scholars stop by to discuss current issues in art history. In a blink of an eye these fantastic museum moments could be lost to time. The Art Institute’s Media Production team saves the day by helping us capture these events on video to share with the world.
The museum has long used media to aid in its interpretive goals, but back in the days before the internet and low-cost video production, the museum used media primarily to support on-site programming. Bill F., our Multimedia Producer/Manager, recalls the hot technology of yesteryear: a programmable slide projection system from Clear Light Productions that allowed management of up to 16 slide projectors with different fades and a soundtrack. Bill would program the projectors for special events in what sounds like the preparations for a laser light show.
Thankfully, technology and how it is disseminated has improved dramatically. Fast-forward to the present day where we can now use a digital picture with a looped soundtrack, and creating videos is a cross-departmental affair, with input from Communications, Public Affairs, Curatorial, etc. And better yet, now we share these museum highlights with tens of thousands of people every year on the internet. Currently, you can find our videos on ArtBabble, a video-sharing site specifically designed for art ideas, YouTube, and the Art Institute’s website.
Although spending hours editing video in the “cave” (see above) can be a tedious job for our Media Productions team, they also get an incredibly unique view of the museum from behind the camera. Tommy R., our Multimedia and AV Technical Services specialist, says its like he’s a fly on the wall, silently observing. For many shoots, he must spend a lot of time with artists, draftsmen, or curators and they can develop relationships that enhance the production—especially for labor intensive time-lapsed videos like the installation of Sol LeWitt #1111.
This month we’re launching a new tool to help you find audio and video resources produced at the Art Institute. Have a sneak peak at the beta and let us know what you think!
What kind of videos would you like to see from us?
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON November 24, 2010, Comments Off
What do Chicago kids want for the world? Apparently they want a world full of cats. They want to ride horses to school. They want more art. And they want everybody to get along.
After the success of last year’s Yves Behar–designed wreaths, the Art Institute has once again invited a contemporary design team to reinterpret the wreaths for our annual Wreathing of the Lions ceremony, which takes place this Friday at 10 am. Materious, the Chicago-based husband-and-wife firm of Stephanie and Bruce Tharp, has combined the look of traditional North American cranberry wreaths with the hopeful spirit of Buddhist and Taoist wishing trees. (For a sneak peek of what the wreaths will look like, check out Time Out Chicago’s photo slide show.)
In the wishing trees tradition, part of the lunar new year celebration, children throw oranges with attached paper notes over banyan trees. The artists have integrated this custom with traditional Western holiday decorations by incorporating “wishes for the world in 2011,” written by Chicago-area children, into each of the 2011 clear and red plastic spheres that make up the wreaths. Aided by solar power, the wreaths will glow at night, bringing their festive and optimistic feel into the evening hours. But while the wreaths will be a sight to see day or night, these endearing wishes will remain concealed, so we thought we’d share a few of our favorites, above and below, with our loyal blog readers. What’s your wish for 2011?
–Jocelin S., Public Affairs and Communications
POSTED BY Christina N., ON October 22, 2010, Comments Off
The English courtier who once wore this armor, produced at the royal armory in Greenwich, must have been very conscious of his appearance, whether in battle or at a sporting event. For this reason, he would surely approve of his armor’s new home in Gallery 236, in which selected highlights from the museum’s beloved collection of arms and armor will again be on view starting November 1. In addition to over 30 wonderful works of armor (such as the Greenwich half suit), this installation will feature paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and—for the first time in the museums’s history—a knight mounted on a horse.
Putting together a display of such diverse material is truly a team effort, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes work on the part of many people at the museum: carpenters, conservators, curators, editors, graphic designers, installation crew, mount-makers, painters, photographers, registrars, security, and others. Here, you can see for yourself some of the labor that has gone into the preparation of this gallery.
Below is a portion of the Greenwich armor pictured above being carefully positioned on its new pedestal. The mount armature that is exposed on both sides will hold the half suit’s sleeves in place.
Some of the most extensive preparation has gone into preparing the mounted knight. The ceiling of the gallery that previously housed the arms and armor collection was too low to accommodate a rider on a horse, so the horse mannequin had been in storage for decades. As a result, the mannequin required conservation work and several coats of paint (below).
Once that work was complete, the mannequin was set on a new pedestal in the gallery space, and the work of securing the saddle and the knight could begin. (This image provides a great sneak peek of the space as it appeared during installation.)
Currently, the armor for the knight is being secured to the horse (below). This extremely complicated task is done in stages, as you can clearly see here.
Come see the fruits of all this labor on November 1, when “The Return of Arms and Armor” opens at the Art Institute.
Image credit: Attributed to Jacob Halder, Portions of Armor for Field and Tilt, 1580/90. The Art Institute of Chicago: George F. Harding Collection.