LITA Forum and the Art Connection

You may not have noticed, but the LITA planners have done a good job of scheduling forums to correspond with art events.

Go back five years to the LITA Forum in Portland, Oregon. I arrived the day before the opening session, dropped off my bags at the hotel, and caught the light rail to the Portland Art Museum. It happened to be a day the museum was running a food drive for the local shelter program. The admissions clerk told me that I could save the $10.00 admission fee if I walked to the Safeway on next block and brought back a couple of items for the drive. I did and got in the museum for the price of canned corn and fruit cocktail. I enjoyed seeing a big show of the Hudson River School painter Frederick Edwin Church’s landscape paintings. There was also an exhibit of early Soviet painting that was very grim.

In 2001 the LITA planners brought the forum to Milwaukee the very week that the Milwaukee Art Museum dedicated its beautiful new wing designed by Santiago Calatrava. On exhibit at that time was a fantastic collection of colorful glasswork by Dale Chihuly, which fit very nicely in the bright white gallery space. I also saw my favorite contemporary work in the museum, the very lifelike Janitor by Duane Hanson.

At the LITA Forum in Houston, I spent four or five hours in the Museum of Fine Arts. It was again great timing as there were two big shows. The first was an exhibit of French Impressionists and the second was a large part of the Phillips Collection from Washington, D.C., which was on loan while its home was being remodeled. I saw many Renoirs, Van Goghs, Monets, etc. I also saw a show of quilts from Gee’s Bend.

I do not remember there being any special shows at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk during the 2003 LITA Forum, but my visit was still very memorable. The admissions clerk insisted on checking whether I qualified for free entry because I was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sadly I did have to pay to get in, but I got a free audio tour. The woman in charge of handing out the audio tour devices told me about all her favorite pieces in the museum and how to find them. She was right about there being a great collection of art glass. I also enjoyed the galleries of European art, including the painting titled Saint Philip by Georges de La Tour. The Chrysler museum had the friendliest staff I have ever met.

Last year I went to the Saint Louis Art Museum, which had just installed a 37 foot long wood and mixed media work by Leonardo Drew called Untitled #45. (Rust was a major ingredient.) I was more impressed by the beauty of the building than the museum collection. Built for the 1904 World’s Fair, the marble-covered museum is on top of a hill overlooking Forest Park. There were good displays of European and American painting, and I particularly liked Winslow Homer’s The American School. The St. Louis Art Museum is always free to visitors and worth a visit.

This year many of us are going to San Jose, which means we can go the San Jose Museum of Art. It is free to visit and it appears to be in easy walking distance of the Forum hotel. The San Jose Museum of Art is a relatively new institution, founded in 1969, and its collection includes works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It has had permanent displays only since 2003 and puts a lot of effort into its shows. Currently it has Brides of Frankenstein, a show of works by contemporary women, who use video, robotics, the Internet, computer animations, and other digital and traditional media. It sounds like an appropriate experience for LITA librarians at a forum in Silicon Valley. I’ll see you there.