Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dinosaurs have invaded Atlantic Station!

Extreme Dinosaurs is awesome! 

For some odd reason, I thought this exhibition was going to be totally cheezy, but it turns out to be quite fascinating. The specimen are HUGE and many of them are animatronic! You can even "operate" some of them! 

Atlantic Station impresses again with another amazing exhibition!


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

I've shared in other posts that before I wanted to be an astronaut I wanted to be an archaeologist...Louis Leakey was a childhood hero. So, an exhibition about dinosaurs...I'm so there! Especially when it's one that is this much fun.



Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

There are 17 animatronic "extremely" large dinosaurs in the exhibition. The smaller ones are toward the front and they get progressively bigger as you progress through the corridors of naturalistic landscaping.

Did you know that T-Rex remains have been found in the Western United States and Alberta?  


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

One of the more fun, and interesting, aspects of Extreme Dinosaurs is that it features "Advantages of Bizarre Characteristics" on many of its specimen...often those characteristics had to do with "staying alive or attracting a mate."


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

Extreme Dinosaurs entertains from the moment you walk in until you leave...it's non-stop fun, learning, interactivity, awe and more fun.

Speaking of walking in...it took me a few minutes to find the exhibition, and I thought I knew Atlantic Station rather well! It's on Level 2 near Escalator 5. You can't miss the escalator signs, so that'll help you find it.


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

The exhibition also features skeletons and quite a few fossils...some replica and some real, as well as some dinosaur eggs!


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

There are the crowd favorites—T-Rex, Velociraptor and Hadrosaur—and there are so many more...many of which I'd never heard! They also feature some feathered dinosaurs, which were just discovered in the last couple of decades, according to the exhibition.

What's your favorite dinosaur?


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

One of the brilliant aspects of the Extreme Dinosaurs exhibition is the use of color and lighting to display the specimen. Of course kids like typically like the brighter colors they've used, and the bigger kids—like me—appreciate the dramatic lighting. The sound they've used is pretty awesome, too.


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

Here's a bonus you might not learn before visiting Extreme Dinosaurs...they have TWO specimen of Tyrannosaurus-rex! 

Did you know that T-Rex grew to a mere 13 feet tall? I thought they were the size of buildings when I was a kid...then again, 13 feet would seem like a building to a wee little kid. A kid asked me at a Hawks game once if I was Larry Bird! I'm nowhere near 6' 9" tall, but to that little kid I was.


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

Extreme Dinosaurs put me in a nostalgic mood, returning memories of dig sites near where I lived in Wyoming and later in Greece. Unfortunately, I didn't develop the patience required of an accomplished archaeologist. I'm patient...just not "that" patient, so I have great admiration for those who do.


Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta
Extreme Dinosaurs, Atlantic Station, Atlanta

Of all the dinosaurs, my favorite has always been the Triceratops, and there's a BIG one in Extreme Dinosaurs! I don't know why I liked this dino so much...perhaps because his head was wider than I was tall, but not so big that I couldn't wrap my head around. Who knows!

Here's a quick video preview of Extreme Dinosaurs...




Right next door to Extreme Dinosaurs is BODIES: The Exhibition, which I saw in Washington, DC, and highly recommend. It may be extreme for some, but I was quite impressed with the number of parents who used the exhibition as a teaching opportunity for their youngsters.


Check out Extreme Dinosaurs at Atlantic Station...and visit Atlantic Station's website before you go, so you know of all the other fun activities going on there!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

10 Things To Do Before Wanderlusting

There are approximately a bazillion checklists out there of things to do to before you go sightseeing. So I figured...why not?

Atlanta, Midtown Skyline as seen from Piedmont Park
Atlanta, Midtown Skyline as seen from Piedmont Park

Here’s 10 of my top items, in no particular order, that you should be sure you do before heading out to wanderlust in Atlanta…

  •  Charge your camera batteries!
Yes, I said "batteries"...plural. If you have only one, invest in a second battery...and remember to fully charge both before going to a museum or attraction you've been dreaming of seeing. 

When I went to Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia--this was before the advent of the digital camera--I shot through three rolls of film and had to go waaaaaay back to the car for more! Today, invariably, the time I run out of battery juice (fortunately a rare occasion now from having learned my lesson) is right at the moment I'm about to capture "the" moment that would have been the perfect memory of my visit. 

Charge your batteries!

  • Make sure where you're going is in fact open. Especially if you're visiting later in the day. 
Many of today's museums and tourist attractions generate much-needed revenue by doubling as a special events facility. Check their website and Facebook page before you head out--especially if you don't have a backup destination. You wouldn't want to get there and find out that they're about to close. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

Imagine driving to Hapeville to visit the Delta Flight Museum--one of my favorites!--to learn that they've closed early to get ready for a high school prom or a wedding reception. You didn't get to fly the flight simulator or tour the inside of The Spirit of Delta because you didn't double check. 

It's relatively rare that you'll happen upon an early closing, but do yourself the favor of not being disappointed double-check in advance.

  • Bring backup snacks.
Especially if you have kids or are prone to low blood sugar (something my friends know about much too well), bring backup snacks when you're playing tourist. Of course, observe a destination's "no outside food" policy (it's not always about snack shop sales!), but have something on hand for emergencies, even if it's a few protein bars that you keep in the car.

If you're visiting on the weekend, and sometimes during the week, you may have the good fortune to happen upon one of our amazing farmers markets near some of our fantastic tourist destinations, such as Green Market in Piedmont Park, Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, or Grant Park Farmers Market near Zoo Atlanta.

  • Water! Water! Water!
I can't tell you the number of times I've allowed myself to become dehydrated. Not good! Bring water, for yourself and the kids and your other guests...they'll love you for it. If you're hiking Stone Mountain or visiting Piedmont Park, you want to stay hydrated. Remember, if you get thirsty, you're dehydrated at that point...stay hydrated, especially in summer. Water! Water! Water!

Everywhere has a water fountain, but some places are massive! Think about the 221 acres of Gibbs Gardens! They have water fountains, but not out in the middle of their vast gardens. There's usually water at the Manor House and the cafe is amazing--they make their own bread! Just remember to hydrate before you head out and when you see the next water fountain--not water feature...water fountain!

  • Remember your reading glasses.
This one may seem silly, but I've been out playing tourist and then gone directly to dinner countless times...sometimes with friends who didn't remember their glasses. If you're dining at ONE Midtown Kitchen, you luck out because they have reading glasses at the hostess stand. If you find yourself with your glasses, ask your server if the restaurant has any--don't be embarrassed to ask!

And that's just the post-tour dinner. What if you get to where you're going--let's say the Atlanta History Center--and you can't read the map? That's 33 acres of attraction, much of which you're likely to miss out on if you can't see the map. That'd be horrible. Remember your glasses!

  • Wear comfortable shoes.
I've always been active and I can go forever in work shoes and even in a tie and jacket, but I've been on tours with friends who didn't wear comfortable shoes and weren't able to enjoy an attraction to its fullest. 

I've seen high heels at Six Flags Over Georgia! I can't imagine those would be comfortable on Dare Devil Dive Coaster or Mind Bender. Wear your tennies and go enjoy the new in 2014 "Holiday in the Park" at Six Flags! Millions of lights, Santa, AND thrill rides...but not in high heels.

  • Wear appropriate clothing.
This one might be more of a pet peeve, but if I spent a considerable amount of money to go to the Atlanta Ballet, for instance, I'd love to not have the experience diminished by the clacking of flip flops.

Yes, I find the old movies of when people "dressed" for cultural affairs as romantic. The first time I went to see Phantom of the Opera at The Fox Theatre, I arrived in a limousine and wore a tuxedo (and my theatre companions that evening also wore tuxes and formal gowns). It was magnificent!

At the same time, why would you wear a tie and jacket to the Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival? Wouldn't make one very approachable.

Now the, with that said, I urge everyone to show some Southern Hospitality and not ridicule or ostracize anyone for the way they're dressed, at any cultural affair. You never know why they're dressed the way they are. Someone in flip flops at the Ballet may have been invited at the last minute...and who would say no? Someone in a jacket and tie at the Bar-B-Q Festival may have just come from an important business meeting. Don't judge.

By the way, I am going to see "Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker" at The Fox Theatre this season...a seasonal classic here, to which I'll wear my seasonal favorite. See you there?

  • Charge your phone!
Remember to put a full charge on your phone before you leave the house...and bring your charger! Running out of phone battery when I'm playing tourist is never fun. And it's the reason I have multiple charging cords (I need one at work, too). 

Sometimes you don't want to lug around a camera, but you want to capture an experience to remember later. That and you may want to text, check-in, post, or call someone.

Always, always...please, oh please...honor an exhibit's photography policy. As a volunteer, I can tell you that it's not at all fun to have to remind a visitor that photographs aren't permitted, even with a phone camera. 

I'd much rather tell you something fascinating about the exhibit you're enjoying. I don't want you to remember your people interaction as less than fantastic. If photos aren't permitted, it's for a reason (a very hard lesson for me to digest sometimes, as a photographer). This one is all about respecting the museum's agreement with the curator or loaning museum.

  • Remember to bring money.
This one is hard for someone like me who uses plastic all the time. I don't make a practice of carrying cash. But, there are times when you're going to need it. Not all the time, for sure, and not too much.

Also, just because a place doesn't have an ATM, doesn't mean you're out of luck. For instance, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is open Thursday nights during the summer for "Cocktails in the Garden" and for seven weeks of evenings during the holidays for "Garden Lights". There's no ATM on-premise, BUT the bars, gift shop and parking deck are all set up to take credit and debit cards. Remember...when the answer is "No" when you ask "Do you have an ATM?", the follow up question is "Do you take plastic?"

  • Save money on membership.
This especially applies to local and neighboring tourists...if you absolutely loved the place you just visited, ask if that day's admission counts toward the purchase of an annual membership. In many cases, it does!

Also, here in Atlanta, we have Swaptember. During the month of September--I know that's not now, but remember this for next year--being a member of a particular museum or attraction may give you a discount toward membership at another museum or attraction.

  • Ask questions!
At most attractions and museums, the staff and volunteers are there because they love providing visitors a wonderful experience. Many of them have institutional knowledge that few others possess...and most are anxious to share that knowledge.

As a tour guide myself, I can tell you that I know more about the places where I give tours than I could possibly impart in a single tour. I love it when people ask me questions. It allows me to tailor my tour, it allows me to share my excitement for having learned so much about a place, and it enriches the experience of the person who asked the question. Ask away!

  • Stop by the gift shop!
Was I paid to include that one? No. But I get it. I get it from the point of the non-profit museum or attraction and I get it as a tourist. 

Many museums and attractions depend on gift shop proceeds to help keep them in business--I don't want to imagine an Atlanta without the Michael C. Carlos Museum or Georgia Aquarium. And as a tourist, I've found many, many a memento and gifts for friends and family in those gift shops. Believe me...there's much more than the standard shot glasses and t-shirts.

Probably my favorite gift shop right now is the one at the end of "Goose Bumps: The Science of Fear" exhibition at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It's the most brilliant gift shop I've ever seen! And yes, I shopped at it. It was impossible not to...it's just that much fun...and incredibly clever!

Okay, okay...I admit it, as embarrassing as it is in front of my mathematician friends, that was twelve tips, not 10. But let's consider your favorite two a bonus, shall we?

Now...go wanderlust in Atlanta!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is hot, steamy, charming, sweet, and touching. The summer of 1963 story is true to the 1987 movie we all know and love, with some updated social commentary, relevant to the times.

The best thing about the stage performance, now playing at The Fox Theatre through Sunday? Well...I seriously can't choose. There's so much that's fantastic about it! The dancing...the dancing is brilliant! That was my favorite part. Cliche? I don't care...it was that great. 


Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Julie Bookman notes in the program's feature article, "Magic Moments", that the stage version "is designed to put its audience 'in the movie'," and it does. 

Jillian Mueller's (Baby) acting is beyond brilliant. Where you can sometimes tell that an actor is proficient in stage work, Jillian's performance is "real"...you feel like you're right there. I would love to see her in a Hollywood blockbuster! She's Oscar material.

I noticed specifically how technically brilliant Jillian's transition from a non-dancer to exquisite dancer was. You believed whole-heartedly in the beginning that she had never trained, but by the end, you see her professional, classic training come through. She moved beautifully, elegantly, and powerfully.


Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Samuel Pergande's (Johnny) dancing is sublime. I can't imagine there was a person in the audience who didn't wish they could dance like him. Technical execution--perfection. Moves--sexy. Overall performance--put you in the moment. I, too, wish I danced like Samuel.


Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Jennlee Shallow (Elizabeth) and Doug Carpenter (Billy) stole the show with their voices. Characters in the show, and partially storytellers via song, Jennlee and Doug blew the house down with their gloriously imperious voices! Seemingly out of nowhere, their presence as storytellers majestically appeared…a brilliant reveal. Their finale performance was a crowd favorite!


Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

I’d be remiss if I didn't mention the magnificent sets. The use of digital video mixed with some traditional transition elements are amazing, very often queuing the audience’s mood for the next scene. A delighting “Wow!” set moment was the reveal of the live band…just wait until you see what they've done! They’re not where you’d expect them to be, which makes it all the more fun.


Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

I had the most delightful evening with Sharon, who joined me for the performance. Sharon and I are on the same career path—Communications, with a similar career past—U.S. Navy. She's now with Atlanta Streetcar, and the mastermind behind one of my favorite Atlanta campaigns right now: the "Pancake People" safety campaign.

"Thank you!", Sharon, for wonderful dinner conversation (we went to P&P at The Georgia Terrace!) and for sharing a magnificent Fox Theatre experience! 

When departing the theatre last night, I heard one guest who equated his love of action-adventure films (or something stereotypically “manly”) to his wife’s love of the finale of Dirty Dancing, how “everything worked out”.

Had he sacrificed the evening by going to see Dirty Dancing? Is Dirty Dancing a show just for women? No. He hadn't said that he didn't enjoy it. I think that was just his way of saying that he did, without actually saying that he enjoyed a musical.

Gentlemen…treat your lady, make it a date night she’ll remember, do something for her “just because” and go see a musical! And for those who admit to liking musicals, I think you’re going to love Dirty Dancing.

If you do not yet have your tickets to see Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage at The Fox Theatre, now through Sunday, get them soon.


(All photos in this post are courtesy of Brave PR and made by Matthew Murphy.) #broadwayatlanta #bravepratlanta #dirtydancingontour 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Zoo in the winter? Of course!

I went with Mary Jo and the guys to Zoo Atlanta last weekend. This was our return visit after a "mini visit" in May of this year. It was cold, but it warmed up to be a beautiful day and although all the animals weren't out—which is never a guarantee, of course—the ones we saw were great fun! And we had the opportunity to speak with more zoo staff than we usually would have.


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

The statue of the world-famous Willie B. is a fantastic photo-op for family photos, as in the one above of Mary Jo and the guys. We've taken advantage of this opportunity more than once.

We were at Zoo Atlanta courtesy of Where Atlanta. Earlier this year I entered a photo contest and won tickets to see The Lion King at The Fox Theatre

I thought that was the extent of my prize, but when the tickets arrived, there were also four tickets to Zoo Atlanta and a gift card to Hard Rock Cafe, which we enjoyed after our visit to the zoo on this particular visit. The guys had never been to Hard Rock, which made it even more fun. "Thank you," Where Atlanta!

I also want to give an extra shout-out to Zoo Atlanta for making this trip extra special. When we visited in May, we arrived in the afternoon, shortly before the zoo was closing early for a special event. One of the zoo staff heard the disappointment in the guys' voices (they weren't complaining, just a little deflated that we wouldn't be able to get in a full visit, if we stayed at all). She kindly invited us in with the tickets we had to enjoy as much of the zoo as we could fit in and then gave us tickets to return later...that's what this visit was. "Thank you!" Zoo Atlanta!


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

They guys very much enjoy the World of Reptiles, so that was a highlight of the visit. I had the pleasure of sharing with them the news of Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, a new structure and animal home at Zoo Atlanta scheduled to open in late 2015. We saw the top of the under-construction building off in the distance when at the African Savanna habitat.

With the neighboring Cyclorama painting moving to the Atlanta History Center and Zoo Atlanta taking over and transforming the Cyclorama Building into a special events facility, as well as renovating the Savanna Exhibit, there's a LOT going on at Zoo Atlanta!


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

Kam was a super-fun this trip! Sometimes camera-shy, he was a ham for the camera on this particular visit, which is always fun. 

I was quite impressed with the guys' knowledge of amphibians. I thought a trip to the zoo would be an educational experience for the guys, and it was, but it was also a wonderful educational experience for me. These guys are smart!


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

With some of the animals not on view—nestled warmly in their indoor quarters—you pay more attention to the magnificent art throughout of zoo. You realize there's quite a lot of art at the zoo when you take the time to look around, and there's more than statuary, so keep your eyes peeled.


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

We knew it was going to be a cold day, but not as cold as the Saturday two weeks before when we were going to be there (the winds were torrential that day!). But there are plenty of habitats that are indoors—and heated—to break up being in the elements.

One of the more cool indoor diversions was a discussion with a Zoo Atlanta keeper who showed and told us all about the Blue-Tongue Skink. They're awesome! And we got to see its blue tongue. It really is blue...and not just because it was cold. 

Its blue tongue is a defense mechanism. Think about it. Not many things in nature are blue. When threatened, the Blue-Tongue Skink will flash its blue tongue, which startles a number of predators. We learned a lot from the keeper, who was highly knowledgeable and super nice.


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

Many visitors don't realize the size of Zoo Atlanta's reptile collection. There are more than 450 at the zoo, but many are not on exhibit because of space limitations. The new reptile and amphibian complex will be home to many of those, as well as large crocodilians and other new arrivals. 

The complex will also feature "interactive indoor venues and state-of-the-art exhibits showcasing the amazing extremes in size, speed, color and behavior that make reptiles and amphibians such compelling animals to observe, study, and protect."


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

As one who dabbles in Graphic Design—and my minor in college—I love when museums and attractions make the most of details. All throughout the Zoo the sidewalks are stamped with leaves. The sidewalks near the panda habitat, pictured above, are stamped with bamboo.


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

Mary Jo is one of my dearest and longest friends. We've been through a lot together and we're those kinds of friends who can go a long time without seeing each other—like the years I lived in Washington, DC—and pick right up where we left off. 

Zach made this photo of us (above). He's a promising photographer, don't you think? 


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

It was the middle of November when we went, which can be cold in Atlanta, but it's undoubtedly a beautiful time of year. The above photo was made just outside the gorilla habitat.

The gorillas and orangutans weren't on view...not until later, after the temperatures surpass 40 degrees, at least (I believe that's what I remember them saying about the orangutans). Good to know that they're cognizant of the animals' sensitivities to temperatures.

The bears and pandas were, of course, out in their habitats. The pandas were delightfully playful, but the bear (the one we saw) was lazing around sunning himself atop one of his climbing structures. I didn't blame him on bit!


Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys
Zoo Atlanta, with MJ and The Guys

I'm a kid again when it comes to things like carousels. I've not rode one in many years, but I've long admired their beauty and how much fun they bring to those who do ride.

Zoo Atlanta's carousel, The Nabisco Endangered Species Carousel, features 38 hand-carved, festive animal mounts and seats, I believe unique among carousels. 

If you're a fan of carousels, specifically carousel horses, I invite you to check out "Flying Horses: The Golden Age of American Carousel Art", written by Peter J. Malia, a colleague from my years on Washington, DC. It's a gorgeous hardcover book and a must-have for any carousel horse enthusiast.

I'd like to offer another "Thank you!" to Where Atlanta for the tickets and gift card—the contest and experiences were great fun! And a "Thank you!" to Zoo Atlanta for making our visits such great fun, as well. I'll be back again and again!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind

The "Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind" temporary exhibit at the Atlanta History Center is a must-see for any and all fans of Gone With the Wind

The exhibit's unique exploration of the making of the Oscar-winning film, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is also a glimpse into the golden era of Hollywood film-making, as well as a bit of insight into Margaret Mitchell's hand in the making of the movie.

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center
Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center

This relatively small exhibit--compared to others at the Atlanta History Center--is epic in content. One of my favorite artifacts is a collection of watercolor title cards that were used in creating the original opening credits in earlier versions of the film.

Although I love the one of Rhett Butler, the one of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara is certainly my favorite of all the title cards on display. And speaking of on display, many of the artifacts in this exhibit are on view to the public for the first time. So, even if you're the greatest Gone With the Wind fan of all time, there's yet something new for you to see!

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center
Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center

The above pictured broken cherubs are a marvelous artifact. Remember the vase that Scarlett threw when in the library at Twelve Oaks Plantation? Kurtz collected the pieces and now, because of his love of history, we get to see the real thing.

The collection that comprises the exhibit is complements of the Atlanta History Center's Margaret Mitchell House, located in Midtown. They also house the portrait of Scarlett in the blue dress at which, later in the film, Rhett throws a whiskey glass. Seems there was a lot of throwing in Gone With the Wind.

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center
Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center

If you're from Georgia, lived in Georgia or even visited certain parts of Georgia, you're probably quite familiar with Georgia red clay. There's nothing else quite like it. Kurtz, a sample of his attention to detail, provided Hollywood with samples of Georgia red clay "to ensure that the red earth of Tara and Atlanta's dirt streets were truly authentic as the Technicolor cameras rolled." That's what any brilliant technical advisor would do, right?

It doesn't immediately come to mind, but Atlanta was all dirt streets during the American Civil War and the restoration era. In fact, there were still a lot of dirt streets in Atlanta approximately 75 years later when Gone With the Wind was published!

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center
Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, did not go to California to ensure the details of her story, Atlanta, the Civil War, and reconstruction eras were accurate. Instead, at her recommendation, Selznick Studios hired historian and technical expert Wilbur G. Kurtz, with whom she corresponded quite often. That reminds me, I need to get some new personalized stationery...it's been years! 

Kurtz, also a painter and illustrator, was born in Illinois, but lived in Atlanta--documenting her history--for 55 years before passing away in 1967. Having a love for history myself, I'm grateful to Kurtz for his contributions to preserving Atlanta history. And to the Atlanta History Center, for that matter.

Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center
Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind, Atlanta History Center

Among the 40 images and artifacts in this high-impact exhibit are several Confederate bills. I wasn't sure I'd show any of them in this post, but then I realized that not everyone has seen Confederate currency. They're truly remarkable works of art.

Speaking of money, it'll cost you exactly the value of Confederate currency to see the exhibit...not a penny! Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind is free of charge. The exhibit is in the Kenan Research Center, the standalone building located to the right of the main building.

Of course, I recommend visiting the entire 33-acre complex, but if you're short on time and budget, do try to fit in a visit to the Atlanta History Center to see this magnificent little, yet historically significant exhibit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bravely Inspiring Beauty

"Mrs. Johnson broke all the barriers. What a brave, brave woman." - Pat Cleveland

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair is magnificent and Atlanta is fortunate to be the first city on its three year national tour. Originating at the Chicago History Museum, our own Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is now inviting visitors to walk the runway and witness fashion that transformed a countless many.

Beyond featuring 40 of the more than 60 ensembles of Inspiring Beauty, the exhibition shares the story of Eunice Johnson, creator of Ebony Fashion Fair and wife of the publishing mogul John H. Johnson. His publishing legacy includes EBONY and JET magazines, and many others.


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

Ebony Fashion Fair was conceived in the mid 1950s and started touring the United States in 1958. The exhibition features ensemble from as early as 1964—before I was born!

You may be asking why I'm saying "ensemble" instead of dress or gown. Because Ebony Fashion Fair included men's fashion, a few of which are also on display. 

Sadly, 2009 was the final Ebony Fashion Fair. Mrs. Johnson passed away in January of 2010, but her legacy is poised to live forever.


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

When you're exploring, pay attention to the details...and there are a LOT of details! One that I particularly like is the breastplate featured in the above pictured ensemble.

One significant detail that everyone should know is that Mrs. Johnson made Ebony Fashion Fair more than a fashion show. It was also a major fundraiser. The show raised money for national African-American charities, such as the United Negro College Fund and sickle-cell anemia research, as well as local charities wherever the show happened to be taking place.

Over the years Ebony Fashion Fair raised $55 million for charities!


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

Each of the Ebony Fashion Fair traveled the country and each had a theme. Among those that you'll enjoy at MODA are selections from "Fashion Scandal" and "Fashion Extravaganza", and each show closed with a wedding dress, yet something that always surprised. 



Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

Linda Johnson Rice, Chair of Johnson Publishing Company and daughter of John and Eunice Johnson, was on hand for the Inspiring Beauty Preview Party, as was fashion designer b michael who traveled from New York City specifically for the show. b michael designed the gown behind him in the above photo. Striking, isn't it?!

The Preview Party was well attended and included persons who had attended Ebony Fashion Fair in years past, as well as some of the models who wore some of the on-display ensembles down the runway. I had the pleasure of meeting the model who wore a dress from the "Fashion Scandal" show...that was a real treat!


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

Ebony Fashion Fair inspired change on so many levels. It even changed the face of fashion shows themselves. The models shocked audiences with their moves and sometimes the transparent and/or revealing dresses. But audiences came to expect what now is looked forward to. 

Huffington Post said it brilliantly, I think..."The Fashion Fair models were a work of art themselves. They had 'body attitude.' They didn't walk the runway, they worked it." The exhibition features video from shows that proves that observation, without question.


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

There are so many magnificent garments, for so many reasons, but the one above was my immediate favorite. Surprisingly, visitor favorites are quite varied...that in itself was a pleasant surprise. 

Even if you're not a fashonista or at all familiar with the fashion world, there are a few designer names you'll recognize. Among the dozens of designers represented in the exhibition are household names such as Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint-Laurent, Patrick KellyEmanuel Ungaro, Todd Oldham and Bob Mackie, to name a few.



Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

Ebony Fashion Fair owned more than 7,000 ensembles at one time...can you imagine the size of THAT closet?! For Inspiring Beauty, from the several thousand that remained part of the collection, several hundred were selected for consideration for the national tour. 

Factors that contributed to being selected were feasibility for restoration, ability to stand up to multi-site cross-country transport (some of the selected ensembles will be shown at every other stop, to mitigate excessive wear), and the garment's ability to travel.



Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

When Ebony Fashion Fair invited plus-size models to the runway, the Fair attendees applauded the move with great fervor. Once again, Ebony Fashion Fair was inspiring.

Eunice Johnson opened doors for African-American models, designers, event producers...she opened many doors for many people, not to mention the opportunities that her philanthropy created. I'm glad to see her life's work celebrated.


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

One of the not-glaringly-obvious and fascinating aspects of this exhibition is that each of the mannequins was designed specifically for the ensemble it features. For instance, Mrs. Johnson wanted to showcase that dark complexions are in fact radiant in bright colors. She was highly inspirational in the African-American community declaring with pride that "Black is Beautiful". 


Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta
Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair, Museum of Design Atlanta

The Museum of Design Atlanta's Gallery 1 features a red carpet, inviting visitors to explore and experience an icon of American history...and to have some fun while doing so.

The corridor gallery features ads throughout the five decades for Ebony Fashion Fair, some of them featuring ensembles in the exhibition. And there are stations where visitors who attended Ebony Fashion Fair can record and share their experiences.

This is your chance to walk the runway and share in the celebration of a woman, an advent, a movement that was so much more than a fashion show. Ebony Fashion Fair changed the world.

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair is on display at MODA through Sunday, January 4, 2015. Now go...go walk that runway!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Japanese Maple Tree Magnificence

Some of you may recall my excitement for having visited Gibbs Gardens last year for their Japanese Maple Tree Festival. If so, it's no big surprise to learn that I went again this year. These photos are from a few weeks ago, before the super brilliant colors set in, but it was still magnificent!


Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens
Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens


Gibbs Gardens, if you don't know yet, is a mere hour north of Atlanta and there are 221 acres of display gardens, the entire property being quite a bit larger.

The Gardens feature more than 2,000 Japanese Maple Trees of more than 100 varieties, with approximately 75 varieties represented in the 40-something acre Japanese Garden. Seriously...this place is impressive!



Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens
Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens


When you go, may I recommend that you plan lunch for a non-peak time...their homemade bread, in various flavor profiles, is AMAZING and evidently the word is out! You can also bring a loaf home, just get your order in early. 

Plan plenty of time to explore and then check out the various flower festivals throughout the year, as well as their cultural and music events. 

Gibbs hasn't been open long, relatively speaking (even though Mr. Gibbs took more than 30 years to grow the Gardens), so in my opinion it'd be great to see it before it becomes so popular that you have to contend with over-crowding. Of course that's probably not a serious threat given its vast size...I just want you to see it.


Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens
Japanese Maple Tree Festival 2014, Gibbs Gardens


The Japanese Maple Tree Festival at Gibbs Gardens runs through November and it looks like we have a bit of nice weather left, but get up there soon. Don't miss this brilliant color show!

 I wish I had time to share more about Gibbs, but I think you'll enjoy exploring it for yourself.