Monday, January 31, 2011

ATLANTApix: Olympia

Olympia (sculpture at Promenade II)
(sculpture at Promenade II)
Atlanta is indeed a land of discovery. Beyond the magnolia trees, around every corner, in every neighborhood, below the majestic skyline, and in skyscraper courtyards are all sorts of treasures to be found. At the base of the Promenade II is "Olympia."

Created by (Albert) Paley Studios, Ltd. of Rochester, New York, in 1990, Olympia stands 30 feet tall and is fashioned of steel and polychrome. 

What's polychrome, you ask? I'm glad you did.

From Greek (as is the sculpture's name), polychrome translates as "many" and "color." You can see from the photograph, Olympia is indeed sporting many (vibrant) colors. I lived in Greece for more than two years and still remember a bit of the language, to my great surprise.

The Promenade II courtyard is but a brief detour on any Midtown Atlanta walking tour and is an excellent spot to make some great photographs of neighboring skyscrapers.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ATLANTApix: First Church of Christ, Scientist

First Church of Christ, Scientist
First Church of Christ, Scientist
The First Church of Christ, Scientist has been a landmark building in Midtown, Atlanta since July 1914. Located at the intersection of Peachtree Street and 15th Street, it's very close to the High Museum of Art and Colony Square.

First Church has a claim to fame related to Atlanta's major at the time of its establishment. The wife of Mayor Livingston Mims hosted meetings at their home at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, where the Georgian Terrace Hotel stands today. Not coincidentally, the two street-level restaurants at the Georgian Terrace are named Livingston and Mims.

The Church also features a Moller organ. You may know Moller from references to Mighty Mo, the Moller organ in the Fox Theatre across the street from the Georgian Terrace.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

ATLANTApix: One Ninety One

One Ninety One Peachtree Tower
One Ninety One Peachtree Tower
In the 1970s Atlanta's skyline was largely filled with nondescript concrete buildings, except of course for the Westin Peachtree Plaza (from where this photo was taken), which was built in 1973. The 1980s ushered in an era of signature buildings and that era continues today.

The 50-floor One Ninety One Peachtree Tower (photo), sometimes written 191 Peachtree Tower, was completed in 1991. Of all the buildings in downtown Atlanta, the 191 is my personal favorite. Not only for its Gothic seven-story rooftop crowns made of columns, arches, and domes, but also for its seven-story atrium that features huge chandeliers that I think remarkably resemble FabergĂ© eggs.

One Ninety One Peachtree Tower also is an award winner. Twice it has received BOMA's "The Office Building of the Year" (TOBY) award, in 1991 and again in 1998.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Friday, January 28, 2011

ATLANTApix: Hope

I've mentioned "Hope" (the sculpture) a few times in recent posts, so here's a photograph of what she looks like. Quite charming, I think.

Hope, a CherryLion Studios creation, is on the grounds of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in the Rose Garden. That particular capture was made recently, after cooler weather set in, but during the spring and summer the garden is spectacular.

There are several sculptures on the Carter Center's grounds and the Museum is a must-see. It's the only presidential museum I've been to, but I can imagine it holds its ground in's really that remarkable. And President Carter himself is there from time to time...I had the pleasure of meeting him (for the second time) at a book signing only a couple of months ago at the Carter Center.

There are a number of book signings and other events that take place at the Carter Center throughout the year.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oglethorpe University Museum of Art: Embracing Differences

CherryLion Studios Sculpture
CherryLion Studios Sculpture
If children can so clearly see that prejudice and intolerance are wrong, I for one do not understand why grown-ups can't do the same. In the exhibit Embracing Differences: Students Draw the Line Against Prejudice, 5th through 12th grade students throughout Atlanta are the model citizens. We can learn a lot from these kids.

On exhibit now through Sunday, February 13, 2011, the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art has put on another extraordinary exhibit in Embracing Differences. The exhibit is a hybrid student and professional artists exhibition.

Some of the Student Winners
Some of the Student Winners
As always, docent-led tours are available on Sundays at 2:00 p.m., but this time I decided to explore on my own. I've done the tour before and highly recommend them.

When I arrived at the third floor of the Weltner Library on the Oglethorpe campus, I was kindly greeted by the Museum staff (one of the two young ladies I remembered from when I was there for the Nineteenth Century French Master Drawing and Sculpture exhibit).

Although I'd visited the Museum's website before going, I didn't notice that this particular exhibition is free, which I hope is incentive to draw a larger audience. It's a great way for locals to check out the museum to determine if you'd like to return for other planned exhibits for later this year.

Art Class
Art Class
After the greeting and the great news of free admission I welcomed into the Museum. I noticed in the one gallery that an art class was being conducted (Yeah! It's a working Museum).

I overheard the instructor note that the class was soon wrapping up, so I visited the other gallery first. I was invited to tour the gallery where class was taking place, which I found impressive … their endeavor to share knowledge through beauty didn't stop because of a class in the museum.

The Scales of Equality
"The Scales of Equality"
by Darrel Mobley
The Exhibit

I’ve seen many student art exhibits over the years (and even had a piece of my own sculpture on exhibit in the Greenville County Museum of Art when I was in 5th grade and some of my photography exhibited at a show in Utah when I was in 12th grade living in Wyoming), but I do not recall seeing a student exhibit that was quite so poignant.

And, bias aside, there also is more quality artistic ability in Atlanta's youth than I had expected, which is always a nice surprise.

The exhibit collection includes sculptures, drawings, paintings, and multi-media creations, some realistic, some more on the abstract side.

Lauren Baldwin, right
Lauren Baldwin (right)
My favorite piece of the student art I like for its inscription. Created by Lauren Baldwin, a second grader at International Community School, she wrote, "I noticed when I was working on my art project that I looked different than my friends. My hair is long and dark, my skin is dark brown. My friends have different skin colors and hair colors. We eat different foods. But my friends and I all wear the same friendship bracelet."

Lauren is seven years old and she gets it, she understands.

The Other Artists

CherryLion Studios
CherryLion Studios
If the free admission isn't enough to entice you to go check out this exhibit, maybe the 20 professional artists on exhibit will be. Do the names CherryLion Studios and Salvador Dali whet your appetite?

CherryLion Studios, specifically owner and artist Martin Dawe, is the artistic talent behind the World Athletes Monument at Pershing Point and Hope at the Jimmy Carter Library. Currently on display are several CherryLion rather dramatic sculptures of various mediums.

I love their work. I had not heard of them until I started writing this blog and next thing I knew, I started seeing their name all over Atlanta. They've created pieces for clients in other cities throughout the United States and several international locales as well.

Salvador Dali lithograph
Salvador Dali
The Salvador Dali piece on exhibit (in full disclosure, there's only one Dali piece, but even that is remarkable in my book) is a limited edition lithograph of a painting that I do not recall seeing before, and I've been to the Dali museum in St. Petersburg (my birth city) and the recent Dali exhibit at the High Museum of Art, not to mention the number of Dali books I've examined.

Tying Dali to the Draw the Line exhibit, I have always found it interesting that someone so different can elicit such public admiration (tolerance) while someone else who is normal is deemed an outcast (prejudice) just because of different skin color or culture. I really don't get it.

The world is a puzzling, troubled place sometimes, but the young people who contributed to this exhibit offer a ray of hope. Personally, I hope to one day live in a world free of prejudice, a world similar to the vision these students offered their thought-provoking, optimistic artistic expression.

Student Work
Student Work
I'll leave with you a quote from the exhibit program taken from one of my favorite authors, Marianne Williamson: "In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it."

The Return

Will I go again to the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art? The first and second times were amazing, so yes, I'll definitely return. Actually, I'm anxious to see their next exhibit, opening Sunday, March 13, 2011, which will feature works by contemporary artists from India.

Touring the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

Date toured: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: 4484 Peachtree Road, NE (directions and map)

Cost: Free (free for this exhibit, usually $5)
Parking: Free onsite parking

Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University
Weltner Library,
Oglethorpe University

ATLANTApix: Iris Garden

Iris Garden
Tourists and locals alike can take respite from the city in any of the more than 350 public parks throughout Atlanta. 

One park that I return to time and again is Winn Park, specifically Iris Garden (established in 1930). It's in a beautiful residential neighborhood on Peachtree Circle, one block off Peachtree Street near 15th Street. 

Iris Garden has cascading ponds, elevated benches, stone paths, and incredible views of several Midtown skyscrapers. That's why I like it so much...while you're communing with nature you can at the same time can revel in the architectural marvels of Atlanta.

When you're finished with your lunch, book, meditation, or whatever brought you to the beautiful Iris Garden, you're close enough to walk over and visit the High Museum of Art and the soon to open Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA).

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ATLANTApix: Two-headed Cow

Two-headed Cow at the Georgia Capitol Building
Two-headed Cow at the Georgia Capitol Museum
"The Georgia Capitol Museum is almost as old as the Capitol itself. In 1889 the General Assembly revived the Office of State Geologist. The legislation directed the geologist to complete a survey of Georgia and to create a museum. The exhibit would demonstrate the state's natural and economic resources. The collections grew quickly and spread throughout the building. Over the years the museum's emphasis expanded as new displays joined the old, educating generations of Georgia schoolchildren and other visitors."

Of all the artifacts in the Georgia Capitol Museum, the two-headed cow has consistently remained a favorite of visitors touring Atlanta both young and seasoned, local and international. Coincidentally, there was a two-headed cow born in the Republic of Georgia earlier this month.

The Museum is always on the look out for new artifacts to tell the story of the Georgia Capitol. If you have an item(s) that you would like to donate, contact the Museum.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ATLANTApix: Levy Parterre

Levy Parterre at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
What is a parterre, you ask? In all honesty, before discovering the two currently on display at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I had never heard the word parterre. If the Fuqua Conservatory or Canopy Walk aren't quite enough the tip the scales of decision toward visiting the Garden, then maybe the Dale Chihuly-created parterres will.

While I love the Nepenthes Chandelier hanging in the atrium of the Hardin Visitor Center (Its bright greenness is actually the wallpaper on my laptop), the Levy Parterre (photo) nestled between the Rose Garden and the Alston Overlook is just as remarkable.

Starting on February 5, 2011, the 2011 annual "Orchid Daze" will feature thousands of blooms coupled with an array of water features in an exhibition titled "Liquid Landscapes." Or if you're looking for a romantic idea for Valentines Day, consider "Valentines in the Garden: Romance Blooms!" on Saturday, February 12, 2011.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Monday, January 24, 2011

ATLANTApix: Turner Field Tours

View of Downtown Atlanta from Turner Field
View of Downtown Atlanta from Turner Field
Granted, baseball season is still more than a couple months away, but with football season winding down and hockey season having only 11 weeks remaining, lots of Atlanta sports enthusiasts are looking forward to the Atlanta Braves' first pitch in April.

For those who just can't wait to be surrounded by all that is baseball, Turner Field offers year-round tours. I've taken that tour and it's fantastic! Visitors get to visit the media booth, the players' dugout, and get to stand on the playing field itself.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

ATLANTApix: International Cuisine

Der Biergarten Mural
Der Biergarten Mural
Dining in Atlanta entails more than the Southern staples of Atlanta-based Waffle House and Mellow Mushroom.

Southerners' palettes are considerably more diverse than some might think.

The recently opened Der Biergarten (photo), located adjacent to Georgia Aquarium, features a significant menu of German cuisine and libations (watch the creation of the mural in this video); RA Sushi at 1080 Peachtree is touted as home of the city's best sushi; and Violette Restaurant, on Clairmont Road, offers some of the best French cuisine in town that I've had.

But, if an authentic Southern culinary experience is what you're longing for, there's always Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles on Peachtree Street.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

ATLANTApix: Football as Art

Football Sculpture in Georgia Dome
Football Sculpture in Georgia Dome
Art and decor are not lost on football enthusiasts, quite the opposite actually.

The prestigious Cherry Lion Studios created the football action sculpture in this photo, which is one of many pieces of art throughout Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons. This particular piece adorns the walls of the Owner's Club on an upper level of the Dome, along with another piece titled "Falcon."

Cherry Lion has created art for numerous sites around Atlanta, including the "World Athletes Monument" at Pershing Point on Peachtree Street; "Hope" at the Carter Presidential Library; and the 65-foot salmon at Atlanta Fish Market on Pharr Road.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Governor's Mansion: Home, Sweet Home

Mary-Laine and me at the Governor's Mansion
Mary-Laine and me at
the Governor's Mansion
I've dined with Ambassadors, rubbed elbows with Presidents, and conversed with Heads of State, but of all the states I've lived in, I have never been to a Governor's Mansion. As it turns out, touring The State of Georgia Governor's Mansion felt every bit as prestigious as any of those other experiences.

I'd wanted to tour the Governor's Mansion for many years and am so glad I finally made it happen…and it's a free tour so that made it even more appetizing. I decided that since we have a new administration that was about to move in, I would wait until the move and then go. Turns out the Mansion is closed for the first two weeks of January, so it all worked out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 was the first public tour date following the inauguration of new Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia's First Lady Sandra Deal being in the home. Surely busy with matters of State, we would not have the opportunity to meet the Deals on this particular visit, but I'm told that during previous administrations, the Governor and First Lady do from time to time visit with guests when they tour the mansion.

As can be expected, you have to go through security to gain entry to the Mansion grounds. Basically, you give your driver's license (or other government issued identification) to the security guard and once cleared you'll be directed to the guest parking lot, just steps away from the guard station and the Mansion's front door.

The Mansion

Governor's Mansion
Governor's Mansion
The Governor's Mansion is the official home of Georgia's Governor and that person's spouse, currently Nathan and Sandra Deal, Nathan being the recently elected Governor and Sandra the First Lady of Georgia.

The Mansion was completed in 1967 and opened officially on January 1, 1968…not that long ago considering it's now the home of Georgia's 82nd Governor.

Governor's Mansion
Governor's Mansion
Although relatively recently built, its design is neo-classical, meant to reflect Grecian design, Greece being the birthplace of democracy (even though we're a Republic, we employ the democratic process of voting for our leaders).

Surrounded by 30 Doric columns (think "Parthenon" in Athens, Greece), each at 24 feet tall, the Governor's Mansion is a 30-room, 24,000 square feet stately manor situated on approximately 18 acres.

Tours of the Mansion are a hybrid of self and guided. Unlike other tours I've been on, you can move about the house at your own pace and for as long as you like (first floor only, the Deal's private space is on the second floor) and there are docents in each room to give tailored discussions based on specific interests.

The Rooms

When I arrived at the front door, I didn't know whether to ring the doorbell or go right in…it is someone's home after all. After peeking through the sidelite and noticing activity, I went on in.
I was immediately and enthusiastically greeted by Mary-Laine. I didn't confirm the spelling of her middle name, my bad, but her accent left no doubt of her Southern authenticity.

Sterling Bowl
Sterling Bowl
Mary-Laine proceeded to tell me a little about the Mansion and how the tours work. She said that most visitors zig-zag the depth of the house so I did just that.

The tour starts immediately inside the front door in the Entrance Hall. Embedded in the white marble floor and on the door knobs is the Georgia state seal. The centerpiece of the Hall is a sterling silver bowl (now used as a flower vessel) that was once on the USS Georgia and it also bears the Georgia state seal.

Also in the Entrance Hall are bronze busts of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Guest Bedroom
Guest Bedroom
The first room I visited was the Guest Bedroom, the one bedroom on the first floor of a total eight bedrooms in the Mansion. Some of the prestigious guests who have slept in the Guest Bedroom include President Clinton, Princess Anne, and Prince Charles.

Several of the docents mentioned the needlepoint hanging in the Guest Bedroom. The largest needlepoint I've ever seen at several feet tall, it depicts George Washington.

Immediately across the hall is the Library. Filled with books by Georgian authors, the collection includes books written by some of Georgia's former governors.

The Library docent pointed out a favorite of kid visitors—a lamp with a bent finial. The finial was bent when a hurricane in the 1990s hit the area…and of course the lamp wasn't replaced given its historical significance.

There are fireplaces throughout the Mansion. The white marble fireplace in the Library is one of my favorites.

State Drawing Room
State Drawing Room
The largest room on the tour is the State Drawing Room, used for entertaining guests at the Mansion.  

One of the modern pieces in the home is a glass art Magnolia blossom created by Frabel, a German-born, Georgia-based artist. Although some think that Georgia's state flower is the Magnolia blossom, it's actually the Cherokee Rose (which you may have learned when you were in the Guest Bedroom).

The rug in the State Drawing Room is an exact replica of the original rug in the room. It was reproduced by a local Georgia mill.

One of the two prominent portraits in the room is of Lillian Henderson, the first woman to hold a prominent position in Georgia government.

The docent (I was with Mary-Laine again) explained that convex mirrors (present in the room) were more popular at the time Georgia was founded because the technology to make flat mirrors (from blown glass) was incredibly expensive and difficult.

State Dining Room
State Dining Room
Across the hall is the State Dining Room. Guarding the dining room table are two Cabbage Patch Kids fashioned after Governor and Mrs. Deal, one at each end of the table…evidently gifts from the Cleveland, Georgia company of the same name.

The dining table, expanded to seat 14 (and up to 18) and collapsible to fit four, also is adorned with more sterling silver pieces from the USS Georgia.

Circular Hall
Circular Hall
The Circular Hall is by far my favorite room in the Mansion. The gleam of its grandeur is visible from practically every room on the first floor.

The centerpiece is the chandelier created for the Mansion from two chandeliers, one a modern American chandelier and the other a 19th Century Italian chandelier. Overlooking the chandelier is a portrait of Atlanta's first historian, Hugh McCall.

If it's possible to use the term "comic relief" in the same sentence as George Washington, our nation's father…well, suffice it to say that the portrait of the first American President hanging in the Circular Hall is not exactly to scale. Presumably, the body was painted first and George's head incorporated later.

One of the most rare pieces in the Mansion's collection is in the Circular Hall…it's an 1800 gold gilt vase with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin. The vase sits on a "petticoat" table. There's a mirror in the back of the lower part of the table where women could check to ensure that their petticoats were not showing, especially when receiving guests.

Family Sitting Room
Family Sitting Room
The Family Sitting Room is the most uniquely decorated room in the Mansion…immediately obvious by its butternut paneling. "Butternut" is a type of hickory…who knew?!

A few unique items in the Family Sitting Room include an 1820 sewing table, a writing desk owned by Amos Lawrence (a merchant and philanthropist), and a sofa that was inexplicably cut in half and reassembled.

The Library's collection continues in the Family Sitting Room with books about the 159 counties in the state of Georgia. And actually, Georgia has the second highest number of counties in the United States.

Family Dining Room
Family Dining Room
The Family Dining Room is where the Deal's will be having many of their meals.

The table and chairs were owned by Jim Williams, of Savannah, who sold them to help pay for his trial, on which the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was based.

Really cool, under the rug that the table sits on, there's a button that the Governor can press with his foot to summon the kitchen. That's kind of cool for convincing guests that the kitchen staff can anticipate the needs and wants of the Governor, right? I wish I had a button.

From the Family Dining Room you can see the Kitchen, which recently underwent a remodel and modernization. The room docent told me that Chef Holly had stepped out to do a little grocery shopping.

While standing there, Holly returned, with groceries, so I got a glimpse of her and some of what the Deal’s would be having for dinner, I assumed. You too can sample Holly's culinary creations! Holly posts a "recipe of the monthon the Mansion's website.

The Good Bye

Circular Hall
Circular Hall
While there's no gift shop in the Governor's Mansion, I was able to pick up an official Governor's Mansion tree ornament, which will go quite nicely with my White House ornaments.

The absolutely most impressive part of touring the Governor's Mansion was the volunteers. "Volunteer" meaning that they're not paid, that they give their time to the Governor's family, the people of Georgia, and all visitors to the Mansion.

When I finished my tour, it was close to 11:30, the close of tour time at the Mansion. Several of the volunteers made a little extra time to chat with me on the way out. They asked about my writing and they told me more about the Mansion…a great way to finish a tour.

They made me feel like a VIP guest and I appreciate their gift of time and enthusiasm for one of our city's more remarkable tourist destinations.

The Return

Will I vote for a return visit to the Governor’s Mansion? That would be a great big giant check mark in the "yes" box. Several of the docents recommended returning when the Mansion is decorated for Christmas, so that's on my calendar.

Touring the Governor's Mansion

Date toured: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
Location: 391 West Paces Ferry Rd NW
(directions and map)
Cost: Free
Parking: Free onsite parking

Governor's Mansion
Governor's Mansion

ATLANTApix: Lenox

Lenox Square, front of Neiman Marcus
Lenox Square (front of Neiman Marcus)
Of all the places to shop in Atlanta, Lenox Square quite possibly has the greatest variety of shopping options.

When it's time (Bulgari or Cartier) for a sweet snack (Govida) or a full meal (Prime or California Pizza Kitchen), Lenox is a good bet for satisfying your craving. If you've been walking all day and decide you absolutely have to have comfortable shoes (Nike or Sketchers) for tomorrow's sightseeing (Wolf Camera & Video), Lenox is a good bet for foot coverings. If you want to expand your wardrobe while you're touring Atlanta (Banana Republic or Armani Exchange), Lenox is a good bet for dressing you with style.

Actually, anchored by Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Neiman Marcus (photo), Lenox Square has nearly 250 specialty shops to meet your shopping needs, wants, and desires.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ATLANTApix: Roseanne!

Travis with Roseanne Barr
Me with Roseanne Barr
Atlanta is great for celebrity spotting! This is me with Roseanne Barr just last night.

In addition to being a total tourist, I also love celebrity spotting. I was hooked when I got to meet Leonard Nimoy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (I later met Mary Tyler Moore, Gavin Menzies, and Elie Wiesel at the same venue).

I met Roseanne at a book signing event, which is how I've met quite a few celebrities. Roseanne read 14 pages of her new book and then took the time to chat with those of us there for an autograph.

Other places in Atlanta to meet celebrities (usually book signings) are the Margaret Mitchell House, the Carter Presidential Library, and of course Borders.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Tin Horse by Deborah Butterfield
There are many pieces in the High Museum of Art's permanent collection that I consider my favorites, but only one do I recall seeing in textbooks in my art classes in high school in Pinedale, Wyoming...a horse made of corrugated tin created by Deborah Butterfield.

Even more coincidental, I met Lenore and Burton Gold at a party in their home in Atlanta, Georgia, where I saw another tin horse (it may have been the very same one!). 

I have a photo of me and Lenore and me in front of the horse...a cool photograph. Today, that horse stands in the High Museum of Art. Sadly, Lenore passed away in an automobile accident and Burton passed a few years later. (Updated August 3, 2013)

For Atlanta tourists and locals alike, Lenore and Burton's love for art continues through the legacy of their personal collection. While you're at the High, check out the current special exhibit, "Fifty Works for Fifty States," a collection compiled by Dorothy and Herbert Vogel.

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ATLANTApix: Coke Art

Pop Culture Gallery at the World of Coca-Cola
Pop Culture Gallery at the
World of Coca-Cola
One of my favorite attractions when visiting the World of Coca-Cola (other than the all-you-can drink activity in the "Taste It!" gallery, of course) is the Pop Culture Gallery.

This piece (photo) is one of 16 pieces of a private art collection that is on display through May 2011. So when you're in Pemberton Place and feeling a little parched, pop into the World of Coca-Cola for a refreshing beverage and check out their really cool Coke-themed pop art.

When you're finished at the World of Coca-Cola, head on over to the neighboring Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Studio Tour...enjoy a day of playing tourist!

ATLANTApix of the tourATLANTA blog features a "photo-of-the-day" of Atlanta. Come back tomorrow for a new one!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wren’s Nest: Home of a Prankster and a Rabbit

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox
Brer Rabbit and
Brer Fox

Atlanta's history is peppered with citizens who were and are pioneers, trendsetters, trailblazers, innovators, avant-garde, and one prankster-turned-author who would be instrumental in changing minds all over the world.

That person was Joel Chandler Harris, creator of Uncle Remus, and his home is the Wren's Nest.

Joel Chandler Harris

Born on December 9, 1845, previously thought to have been in 1848, Joel Chandler Harris is best known for giving a voice to African-American folklore through Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit.

Working on a plantation in his birth city of Eatonton, Georgia, Harris heard first-hand the stories that had been passed down by enslaved Africans. When he started retelling the stories in print, he told them in the dialect in which he heard them, giving more authenticity to the stories and to the folklore that would become a global sensation.

The Wren's Nest
The Wren's Nest
In early adulthood, Harris worked as a newspaperman and continued to do so for much of his life, despite his success as an author. He worked his way up to Associate Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, where he was an advocate for the New South and regional and racial reconciliation.

The bastard-child, red-haired, humorous, practical jokester would become a husband, father of four, friend to the U.S. President, and legendary writer beloved by countless fans (of all ages) around the world.

Joel Chandler Harris
Joel Chandler Harris
Harris passed away on July 3, 1908 and the following day the headline, coupled with a portrait of the literary giant, of the Atlanta Constitution read, "Joel Chandler Harris Summoned by Master of All Good Workmen."

The Wren’s Nest

Harris purchased the 1870-built home from his employer at the Atlanta Constitution in 1883, after having lived there as a renter since 1881.

Already a nice home, Harris took it up a few notches giving it a distinctive Queen Anne Victorian style exterior. It's one of the few remaining examples of upper middle class Queen Anne Victorian homes from the era still standing in Atlanta.

Harris' (partial) Book Collection
Harris' (partial) Book
The Wren's Nest got its name from an actual wren's nest. In 1900, wrens built their nest in the Harris' mailbox! A second mailbox was erected so as to not disturb the new residents, but the newly built mailbox quickly became home to even more wrens. The name "Wren’s Nest" was soon adopted as the name of the house and it stuck.

When Harris moved in, he had just published his first Uncle Remus book and would write the significant portion of the total 194 stories while sitting on the front porch of the Wren's Nest.

The Wren's Nest (the home itself, not the mailboxes) was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1962.

Throughout 2008-2009, the Wren's Nest underwent a major renovation. The before-and-after photos show the remarkable job that was done and what an awesome place it is to visit today.

The Tour

Storytelling Room
Storytelling Room
I had planned to visit The Wren's Nest earlier in the week, but Mother Nature's plans superseded mine, so I visited on the next day it was safe to drive—this past Saturday.

I'd been excited about visiting the Wren's Nest and was momentarily deflated when I arrived and the parking lot was covered in snow. I noticed, across the street, a couple who had parked and were taking photos of the house. I pulled into the same parking lot and asked them if they knew if house was open and they told me that they had just come from a tour—my excitement returned.

Family/Music Room
Family/Music Room
I carefully navigated the few remaining patches of snow on the sidewalk leading to the house. I made my way to the front door, but found it locked. The tourists I had just chatted with told me they had just had a tour, so intent on pursing my objective I rang the doorbell.

Almost immediately the door opened and I was greeted by Lain Shakespeare, the Executive Director of the Wren's Nest. I recognized him from the website and was hoping to meet him and Amber, the Wren's Nest blog authors…I really like the writing style.

Lain also happens to be the great, great, great grandson of Joel Chandler Harris. He assumed the role of Executive Director of the Wren's Nest in July 2006, fresh out of college…the youngest Executive Director I've ever heard of (I was impressed).

Mrs. Hariss' Piano
Mrs. Harris' Piano
Lain welcomed me into the home and told me that their docents could not make it in that day because of road conditions (lots of Atlanta locals, not to mention visitors, are not thrilled with the City's lack of preparedness for snow…I fall into that camp after being stranded at home for five days, but I remain hopeful for improvement). Lain invited me to accompany him and other visitors who were midway through a tour.

I joined a married couple who had brought their three year old, a reader of Harris' works. As fate would have it, at the end of the tour the doorbell rang. Two more visitors arrived for a venture through the house (it turned out that they were on a trek to explore historic homes in Atlanta, the Margaret Mitchell House being their next destination).

The Girls Room
The Girls Room
I joined them for the first half of the tour and when we got to the point where I first came in, I went off on my own to make a few photographs (flash photography is not permitted, but non-flash is fine).

Lain was the perfect host (and I was quickly learning that he's a model Executive Director). He checked on me again when he finished the tour and asked if I wanted to see the attic. "Absolutely," I enthusiastically said following him to the stairs.

The four of us climbed to the second story (which is actually a half story) of the home. Lain had explained earlier that the second story was built after Harris bought the home, intended probably as a writer's workshop, but it ended up not being used by the family so much. Today, it’s used primarily as storage.

The Dining Room
The Dining Room
Practically every room in the house is on the tour and one could write a novel filled with facts and factoids about the years the Harris family lived in the Wren's Nest…but in lieu of said novel, here are a few highlights of the tour…the rest I'll leave to you to explore when you visit to the home.

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite room in the house, but in the top few would be the storytelling room. Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and Tar Baby welcome guests to the room. The original mail box where wrens made their nests every year, the namesake of the home, is also in this room.

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit
Brer Fox and Brer
Rabbit carving
In an adjacent parlor (or the living room) is what Lain told us is his favorite artifact in the home. It's an intricate wood carving of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox. I actually thought it was a bronze, so I was really surprised when Lain flipped back their heads to reveal that the carving is a humidor!

In the next room, presumably the music room given is where Mrs. Harris' amazing piano resides, as are photos of the family, including the Harris' four sons and photos of President Theodore Roosevelt, who visited the Wren’s Nest on numerous occasions. There’s also a taxidermy owl near the ceiling, a gift from Roosevelt, which watched over the Harris family.

Mr. Harris' bedroom is the only room in the home that is roped off. It is nearly exactly as it was in 1908 when Harris passed away. Except for the occasional cleaning and restoration, the room is not entered, but you have a great view from the hallway.

Harris' Bedroom
Harris' Bedroom
Also on the tour are the girls room; the dining room (with original dining table and chairs purchased from a Sears catalog); the kitchen; and the main hall (where the boys usually slept on cots and where an amazing collection of international versions of Harris' works are on display).

In the back yard there's a reading garden and the tour isn't complete without exploring and just hanging out for at least a few minutes on the spacious front porch—Harris' favorite spot to write.

The Programs

Under Lain's leadership, the Wren's Nest is now more than the oldest house museum in Atlanta; it also is home of many literary and community programs and events, including:
  • Wren’s Nest Home Tours
  • Wren’s Nest Fest
  • Wren’s Nest Publishing Co.
  • Storytelling Saturdays
  • KIPPS Scribes Mentor Program
  • Decatur Book Festival
The Gravesite

It's not part of the Wren's Nest tour, but I wanted to share this quote. Harris' corporal remains reside in the nearby Westview Cemetery at a site marked by a boulder with an engraved epitaph that reads:

I seem to see before me the smiling faces of thousands of children some young and fresh and some wearing the friendly marks of age. But all children at heart and not an unfriendly face among them. And while I’m trying hard to speak the right word, I seem to hear a voice lifted above the rest saying you have made some of us happy. And so I feel my heart fluttering and my lips trembling, and I have to bow silently and turn away and hurry back into the obscurity that fits me best.

The Return

Does the story of a world-renowned author tempt me to return to the Wren's Nest? I think so. Every Saturday there's storytelling at the Wren's Nest, except for the Saturday I visited—but that was Mother Nature's doing (remnants of a major snow storm prevented storytellers from getting to the Museum safely). So, I can hardly wait to go back for an afternoon of animated, enthusiastic storytelling.

Touring the Wren’s Nest

Date toured: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Hours: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; Closed Sundays and Mondays; Storytelling Saturdays at 1:00 p.m.
Location: 1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, SW
(directions and map)
Cost: $8 adults; $7 students and seniors; $5 children
MARTA: West End Station; Bus #71
Parking: Free onsite parking

Wren's Nest Pathway
Wren's Nest Pathway