I would like to start out by apologizing for the total length of this entry, and also for failing to update my website and post regularly on my blog these past few months. But, that's been taken care of now! Enjoy some of the new (and likely still changing) formatting of the site as well as a few new images and this post. I hope this post will be the first of many as I get into the full swing of both my own art practice and being a graduate student. So be sure to keep checking in from time to time to learn what I'm up to and see if I've posted anything new that I was working on in the studio. And now to tell the story of the past few months and how I ended up here...
After being accepted to SAIC's graduate studio program, the plans for moving to Chicago started to fall together. I asked Kaitlyn to come with me on this life-changing adventure, which she gladly agreed to. Excited about our new horizon, we boarded a plane in May and set out apartment hunting.
Our week long search included a fair amount of fun in the city, from strolls through the park as a storm rolls in over the city, to deep dish pizza, to being driven around Lincoln Park and River North in a convertible with the top down.
After a false start, we finally settled on an apartment on the north side of downtown. The surrounding architecture was great, it was very close to a Red Line stop and several bus stops, was surrounded by great restaurants and several stores, and was just a quick hop away from almost anything you could possibly want to do, including work in my studio at SAIC. Plus, it had a huge bay window overlooking the treelined street that we knew would be awesome for our cats.
We took a celebratory stroll around our new neighborhood and walked the short distance from our apartment to Oak Street Beach before ending the evening with a celebratory cocktail and duck nachos at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Center.
Once back in Texas we began packing and making the final arrangements for our trek up north. In the next month and a half we would paint a mural, sell over a dozen works of art, and catch some of our favorite Denton bands and musicians. Thank you to those who made purchases of art or furniture, those who helped us pack, and those were all around supportive! We couldn't have done it without you.
Our final shindig was a cookout on our front porch complete with buffalo burgers, grilled salmon, and a Texas style twist on a Chicago hotdog (everything grilled over mesquite charcoal and red wine barrel staves, of course). We made homestyle fries in a cast iron skillet and had watermelon and other fresh fruit on the side. Everything was paired with a selection of Texas and Illinois craft beer. It was delicious, and it even rained a little. And of course the company was great! It made for a perfect punctuation to close our time in Denton.
A few days passed and we had loaded up a U-Haul and Kaitlyn's car and set off on the road, our friend Frankie along for the ride.
When we left Texas the high for the day was 99 degrees fahrenheit, swelteringly sunny, and one can only guess at the horrific heat index. When we made it to Chicago, at the peak of the day's heat, it was 61 and cloudy. After about an hour it started to rain and the temperatures dropped down into the mid 50s. After several days of packing and moving in the miserable heat, it was a welcome relief.
After a few days of hanging out in Chicago, Frankie returned home and Kaitlyn and I were left to explore our new city and get settled in. Over the next month we'd find plenty of things to do and get visits from our friends Jay, and Rachelle, who was in Chicago for an opera audition.
One of the first things we learned was that we live in a "walker's paradise." Seriously. Our apartment has a walk score of 100/100 with transit and bike scores not too far behind. Between Treasure Island, Jewel, CVS, Walgreens, and an Ace all within two blocks, you don't have to go very far to get anything you might need. Also within that same distance are a train stop, several bus stops, and even a public bicycle station, which give easy access to virtually every other part of the city. We are also surrounded by great restaurants, and not far away from good shopping. If this level of convenience still doesn't sound easy enough, Chicago has delivery services for just about anything you can imagine: fine dinning, fast food, groceries, booze, furniture, cat food and litter, laundry...I could go on and on. On a nice day I can walk from home to the Art Institute or my studio in 40 minutes, tops. If I take the L, I can cut my commute to 15 minutes.
Some of our favorite places within walking distance to frequent are Lincoln Park, Old Town, and Oak Street Beach. Lincoln Park is massive and has something for just about anyone. It is the location of Chicago's public zoo, a conservatory, lilly pool, many gardens, both natural plant life and manicured displays, several lagoons, kayaking, bike trails, walking paths, benches, sculptures, public playing fields, and a great view of the downtown skyline. It also has ice skating in the winter months.
Old Town is a nearby neighborhood with some cool restaurants, a few great bars, comedy clubs, and several points of shopping interest, including the General Store, Spice Merchant, The Fudge Pot, a cigar store, and a cooking oil shop, among many other things. Old Town used to be a haven for beatniks, hippies, hipsters, and the early LGBT community.
The beach may be the biggest surprise for me, however. I hadn't ever really thought of myself as a beach guy, but sitting in the sand under the Chicago skyline, on the edge of the vast blue watery expanse that is Lake Michigan, I've begun to rethink my stance. The beach, along with parks like Lincoln Park, are wonderful pockets where the pulse of the city gives way to peaceful meditation and the urban environment engages directly with the natural environment. We made several visits to Oak Street Beach over the summer and I can see it becoming a regular spot for me during the summer swim season. In fact, it was where we spent our Fourth of July, eating hotdogs under a Big John crowned in red, white, and blue, watching the fireworks at Navy Pier, and wading into the cool night tide of the nearly sea-sized lake.
The John Hancock Center may be one of my favorite buildings in the whole city, and it plays prominently in the skyline of northern downtown. It is also visible from our apartment's rooftop pool and sun deck on the 8th floor. As I mentioned before, the Hancock's perch over Chicago has been listed as one of the best views in all of America. You can check out the observation deck, or skip the ticket price and spend the money on a drink or a bite to eat at the Signature Lounge instead. For those of you more daring, somewhere in Chicago you can find a job climbing to the very top of the spires and antennas to do repairs.
There are several great ways to take in the architecture of Chicago, but few are as fun or informative as a boat tour affiliated with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. There are a variety of tours available, but all of them are excellent. We took one along the river and the lake around sunset and got some great shots of the city. In addition, you always learn something new one one of these tours!
I've also found the city to be gorgeous in the rain. There are some storms where a combination of low clouds, fog, and heavy rain will obscure buildings just a few blocks away while the thunder rolls slowly down the streets and between buildings.
Public transit is important in Chicago, as well, and I've enjoyed riding the L, both the elevated tracks and the subway.
This summer was milder than usual in Chicago, but not too drastic. The weather was gorgeous most days and, with a few exceptions, and even the warmer days left room for a few extra degrees before it would really start to be problematic. I actually spent a fair amount of time outside, walking around, swimming, just enjoying it. Most of my summers since I stopped playing tennis as much have been spent finding ways to stay inside and avoid the Texas hell-heat. Now I'm beginning to understand the appeal of summer again.
One day in particular stood out as unusually hot, but also a great example of how quickly the weather can change. It was the day of graduate student orientation and the day that my private studio was assigned. It was early in the morning with the sun beating down on the pavement, the air thick and damp and still. I checked my phone for the Weather Channel and saw that it was in the upper 90s with a heat index of 103. No relief was expected until late that night or early the next morning with a little bit of rain. This was all by 9:00am, mind you. By noon most of orientation was wrapped up and I went up to the painting studio floors to wait to get my studio. At this point it was still in the 90s but not as high. A few clouds were starting to float by. I took the picture below sometime in that hour. After 1:00pm it started to pour rain. Heavy sheets drenched the city and made for a great sight from the 16th floor. By the time the rain had let up, temperatures had dropped as low as 73. We didn't break 80 again for a few days.
As August rolled on, our vacation period came to a close. I began my first semester as a post-bacc at SAIC and Kaitlyn began work as a sales associate at Arts and Artisans soon after. This means my art practice and my studies are in full swing again. There are so many great things about the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Having my own studio space is wonderful, as are all of the facilities and equipment available to me. The faculty are exemplary, lending to its reputation. The school has expansive libraries on art as well as the whole Art Institute as an included supplemental educational experience. My graduate art history course actually has discussions every week in the museum. Entrance is free for SAIC students as well as at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Art Institute, which one group recently named the nation's and the world's best art museum, was actually created to searve as a resource for students at SAIC.
The Art Institute itself is surrounded by Grant Park and Millennium Park, with Michigan Avenue to the west. Millennium Park is a stand out with numerous iconic art works (Cloud Gate, or "The Bean," and Crown Fountain to name a few), numerous gardens including natural swamp and prairie grasses as well as fruits, vegetables, and well manicured patches of flowers, an outdoor pavilion, and numerous ways to enjoy yourself and relax. Millennium Park was a new take on the urban park and has ultimately succeeded in its goals. It is now frequented by both locals and tourists and is one of the most photographed places in the city. Between the park and the Art Institute's sculpture gardens, I never really need to worry about finding a place to eat lunch, take a stroll, read a book, or just take in the city while I'm down in my studio.
So far we've loved Chicago. Things will soon get busy, but a good kind of busy. And this is where I must leave you. I'm sorry the post was so long, but it's been a while and I wanted to keep those of you interested in the know. For more on me and my adventures in Chicago, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me! I hope to update and manage my website more frequently, including regular blog posts on a range of subjects from reviews, things I find interesting, opportunities to see my work, studio updates, and maybe even some of my art history and theory writing. Expect a new artist statement soon, as well. And with that, I welcome you into the official start of the fall season (my favorite) with these photos from around Millennium Park of our colors changing and fall truly setting in. It's also starting to be fairly cool up here. I'm quite ecstatic to experience a true Autumn and see what Halloween is like in Chicago. Check back soon!