Friday, June 8, 2012

Grand Rapids Old, New and Now

Hello! Last Saturday our daughter took the SAT at the closest test site to us, which was the main campus of Grand Rapids Community College. I had decided to drive her there and then roam around Grand Rapids while she was taking the test.

However, I then realized that a big event, Festival of the Arts, was going on the same weekend and its location was close to GRCC. I had gotten a very good parking spot near the building where the SAT was to take place, but that was because we arrived at 7:35 am, well in advance of Festival's opening time of 10 am that day. So I decided to stay put. No worries, because a historic district, Heritage Hill, began literally halfway down the block from where I had parked. I decided to walk around this neighborhood, where I took several photos. 

Looks like a nice place to hang out with a good book and a glass of ice tea.

Leaded glass windows.

I believe this is what's called Prairie School architecture. 

As can often happen in old-house neighborhoods, a number of what had been single-family dwellings had been turned into multiplexes. Some of these conversions reflected upon indifferent landlords, but the above photo shows a nicely-maintained rental unit. 

Almost feels like a Southern plantation to me.

Think the above is a part of a small tree trunk? Think again - it appeared to be made from cast iron and I believe it's an old hitching post. At the very top you can see an opening for looping reins through. I thought this intriguing, for while I've seen hitching posts with horses' heads on top, I'd never seen one that had been made to resemble a tree trunk!

Nicely kept-up Victorian with iron fence around the property.

The two preceding photos show some elaborate detailing. They don't make houses like this anymore!

From what I could tell, the topmost area of the house with the pointed peak is a balcony. I didn't see any chairs on it, but it'd be a pleasant place to sit, I'm sure. 

Now we'll go from the past to the future:

This is the atrium of the Applied Technology Center, the building in which our daughter's SAT test took place. I took this photo because the scene above reminded me of the cover of the Alan Parson Project's I Robot album (a fav of mine back in the day).

After walking around Heritage Hill, I headed down to the Grand Rapids Public Library, where I happily browsed in the arts and crafts section. Since it's a much bigger library than ours, there were many interesting books there that our library doesn't have, so I can do an inter-library loan to check them out.

After our daughter was done with her exam, it was lunch time, so we headed down to the now-open Festival to get something to eat. Unlike our Tulip Festival, which has only a few local food vendors, all of the food vendors at Festival are local groups - churches, cultural centers and the like. A wide variety of ethnic foods were represented, such as Bosnian, Polish, Greek, and Vietnamese, but our daughter wanted good old-fashioned American barbeque, so that's what we got. 

Festival of the Arts had several small stages up, with various musical groups and other performers on hand to entertain the crowd:

I didn't get the name of the above group, but there were some very good vocalists in it! Nearby we also heard jazz and blues being performed.

There were also art activities for kids:

This is the Paint-In, with easels, paper, paints and brushes ready for kids to make their masterpieces. 

And this is the Glue-In, where it appeared that kids could glue scraps of wood together. Their creations are drying on the table above. As with the Paint-In, parents had to wait beyond the craft area - it was strictly a kid's activity. I found myself wishing that I could go into these areas and have fun making my own works! 

Then it was from amateur art to the professional: while walking around Festival, I noticed a sign stating that the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) had free admission in honor of Festival. Our daughter isn't fond of art museums but I dragged her in there anyway since I certainly couldn't miss the lure of free admission! I have been wanting to go to GRAM anyway since their new building was completed -it's said to be the first art museum in the world to be built entirely to LEED standards. No photos were allowed in the galleries, but I did see an exhibit related to this book:

Very compelling images; photos had been blown up to huge sizes and showed dramatic scenes of urban decay. The junker in me saw the possibilities in mixed media assemblage with the stuff that has been left to rot in old school buildings and churches. 

I saw no signs forbidding the taking of photos in the museum restrooms, so I snapped the above of the chic sink. 

One design flaw in this bathroom, however - in order to save paper, very powerful air hand dryers had been installed. This type of hand dryer works much better than the older models, but they are very loud. However, they happened to be placed very near the diaper-changing area. I used the dryer furthest away from a baby being changed, but he still cried a bit. (I suppose I could have waited until the mom was done, but she was taking her sweet time, as was her right, and my hands were dripping wet). So clearly not good design in that corner of the restroom. 

But all in all, a pleasant time was had viewing the old, the new and the now in a section of Grand Rapids.

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