Why Chicago Is ‘My Kind Of Town’

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 03, 2007

CHICAGO, ILL. - This is a magnificent city. It’s called the Crossroads of America, the City of Big Shoulders and, of course, the Windy City. It is the Paris of mid-America. History is found in the architecture and rugged facades of buildings which hold stories about the genesis of our nation. The people are of all colors, sizes, status and races. There is a remarkable melting pot of different ethnicities who get along pretty well.

Hawaii is known to be the ultimate melting pot, and there is no dispute we have just about every walk of life in our great state. We lay claim proudly to countless points of historical significance - chief among them is the incredible display at Pearl Harbor with the USS Arizona Memorial and the other magnificent examples of Honolulu’s place in history.

The Hawaiian culture is a blessing. We are so fortunate to live our lives amid such rich traditions perpetuated for generations. We are so fortunate to call the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum and the Bishop Museum the caretakers of our Hawaii.

I love the cultural offerings in Chicago, as well. My touchstone is The Art Institute of Chicago. A neo-classic design looming over Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park, the Art Institute was my place of solace and enrichment as a kid growing up in northwest Indiana.

I have to give credit where credit is due. My high school French teacher opened up a new line of sight for me. She brought us our first taste of authentic French cuisine, music and, most thankfully, art. I was impacted most by the beauty and controversy of French Impressionism, and that affection is still a part of me.

As a sophomore in high school, one would assume movies, concerts, football games and the like would be the favorite things to do. For me, it was taking Amtrak into Chicago (an experience in itself), getting off at the Randolf Street station and walking over to the Art Institute. When I was a kid, I think it cost about $3 to get it. Once there, it was straight to the Impressionism collection, where I would peruse one of the greatest collections anywhere in the world. The Musee d’Orsay is said to have the finest, but Chicago isn’t far behind.

It was Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of les Grandes Jettes” that got me started. We are all familiar with the iconoclastic work of rounded figures lounging waterside as those out for a walk share space with cyclists. Seurat’s technique was unique in that he did not use brush strokes, rather he dabbed paint, dot by dot, to create his images. He employed his knowledge of how the human eye discerned shape and color and blended his “dots” into wonderful works of art. His magnum opus, “A Sunday Afternoon ...,” is a massive work which covers an entire wall in the Art Institute. It is mesmerizing.

The beauty, creativity and innovation of the Impressionists are soul stirring. I enjoy the works of Pissaro, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Manet and Van Gogh. It was a dream to walk the grounds of Monet’s Garden in France while on our honeymoon. Absolutely unforgettable.

Coming to Chicago, as our family is blessed to do each year, is invigorating and inspiring. The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium and, of course, the Art Institute are required stops while in town.

If you ever have the chance, you should consider a visit to this “tottling town.“You’ll have a fantastic time and become a Chicago fan for life.

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