You didn't have to grow up in the 1960s to be a fan of the Motown sound, and you don't have to be African-American to be a fan of the Motown sound.  If you are in your 40s, 50s or 60s, you probably spent hours listening to the songs sung by Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops and the great Marvin Gaye.  These singers and many others such as Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 are all part of the music empire founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. which came to be known as the Motown Sound. 

Located in the original house in Detroit where Berry Gordy, Jr. lived, and christened Hitsville U.S.A, the Motown Museum tells the history of how, after receiving only a $3.00 royalty check for a hit song he wrote, Berry Gordy, on the advice of his good friend, Smokey Robinson, borrowed $800 from his family, began writing and producing his own songs.  In just 7 years, he turned his company into a multi-million dollar music conglomerate.
There are six houses on West Grand Boulevard in addition to the two houses shown above that Berry Gordy purchased in the 1960s.  It was from these houses that the different branches of the Motown company were run.  Back in the early 1960s it was a fact that African-Americans really couldn't own commercial property, so many African-American-owned companies were run out of their private homes.  Berry Gordy lived on the second floor of the Hitsville U.S.A home.  On the first floor were the administrative offices and the recording studio.  The other homes housed areas of the company such as the finance department, the music publishing department and personal development department.  In addition to being a genius songwriter, producer and publisher, Berry Gordy was smart enough to hire the best choreographers, voice coaches, and a woman to teach poise, grooming and the social graces to these young singers, most of whom were still in their early teenage years when discovered by Gordy.  But Gordy knew they would become superstars in the White music market and go on to perform for presidents and royalty; thus, they needed to talk, walk and act accordingly.

In front of the Hitsville U.S.A. house this two-sided marker gives a brief synopsis of the history of Motown:

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take any photos in the museum.  These two pictures copied from the museum's website give you an idea of what you see during the tour.  

Photos courtesy: www.motownmuseum.com
The photo to the left shows how the museum is set up: several rooms with walls displaying old photos of Motown stars, plaques showing the gold and platinum 45s and albums, original album covers, costumes and other memorabilia.  You will see a hat and jeweled white glove Michael Jackson donated to the museum.

The photo to the right shows the original Studio A where all those Motown hits were recorded.  The musical equipment in the studio is the original musical equipment used during those recordings.  As part of the tour you go into the studio.  If you have as lively a tour guide as we did, you'll have a chance to sing and dance on the same floor that all those Motown stars did.  From 1959 to 1972, Studio A was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Other highlights of a museum tour include:
  • The Echo Chamber: A hole was cut into the ceiling.  Berry Gordy would pull complete strangers off the street to stand under the hole and just clap or sing.  He then set up equipment in the hole that allowed the sound effect to filter down into the recording studio.  This sound effect became known as The Motown Sound.
  • Berry Gordy's apartment:  The second floor of the Hitsville U.S.A. house has been recreated to look exactly as it did when he lived there and contains some of the original furniture.
  • The Control Room, Switchboard and Secretary's Desk: The business side of the company was run from the first floor of the Hitsville U.S.A. house.  During the tour you will see the original telephone switchboard, the desk where the receptionist greeted visitors (along with the original typewriter) and the control room equipment used to record and mix the famous Motown hits.
  • Original Candy Bar Vending Machine: Sitting just outside the recording studio is a candy bar vending machine with the same candy bars that were popular during the 1960s...remember the Milkshake Bar?  (It evolved into today's Milky Way.)  The story was told to us that friends of Little Stevie Wonder would leave nickels and dimes on top of the vending machine.  Stevie knew where to find them, how to put the coins in the slot and how to count over three or four knobs to pick out his favorite candy bar.
  • Motown Influence:  By the end of the tour you will learn just how influential the Motown Sound was on all future types of music, and not just in the U.S.

The Motown Museum is one of Detroit's most popular tourist attractions.  In our tour group were couples from all parts of the U.S. such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon.  And it's not just ordinary tourists who visit the museum:  Imagine recently giving Sir Paul McCartney a tour of the museum and discussing a photograph of the Beatles with the Paul McCartney.  Unbelievable! 

Motown Museum
Detroit, MI  48208

Summer Hours (July through August):
  • Monday thru Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM 
  • Closed Sunday
Regular Hours:
  • Tuesday thru Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Closed Sunday and Monday.
General Admission:
  • Adults: $10.00 per person
  • Seniors and children 12 & under: $8.00 per person

Such is Berry Gordy's importance to Detroit's history that this section of West Grand Boulevard is renamed Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard:



Comerica Park is home to Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers. Opened on April 11, 2000 it replaced the historic Tiger Stadium which had been the home of the Tigers since 1912.

The building of Comerica Park was part of the huge revitalization of downtown Detroit.  In 2002, right across the street from Comerica Park, Ford Field opened, home to the National Football League's Detroit Lions. In the photo below Detroit's iconic GM Renaissance Center is bookended by the Detroit Lion's Ford Field on the left and the Detroit Tiger's Comerica Park on the right.
Of course, the ballpark's decorative theme is tigers: From the 33 tigers' heads with baseballs in their mouths (which light up at night) on the outside walls...

To the huge, growling tigers on the roof...

To the 15-foot tiger statue in front of the main entrance...

To the beautiful mosaic-tiled logo outside the management offices.
It was pleasantly warm the late Spring evening we walked around the park, and the Tigers baseball team was not playing so there were very few other people around the area.

What is really great about the design of this ballpark are the views from the street.  You can see so much of the park without being in the park.  

You can see the entire playing field (though your view would not be this good during an actual game...)

You can see the row of 13-foot tall, granite statues of the Tigers' players whose numbers have been retired.  Located beyond the center field wall is the Tigers' Monument Park with statues of (l-r): Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb and Willie Horton.  (The statue of Hal Hewhouser is not in the photo.)
You can see the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel, a 50-foot ferris wheel with the cars shaped like baseballs...

And you can see the scoreboard close-up with the two prowling tigers on the top.  The tigers' eyes light up after a Tigers home run or a victory and the sound of a growling tiger can be heard as well.  You can see I'm right at street-level; you can also see the Detroit Lions' Ford Field in the background.

Despite the city's not-so-great reputation, this area of downtown Detroit borders the Grand Circus Park Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This area contains a collection of late 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings by several noted architects including Daniel Burnham, who was so instrumental in the design of my town, Chicago.  Several of these buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Grand Circus Park is located diagonally across from Comerica Park.  Grand Circus Park is bisected by Woodward Avenue which is the east-west dividing line of Detroit.  In the center of each half of the semi-circular park, there is a beautiful fountain.  One of the fountains is the Russell A. Alger Memorial Fountain, designed by architect Henry Bacon and sculptor Daniel Chester French, both of whom are noted for designing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  Russell Alger was a Civil War brigadier general, U.S. senator, governor of Michigan and Secretary of War.

Located within this historic district is a small area surrounding a triangular-shaped park known as the Harmonie Park District.  This area contains restaurants, art galleries and a theatre district second only to New York in number of seats.  Located within just a few blocks of each other are the Detroit Opera House (built in 1922) and famed theatres such as the State Theatre (built in 1925 and now known as the Fillmore Detroit), the Gem Theatre and Century Club (built 1927) and the Fox Theatre (built in 1928).  All three of these theatres are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by me during my recent visit to Detroit.



The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri opened in 1933 during the middle of the Great Depression.  Visitors were amazed at the innovations and the luxury of the massive Beaux Art Building.  Still, operations were modest: only three telephones serviced the entire building; lights in the galleries were turned off when people left a room; at opening and closing times, a huge bell was rung manually. 

Photo courtesy: www.nelson-atkins.org
William Rockhill Nelson was the founder of The Kansas City Star newspaper. When he arrived in Kansas City in the early 1880s, he described the town as “incredibly ugly and commonplace” and determined that “if I were to live here the town must be made over.”  So he set about beautifying the city, which at the time was becoming a major transportation hub, by creating parks, boulevards and planting trees.  As a man who loved beautiful architecture and the great paintings of Europe, part of his quest for making over Kansas City included the creation of an art gallery.  William Nelson died in 1915.  His will stipulated his estate be used to purchase works of fine art “which will contribute to the delectation and enjoyment of the public generally…” Nelson’s wife survived him by six years, and his only child, Laura died five years later. Upon their deaths, the will provided for the “construction of a building in Kansas City, Missouri, to bear the name of William Nelson and to be followed by the words "Gallery of Art.”  Laura’s husband, Irwin Kirkwood, survived her by less than two years. After he died, in 1927, the Nelson mansion and the 20 acres were deeded to the city as a building site for Nelson’s art museum.

Photo courtesy: www.nelson-atkins.org

Also during this same time, but unknown to William Nelson, there was another citizen of Kansas City who had a love of European art and a strong sense of community involvement. Mary McAfee was a school teacher who moved to Kansas City to marry James Burris Atkins.  James Atkins, like Mary, was originally from Kentucky, but he moved to Kansas City in 1865 to enter the milling business and to speculate in Kansas City real estate.  When he died in 1886, he left Mary grief-stricken but very wealthy.  At the beginning of the 20th century Mary began traveling to Europe, immersing herself in the collections of the Musée du Louvre and Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in London and the Saxon Royal Museum in Dresden.  Mary Atkins died in 1911; in her will she bequeathed $300,000 to build a museum.  By 1927 the $300,000, wisely invested, had increased to $700,000.  In 1927, by consensus among their respective trustees, the Nelson and Atkins funds were combined, resulting in a total of more than $3 million to build an art museum that would rival the best in the country.

Thus, what was created from this collaboration was:

We approached the museum by walking through the Kansas City Sculpture Park.  As you recall from my previous post, we walked to the museum from our hotel in a nearly 100° temperature.  Reaching the street corner of the museum, we walked through a winding, tree-lined pathway where on display were sculptures by some well-known artists:

Seated Woman (1958-1959) by Henry Moore

Eventually the pathway opened up into the vast open area of grass where we could see two easily-recognized, but much larger-than-life objects:

Shuttlecocks (1994) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
The husband and wife team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen were commissioned in 1994 to design a sculpture for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. They responded to the formality of the original neoclassical building and the green expanse of its lawn by imagining the Museum as a badminton net and the lawn as a playing field. The pair designed four birdies or shuttlecocks that were placed as though they had just landed on opposite sides of the net. Each shuttlecock weighs 5,500 pounds, stands nearly 18 feet tall and has a diameter of some 16 feet. (Courtesy: Nelson-Atkins.org)

We turned around 180 degrees to face the entrance of the museum, and we were greeted by the pensive sculpture of:

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

We haven't even made it inside and already loads of great art...

Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the Bloch exhibition, but non-flash photography was permitted in the permanent collection.  

Of course I always start with the Impressionists which really are my favorite group of artists.  Well, my goodness, nothing like starting out the visit by seeing this:

Waterlilies (1916-1926) by Claude Monet

This painting is just short of 14 feet wide and nearly 7 feet high!  The panel is the right-hand side of a triptych of a Waterlilies study that Monet painted.  No wonder it took him over 10 years to complete it...that's 42 feet of paintings!  The other two panels are at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the St. Louis Art Museum.  Click here to see the painting in my blog post about the St. Louis Art Museum.

Another spectacular work by Monet is this early-career painting of the view from his house he was renting:

View of Argenteuil: Snow (1874-1875) by Claude Monet

And another early masterpiece of the streets of Paris by Monet:

Boulevard des Capucines (1873-1874) by Claude Monet

Another wonderful, but maybe not so well known, French Impressionist landscape painter was Alfred Sisley:

The Embankment at Billencourt: Snow (1879) by Alfred Sisley

Camille Pissarro is called the Dean of the Impressionist Painters, not only because he was the oldest of the group, but also because of his wisdom and personality.  Here are four prime examples why: 

Poplars, Sunset at Eragny (1895) by Camille Pissarro

The Garden of Les Mathurins at Pontoise (1876) by Camille Pissarro

Wooded Landscape at L'Hermitage, Pontoise (1879) by Camille Pissarro

Market at Pontoise (1895) by Camille Pissarro

There is a beautiful work by Pissarro's great friend and fellow painter, Paul Cézanne.  Cézanne's somewhat abstract style like in this painting would lead to the Cubism style of Picasso and Braque.

Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne

Here is another view of the Degas painting that was the subject of my previous blog.  Click here to read more.

Rehearsal at the Ballet (1876) by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Here are two wonderful portraits by two masters:

Portrait of Paul Haviland (1884) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Portrait of Lise Campineanu (1878) by Édouard Manet

And then there is the genius of Vincent van Gogh, executed at a time when his style was at its most agitated and expressive.

Olive Orchard (1889) by Vincent van Gogh

This is an example of van Gogh's early work when he was still painting with dark, moody colors:

Portrait of Gysbertus de Groot (1885) by Vincent van Gogh

Of course, I can't forget my German Expressionists.  Here are paintings by three of the German Expressionist masters.  Such bold colors! 

Portrait of the Poet Guthmann (1910) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Baccarat (1947) by Max Beckmann

Masks (1911) by Emil Nolde

There were several other paintings that I photographed just because I liked them, but I was not necessarily familiar with the artist.  For example, I just love the colors in the painting, the heavier brushstrokes and the simplicity of the subject matter: a boat and its reflection on the water. 

Starboat (Tugboat and Riverboat) 1966 by Wayne Thiebaud

In this painting I just like the colors here and the great detailing...all that garbage took a great deal of time and effort to paint.

Heineken (1976) by Idelle Weber

Normally, I don't favor modern or contemporary art.  However, I did photograph these two works by Willem de Kooning because I haven't seen too many examples of his work in other museums plus keeping on the same theme, I love the bold colors.  The composition of the paintings, however, is another story... 

Woman IV (1952-1953) by Willem de Kooning

Boudoir (1951) by Willem de Kooning

The Nelson-Atkins Museum is one of the finest museums in the United States, if not the world.  Its collection contains more than 33,500 works of art.  Whether displayed in the original 1933 neoclassic building or the new 2007 modern, translucent-glass Bloch Building, the permanent collection rivals any museum I've personally visited.

For more information visit: http://nelson-atkins.org.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City, MO   64111
Phone: 816.751.1ART (816.751.1278)

For directions: click here.
  • Admission is FREE every day for all visitors.
  • There may be a charge for special exhibitions.
  • Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • Closed New Year's Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Open 10:00-4:00 on Wednesday.
  • Open 10:00-9:00 on Thursday and Friday.
  • Open 10:00-5:00 on Saturday.
  • Open 12:00-5:00 on Sunday.
NOTE: All photos of the paintings in this blog post were taken by me on my visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in August, 2007.



Kansas City, Missouri is nicknamed The City of Fountains.  And it is...there are over 168 fountains located through the city.  

When we traveled to Kansas City to visit the previously mentioned art exhibition: Manet to Matisse: Impressionist Masters from the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, we stayed at the Hampton Inn located in the area of Kansas City known as the Country Club Plaza area.  This area, just a few blocks west of the museum, is located between 45th Street and 51st Street to the north and south and Broadway and Madison to the east and west (see map).  It has a myriad of upscale shopping and dining possibilities.  The architecture is based on the Moorish style of Seville, Spain (one of the city's sister cities) with buildings decorated with arches and beautiful mosaic tiles.

Some of the beautiful architecture...

And the colorful tiles decorating the buildings...

We walked from the hotel down West 47th Street to the museum. (In hindsight this wasn't such a great idea since it was mid-August with temperatures in the mid 90s.)  But our walk allowed us to see many of the city's beautiful fountains:

Located on 47th Street in front of the American Eagle Outfitters store, the fountain above shows Neptune in his chariot pulled by the trident, dolphin and sea horse.  A city favorite, the 1911 original lead cast was purchased just for its scrap metal.  In the 1950s, it was found on top of a train car full of scrap metal by workmen at a salvage company.

One block east on 47th Street located in front of the Cheesecake Factory is this fountain showing the Greek god Bacchus holding court, surrounded by nymphs and satyrs.  Another 1911 original lead statue, weighing 5 tons, it was purchased in England and installed in 1969 in its present location.

Just one block further east on the opposite side of 47th Street is the beautifully-designed Seville Light fountain.  Carved from several types of marble, this fountain is an exact replica of the Plaza de Los Reyes fountain in Seville, Spain.

Located just across the street from the Seville Light fountain is the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, the most-popular and most-photographed of all the city's fountains.  The 1910 figures originally adorned a mansion on Long Island, New York.  In 1958 they were brought to Kansas City.  The four horsemen are said to represent the four major rivers: Mississippi River (the Indian riding the horse and beating off an alligator), the Volga River (with the bear), the Seine and the Rhine.  Over the years several figures have been stolen. J. C. Nichols was a prominent developer of commercial and residential real estate in Kansas City.

Located in a plaza located at the corner of Broadway and Ward Parkway is a statue of Pomona, the Roman goddess and protector of vineyards and orchards.  This fountain was imported from Italy and installed in 1969. 

For more information on the many other fountains in Kansas City you can visit the website: www.kcfountains.com.