Las Vegas Round-up, 3.7.14

I recently visited Vegas for the rugby Sevens tournament and it was super great. Here are a few other places I went that are also recommendable and off the beaten Strip:


Red Rock Canyon offers close to 20 hiking trails and a 13-mile scenic drive with plenty of spots to stop and stare. The rocks are colorful and the canyons are crisscrossed with streams. Note that there’s a $7 entrance fee per vehicle.


The Neon Museum rescues and restores classic neon signs and displays them in their “Boneyard.” Even the lobby comes from a now-closed Vegas hotel. Tours only, night tours and booking ahead are highly recommended.


Seven Magic Mountains is an art piece off the 15 freeway just west of Vegas. The neon towers of boulders are over 30 feet high and highly photogenic. The sculpture will be on view until May 2018.

 

Las Vegas Round-up, 3.7.14

Minneapolis

file_001

I recently visited friends in Minneapolis over a long weekend. I had never been to Minnesota before, and really loved the Twin Cities and the fall weather (I’m aware of how terrible the winters are and you Minnesotans can keep them). Here’s a quick sum-up of places I went to that are worth visiting should you find yourself in Minneapolis.

Sights:

  • Walker Art Center – The crown jewel of the already bustling Minneapolis art scene, the Walker is worth a visit for the building alone. But it’s full of interesting art so go see that, too. Stop by the expansive gift shop.
  • Franconia Sculpture Park – Not exactly in Minneapolis, but an easy drive outside of town, Franconia is a little magical. The giant piece of land is covered in native grasses, a little forest, and dotted with dozens of large-scale sculptures. It’s free and open during daylight hours for endless wandering.
  • Stone Arch Bridge – In case you didn’t know, downtown Minneapolis is lined by the Mississippi River. This historic bridge spans the wide waterway, and is nice to look at and equally nice to walk over. While you’re in the area, check out the remains of an old mill and step out onto the Endless Bridge.
  • Chain of Lakes – Not only does Minneapolis have a river, it has a whole chain of lakes. All of them are lovely, and offer walking paths. If the weather is nice, take a kayak or pedal boat out for a spin.
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts – A very cool, collaborative space that features a rotating gallery, shop, coffee shop, and book store.

file_000

Food: 

  • Kyatchi – A modern Japanese restaurant that strives to use sustainable (and sometimes local) seafood. They offer a surprisingly extensive menu with lots of opportunity for sharing.
  • Izzy’s – This local ice cream stop has a couple of locations including downtown. An “izzy” is a tiny extra scoop on top of your order so you can have a bite of another flavor. Get the “dizzy izzy” for five little scoops (if you are indecisive like me).
  • Kramarczuk’s – I’ve only eaten their classic sausages at Target field, but they were soooo much better than your standard ballgame hot dog with a nice snap.
  • Brasa – Probably my favorite meal I had in Minneapolis. Great chicken, pork, and lots of sides like yucca, collard greens, beans and rice, and plantains. Nice atmosphere but casual. There can be a wait!
Minneapolis

Watts Towers

IMG_4265

Visiting the Watts Towers has long been on my list of “LA things to do,” but I never seem to get around to it—until this weekend. Had I known the towers were so interesting to look at it and learn about, I would have gone a long time ago. So this is my public service announcement for you, sans spoilers: go see Watts Towers. Take a $7 tour, it’s worth it. And if you go after the 18th-ish, you can visit the new LocoL too. Win win win.

IMG_4253

IMG_4254

IMG_4250

IMG_4258

Watts Towers

CAFAM

CAFAM

During Free Museum Day a couple of weekends ago, I went to one of my favorite museums in Los Angeles: the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). It’s located on Wilshire across from the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits, and just down from LACMA. It’s a small, three-story outfit celebrating art that leans more toward the craft persuasion, and always has a couple of great exhibits to see. Plus, it’s only $7 on a normal day, and they offer some cool classes and events. Basically, GO!

CAFAM

An especially good exhibition going on right now is Man Made, a collection of art quilts made by men. It resides on the top floor, and features several artists of all different aesthetics and techniques. They are wonderful to look at and read about, and there is a collection of videos on display in the back featuring the artists.

CAFAM

CAFAM

Artists include: Joe Cunningham, Luke Haynes, Jimmy McBride, Aaron McIntosh, Joel Otterson, Dan Olfe, Shawn Quinlan, and Ben Venom. I was especially entranced by Jimmy McBride’s space-inspired quilts (below) and the scifi persona he adopts, but the whole collection was solid. Yay men sewing!

CAFAMCAFAM The second major exhibition is on the second floor and called Focus Iran. It’s a collection of contemporary photos by various artists from Iran. It’s a really interesting mix of photography and contains some wonderful photos of people, still lifes and landscapes.

CAFAMCAFAM

There is also a large-scale piece in the lobby by Jonas Becker called The Pile. I’ll leave that as the singular mystery, as it’s a really fun piece with a fun concept and it envelopes the lobby. All exhibits are up through May 3.

CAFAM

Crystal Chain Gang

crystal chain gang

I’d like to take a moment to recognize the artistic work of the Crystal Chain Gang, a cast glass team of Leanne Williams and Jim Dennison. They are, admittedly, good friends of mine, and I worked in their studio during my time in New Zealand a few years ago, but I also think their work is fantastic. It’s what drew me to them in the first place, and it keeps getting better and better.

Crystal Chain Gang produces most of their pieces through the labor intensive process of cast glass, which involves clay and wax sculpting, molding wax in rubber, plaster molding, kiln casting, and finishing by sawing, grinding, sanding and treating. And part or all of this work can be done only to yield a broken disappointment. It is truly a labor of love, and it can produce incredible results.

The duo has a playful but striking aesthetic, and have become well-loved in their home country. See more of their work here.

crystal chain gangcrystal chain gangcrystal chain gang

Crystal Chain Gang