BootsnAll Travel Network

To Thy Happy Children of the Future Those of the Past Send Greetings

Jeremy and I were visiting the US Midwest recently, and one of our stops was Champaign-Urbana, Illinois–home of the University of Illinois, where I was in graduate school.  At the entrance to the school is one of my favorite statues, Alma Mater by Lorado Taft [The link is wikipedia].  It was a commission from the Class of 1927 (? I think) and the inscription on the base is the title of this post.  It strikes me that this inscription is the hope of what education is really all about.  The first picture on the Wikipedia link is the statue. [And here’s a picture that Jeremy took:]

Alma Mater

I went mostly to visit friends from my school days.  But, not surprisingly, they had lives that they were busy leading.  They provided a guide to art at the Univerisity of Illinois.  Jeremy and I worked our way around the campus, seeking out pictures and sculptures located in out-of-the-way corners of the campus.

I think our favorite discovery was a picture in the reception area of the President’s Office: We the People: The Land-Grant College Act Heritage, painted by Billy Morrow Jackson in 1987.  [The link is the page from the art guide, with a black & white version of the painting.]  The color image is much more interesting.  I’ll try to add one, if I can.

We ended our art tour of the campus at the Krannert Art Museum, the main art museum on campus.  There were a number of high points–there were some of the prints from the Carceri d’Inventiones [Imaginary Prisons–or Prisons of the Imagination, as you translate] by Piranesi.  These prints played an interesting part in the series Inspired by Bach from Yo-Yo Ma.  In the series, he worked with artists in different disciplines to create realizations of the Bach cello suites in their medium.  Some of them are much better than others, but they’re all interesting [and available on DVD].  In one of them, some acoustic engineers manipulate the sound from Yo-Yo Ma to place him sonically into these environments created visually by Piranesi.

Another amazing piece was another sculpture by Lorado Taft.  It’s called, I think, Les Aveugles [the Blind–with a Flickr link].  It’s based on a Nineteenth Century one-act play by Maeterlinck, describing a group of blind people that were marooned on an island.  At some moment, they realize that a baby born to the group can see, and that encapsulates hope for the future.  The sculpture captures the moment when an older woman is holding the baby up to the sun–and it’s clear both that the baby can see and that the rest of the group cannot.  In many ways, the group reminds me of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais–a large sculptural group, each an individual, united by their situation.

It was wonderful to discover a new side to a place that I spent such a long time, and that I have so many good memories of. 

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