A Hands-on Erie Attraction

Ruth & I were in Erie, PA in the middle of April, 2019.  We went there because it was on our list of cities with more than 100,000 people that we had never been to.  We found plenty to do in Pennsylvania’s 4th largest community,    On Saturday we explored Presque Isle State Park in relatively nice weather, and it seemed like half of Erie’s citizens were bicycling and strolling there with us.  On Sunday, however, it rained all day with a threat of changing to snow.  We had to find indoor activities.    One of the places we went to was the Erie Art Museum.  It was not a happy experience for Ruth and reflected, for her, the depressed conditions that exist in this town.  It’s population, we were told, has declined to 97,000 and its less-than-vibrant downtown is surrounded by the closed industries of its manufacturing past.   On a more hopeful note, we were told by excited residents that this was the opening day of trout season and spring baseball was being widely discussed.  Erie’s pleasures, it seemed, remain local.  Many Erieans are clearly devoted to the SeaWolves, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  Meanwhile in the art museum…

a bit of chaos was unfolding, which upset ex-teacher and child disciplinarian Ruth.  The Erie Art Museum looks state-of-the-art on the outside as seen above.  The entrance on 5th Street is new.  It is downtown and has a young, new director named Joshua R. Helmer, whom we did not meet.  Like Erie itself, the Erie Art Museum has problems.  Its debt is $1,400,000.  Most of its art, except for its more valuable holdings, is displayed in 18th century European-style.  In other words, this museum’s main display area’s walls are covered from bottom to top with hundreds of randomly placed, close-together paintings, including the woman with the eggplant.

What upset Ruth was the fact that we were there on April’s Second Sunday.  On these days whole families are encouraged to come in, and they do in large numbers.  The theme that day was “Make your own Playdough”.   With a lot of art hanging at their level, only 2 adults running the museum, and distracted parents, many of the children were directly touching the art works at their level.  In museums, we are used to guards warning us not to get near the art.  In the Erie Art Museum, the kids were free to molest it, and they were.  Ruth had to leave.

Most of this museum’s art is contemporary and by unknown artists with a lot of folk art among its acquisitions.   It’s community-based and worth seeing art because it is so diverse.   Will Erie’s children get more involved by being allowed to touch museum pieces while making Playdough?  Some may think this is the way it’s done.  Good luck with that.

Hank

 

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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