Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Afternoon in Boston & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


A few weekends ago, I found myself with an afternoon to kill in Boston. I had rehearsal with AIT Boston until noon in the city, and then had practice with TOI Boston that night at 7. Commuting all the way home just to turn around and come back was out of the question, plus it was going to be a beautiful Boston Saturday afternoon, so I started brainstorming ways to use the time.

While on our hike, Kelsie came up with the great idea to check out a museum, and recommended I check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now, for someone who's lived not even 2 hours from the city her entire life, I haven't actually done a lot of typical Boston things. Growing up, we'd always take trips to historic sites...but we usually ended up somewhere like Virginia, or Pennsylvania. We skipped a lot of the things that were closer to home.

Which means that now that I'm spending so much more time in the city, and am so much more comfortable navigating it, I want to take advantage and soak up all the amazing things Boston has to offer. I texted Caroline, one of my teammates, and we met up to check out the museum.


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened on January 1, 1903, on land that had been bought by Isabella herself for the purpose of creating the museum in 1898. Isabella, whose appreciation for art was spurred on by extensive travel and the intellectual scene in Boston, wanted to create a place for art to not only be hung but be appreciated, and made. Her personal collection, which the museum is drawn from, started with collecting rare manuscripts, particularly works from Dante, and kept growing, to include masterpieces like Vermeer's "The Concert" and Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait, Age 23".

In 1901, when the building was finished, Isabella moved into private living quarters on the fourth floor of the museum and began work personally arranging the museum. She remained intensely involved in her work, not only arranging the rooms but organizing performances, concerts, lectures, and inviting artists to take up residency there. When she died in 1924, she dedicated the museum to the "education and enjoyment of the public forever", only asking that nothing be moved, or re-arranged.


But in 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum early in the morning, and stole 13 works of art. The pieces that were taken, among them Vemeer's "The Concert, are worth over $500 million. It is the largest unsolved theft in history, and even today, 28 years later, authorities remain just as stumped as to their whereabouts. To remember the stolen works, and keep hope alive for their eventual return to the museum, empty frames remain hung in the places the paintings occupied.


I absolutely loved the museum. The original building (called "The Palace") has four floors, but is open in the middle, with a glass ceiling letting in natural light. A garden takes up the entire middle, which you can look down into from any of the four floors, and has elaborate tile walkways, arches, and fountains. The actual rooms are arranged to look less like a gallery, and more like an actual house, with scenes set up to showcase incredible rugs, or furniture, or tea services. One of my favorite rooms had a bunch of door-like wood panels hung to the wall, each covered in framed sketches and etchings, that you could move and work your way through.


Once we'd seen everything, the large stone archways offered a great place to sit and enjoy the garden. Caroline and I sat for a while and talked, since it had been a while since we'd really caught up. It's such a peaceful place; even though it was crowded, a calm hush blanketed everyone. I can see it being a beautiful place to sit and journal, or sketch (which the museum encourages!). We only spent a few hours there, and I definitely feel like it's the kind of place where you have to go a couple of times to really see everything.


We were going to check out the museum cafe, which looked really good, but they were closed by the time we were ready to eat. The museum is in Fenway, so we walked a little ways and came across a really cute restaurant named Tapestry. Not gonna lie, the main reason we chose it was because of the outdoor patio. This particular Saturday was one of the first super sunny, super warm afternoons of the year, so they had opened the patio early for drinks and pizza even though the rest of the kitchen wasn't open until later. We ordered the Mediterranean pizza (awesome cheese! But kind of soggy...), and waited until they opened for bar snacks and got the Greek nachos (which were awesome!). So we ate a whole pizza as our pre-bar-snack snack, haha. Tapestry is in a pretty quiet, residential area of Fenway, and it was so nice to sit outside, under the sun, and enjoy the breeze and each other's company. It was a wonderful way to kick of a season full of many more afternoon adventures with friends.

I'm in the city a couple of times a week, but it's always for work, or practice, or both. But, I enjoy spending my weekends in the rink (and even the commute) so much more when I take advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer. Here's to searching for fun, instead of just driving right home.

Happy Thursday!! Be the grittiest.
xoxo Gillian

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