Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finding the Louvre in Your Home Town

I’ve never been to France and I may never get to see The Louvre Museum.  Truth be told, at the moment it’s not even on my bucket list.  My sister, who is a world traveler compared to me, once shared that she was really disappointed when she saw Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ in person.  She was completely let down by how small it was.  I guess that has sort of stuck with me and I’d rather continue thinking of it as this larger than life masterpiece.

Besides, there is plenty of art to experience in my own home town of Sacramento.  That’s right.  I said Sacramento…the cow town capitol of the great state of California.  Our claim to fame is that we are within easy driving distance of places like South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.  We also happen to have quite the theater/art scene.  Who knew? 

Chances are, you live in the heart of a cultural mecca too.  Here are some suggestions on finding the hidden Louvre in your home town on the cheap and getting the most out of the experience…

Do your homework: 

·       Sacramento has an annual FREE museum day, monthly art walk opportunities, and numerous cultural events throughout the year.  We also host the County and the State Fair.  Many of these can easily be found on “things to do” type websites or in the local free papers.  What does your home town offer? 

·       Research historic land marks, parks with statues, sculptures, beautiful landscaping, etc.  One of my all-time favorite cheapie adventures was a 3-day road trip with one of my girlfriends to see all of California’s Missions. We reserved a couple of cheap motels, packed a cooler full of food, and off we went.  

·       Check out newsletters, e-groups, blogs, and apps.  And be sure to ‘like’ Facebook pages that will keep you up to date on cultural opportunities.  I feel artsy just picking up my iPhone!

·       Don’t forget about those local high schools and college campuses.  Many have student art exhibits and cultural events.

·       Redine what you consider art or a museum.  When my son was very young, we would spend hours in little trinket or antique shops admiring everything from salt/pepper shakers to pewter dragons with gemstones.  Art is everywhere.   

·       Volunteer for creative/art programs such as Destination Imagination, PTA’s Reflections, local festivals and parades.  Some local theaters and museums offer volunteer opportunities as well.  You’ll experience culture/art in a whole new way as a volunteer.       

·       When you travel, do your research and plan ahead.  I had a total of 3 hours of free time during a recent work related trip to Washington DC.  I made the most of it though and was able to enjoy the last 45 minutes at the only Smithsonian Museum that stayed open late that day and was then able to hop on a fantastic nighttime bus tour of all of the monuments.  If you ever get the chance to see Washington DC by night, do it!  The monuments are so peaceful at night, they have fantastic shadows when lit up, and everything seems to glow from within!

·       And speaking of travel--airports, hotels, and road trips often include art and cultural opportunities.  Many airports are free museums (well not counting the cost of the trip).

 Make it happen:

·       Nothing stimulates/reenergizes you like being around kindred spirits, especially face-to-face.  Art supply stores offer classes, often for free.  Sign up.  Go.  Talk to other humans.  You’ll love it.

·       Don’t have an art buddy or an event to go to?  Create your own!  Talk about your interests with family, friends, co-workers and pretty soon you’ll find someone that shares your interests.  Start meeting regularly to work on projects together, take day trips together, etc.  Our office created a lunchtime craft club.  We all bring a current project and chat while we work, share ideas, and sometimes teach each other. This has led to invites to each other’s homes, outings, etc.             

·       Schedule time on the family calendar to give them an opportunity to experience things YOU like to do.  How much time, energy, and money have you invested in the interests of your loved ones?  Pull the “my turn” card and do it together!  Who knows, they might even like it? 

·       Getting some resistance?  Ease your loved ones into your world by combining your love of culture/art with their interests.  For example, take your teenager on a hunt for interesting graffiti downtown, take your rock star hubby to an old record store to admire old album covers and rock concert posters, or take the family to an old car show (old cars and those paint jobs!—that’s art on wheels, isn’t it?).  Spend time experiencing and sharing in the history, culture, and art/artists surrounding their interests.  Bonus points if you can then find an art exhibit that showcases similar work (graffiti, old cars, etc.).         

 Getting the most out of each experience:

·       Have dessert first.  When you show up at the museum, figure out where your favorite art is on exhibit and start there.  For me, it’s either abstract/modern art or any children’s/student art they currently have on exhibit.  Soak it up while you are fresh.  Spend as much time there as you can.  When your spirit is renewed, then go see all that other stuff until you get bored, tired, or hungry.

·       Linger near any work that captures your interest.  Take a seat.  Journal.  Sketch.  Take notes. Read the little plaque.  Write down the Artist’s name. Observe from numerous angles, observe others in the space.  Be present with the work, with the moment, and most importantly--with yourself.     

It doesn’t really matter if I ever make it to see Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ at The Louvre Museum.  I’ve got the Louvre right here in my home town and Mona Lisa’s smile can be found around every corner.    

What are some of your home town favorites?


  1. A lot of the big museums and galleries have amazing websites where you can virtually visit great works of art. And don't rule out the public library either. I love browsing through books I would normally never even have seen.

  2. I am such a museum junkie, the first thing I do when I move to a new place is find the museums and the local library! I too was disappointed in the size of the Mona Lisa but Venus de Milo made up for it!

  3. I love your post! I do think we need to seek out the art around us, every day if we can. Felicia, I had already heard that Mona was smaller than imagined, so that part of it didn't surprise me. But what I appreciated, was that this was the same painting that had been painted by the "master" over 500 years before, and I couldn't help the tears that came to my eyes. I was overwhelmed. The Louvre is still an experience I think everyone should see if they can. Michelangelo's sculptures were dynamic, Winged Victory took my breath away, so many beautiful and historical things to see. Yes, I LOVE museums all over the place...But the Louvre is special. Much like the Met in New York, and British Museum in London....some are just awesome! If you can, put them back on your "to-do" list :-)

  4. Summer holidays started today and I think I might come by and read this every morning to help inspire me to go out and see things, draw, take photos, look at other people's art etc. I let myself be put off by the doing-it-by-myself bug more often than I should! Great post, Felicia!

  5. Thanks for the great feedback. Okay, the Louvre is back on the bucket list! ;->

  6. Don't let someone else's disappointment shortchange you on the Louvre. There is so much incredible art there. You could spend a week and not see all of it. While in Paris go to the Musee d'Orsay also for more modern art. Fantastic!
    Aloha, Kate