Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rocky Steps To The Philadelphia Museum of Art


I've not yet seen the film "Creed" for which Sylvester Stallone is an Oscar nominee.

But I have seen the movie's final scene, which has one of the best closing lines of any recent feature release. For this writer, it's actually the second or third to the last line that's perfect, but who's counting?  

For the uninitiated, like the original "Rocky" released 40 years ago, "Creed" (the former's sixth sequel) features Philadelphia, a city I had, until recently, only experienced from an Amtrak seat in 1994, an Interstate drive en route to New York in '96, and a flight connection to Stamford, Conn., in 2009. 

As mentioned on a previous post, this month finally provided time to explore the City of Brotherly Love following some work travel to the Keystone State. 

Though it was not the only destination on my Philly wish list, the outstanding Philadelphia Museum of Art is probably my favorite. 

Like its peer museums the Chicago Art Institute, The Met in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and The Getty in L.A., the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a massive, historic structure filled with treasures (more than 225,000 in its collections) -- I was on campus for nearly five hours and only experienced half of its main building! 

But before describing the richness within its galleries or other nearby museum-managed venues, a few notes on the approach. 

My trek to the museum was blessed with good weather on a sunny Saturday morning. If time permits and a clear sky is forecast, arrival at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by foot may be the best approach. Given the chance again, my choice in the future may be to hike from the city center to the museum, which sits prominently atop its own hill. 

In my case, I set an Uber driver on a course from my hotel (the fine Club Quarters) to the three-way corner of 23rd Street, Spring Garden and Pennsylvania Ave., then walked a few blocks to the lawns along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the foot of the museum's famous "Rocky Steps." 

Three things surprised me facing the Philadelphia Museum of Art. First, there is a bronze statue of Sylvester Stallone. Second, that statue is now on view at the base of the steps the actor made famous (more specifically, folks lined up to hold up their fists in victory to the right side or eastern corner of the museum grounds). And third, though not entirely surprising, there were a lot of people running up the ascent to the museum plaza's spectacular views into downtown. 

Like hailing a cab in New York, sampling toasted ravioli in St. Louis or wading in the Malibu surf, every American should at least once take their jog up these steps. And, yes, plenty of folks had Bill Conti's Oscar nominated theme song "Gonna Fly Now" playing on their phones.


Inside the museum, prepared to be amazed.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art's enormous Great Stair Hall atrium provides a glimpse of what it may have been like to stand inside the Parthenon in its Athens heyday.

Dozens of marble steps, soaring ceilings, and giant columns frame a 14-foot sculpture titled "Diana." I learned later, this work was originally a weather vane atop Madison Square Garden.

Alexander Calder's monumental mobile "Ghost" dangles from above, with its curved metal taking aim like the archery bow in Diana's grasp.

Acknowledging my schedule would not permit a race through every single gallery, I focused on the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries, the American Art section and on a search for every Georgia O'Keeffe on view.

The very first painting to greet my eyes featured hometown Philly and American hero Benjamin Franklin and his shocking discovery of electricity.

This small canvas was familiar as it appeared on a U.S. postage stamp collected in youthful philately days.

I was impressed by the giant canvas "The Gross Clinic" and the similar, latter painting 'The Agnew Clinic" by Philadelphia's own Thomas Eakins.

These paintings vividly depict surgeries in progress, and they are so real as to induce a wince and cringe by me (just like a female covering her eyes in "The Gross Clinic").

Eakins also created the Stallone-free boxing scene "Between Rounds" that took me back to portraits by N.C. Wyeth viewed two days earlier at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Like the Wyeths, Eakin's boxing figures may have inspired Texas-based contemporary artist Bart Forbes' creations featuring Olympic athletes playing their sports.

An unusually moving find was an in-gallery fireplace, mantle and door, which I mistook for a Frank Lloyd Wright but turned out to be a hearth and entry created by Philadelphia-born designer turned sculptor Wharton Esherick. This guy carved the handles, trim and everything surrounding the hearth -- beautiful woodworking.

Across the museum in Gallery 50, a single room houses a collection of Modern American Landscapes, where three outstanding O'Keeffes jump off the wall.

From the playbook of Slow Art Day, I must have spent 10 minutes studying "Red Hills and Bones" and its skeletal spine, then the artist's "Birch and Pine Tree No. 1" with its forest green foliage and ghostly white trunks, and finally "Red and Orange Streak," an early abstract reminiscent of arriving late to a sunset.

If the gallery walls could talk visitors would mingle with voices from Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, Arthur Garfield Dove, Marsden Hartley and Francis H. Criss, all artists I had previously seen but seldom explored (this museum visit and their works in this collection inspired further study of each).

Almost every room of the Modern and Contemporary Art wing featured multiple showstopping works. Salvador Dali's "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)" is somber yet filled with rich details not previously known from books on the artist (yes, I was a bean counter).

Rene Magritte's "The Six Elements," Jackson Pollock's "No. 22" and Picasso's "Woman and Children" each had small groups of visitors in queue for a closer look, and spotting a blond woman painted by Roy Litchtenstein felt like running into an old friend.

My favorite room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (so far) is filled with several works by Jasper Johns spanning his career.

Imagine this blogger's delight in finding the most colorful work in the room -- "Painting With Two Balls" -- actually includes a 1960 winter Olympic article as part of the artist's collage!

From what I can tell, this five-ringed headline was ripped from a small town newspaper and perhaps only by accident the artist did not paint broad strokes of color over its black, white and read all over lettering.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp completing "Etant donnes," a closet-sized mixed media piece viewed through peep holes on a wooden door.

The work, created in secret during a 20 year span (1946 to 1966), gives the viewer more than a wink from the artist and his Brazilian lover who served as a model for its life size female nude figure.

The gas lamp she holds aloft slightly evokes an Olympic torch, but I must admit my eyes focused more elsewhere ... on the waterfall.

Yeah, that's it. I focused on the waterfall. See it there to the right of the gas lamp? Of course that's where most eyes naturally wander while gazing upon Duchamp's work.

Since the journey to the museum I've been kicking myself for sleeping in at the hotel and booking an afternoon versus evening flight home -- could have used several more hours on site.

I also regret missing the two Diego Rivera works in the Grand Stair Hall, but these creations, another O'Keeffe (and a Howard Finster) not on display, and the entire second floor of the museum -- as well as the other nearby museum buildings (including the Rodin Museum) -- give multiple reasons for a return to Philly soon.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Atlanta In 50 Objects Includes Five Olympic Rings

As the world awaits the start to Rio 2016, many Atlanta locals are wondering how their city may commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Centennial Olympic Games.

Those inclined to reminisce about the glory days of '96 may do so at the Atlanta History Center, home of the Centennial Olympic Games Museum, which I wrote up on this blog about a year ago.

This time last year I also mentioned the Atlanta History Center's call for public suggestions to inform a now open temporary exhibition titled "Atlanta In 50 Objects." A recent three-day weekend afforded time for a peek at the final 50, and here's what I found.

Venue organizers describe "Atlanta In 50 Objects" with the following introduction:

The exhibition is filled with prized Atlanta-rooted treasures -- from Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech manuscript to Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck and a 1915 Coca-Cola bottle mold to a touchable cast of Willie B's handprints -- as well as plenty of surprises."

While it did not surprise me an Atlanta Olympic Torch made it into the exhibition (several folks like me suggested a representation of the Games), there were plenty of nice surprises -- including more items with five-ringed connections -- throughout "Atlanta In 50 Objects."

The most prominent Games keepsake, as I mentioned, is a torch on view with a poster-sized photograph of Muhammad Ali as the final torchbearer of the 1996 relay. 

It surprised and delighted me this Olympic feature is displayed beside one of Hank Aaron's home run bats for a fun "sports corner" in the exhibition (the Braves also appear elsewhere as a World Series ring is on view).

Now that composer and American treasure John Williams just earned his 50th Academy Award nomination, it was super cool to find a signed copy of the trumpet players' music sheets for "Summon the Heroes" personalized from Williams to Billy Payne. 

I also enjoyed finding a rare Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) golden ticket presentation box displayed as another Centennial Games Keepsake. These were presented to the leadership of key sponsors of the Atlanta Games during the Opening Ceremony, and many of the few sets made remain in the private collections of the executives who received them.

(Sidebar: I've been trying to sell an identical, rare brass Olympic ticket presentation box on Ebay for a friend since last spring ... bids are welcome and encouraged for those who wish to own a museum quality piece of Olympic history!).

I loved seeing models of downtown Atlanta showcasing local architect hero John Portman -- several of his buildings were used by ACOG and the International Olympic Committee or national Olympic committees before and during Atlanta's Games.

Time Man of the Year and CNN/TBS founder Ted Turner also got a space among the 50 objects, which span the 1800's to modern times. 

Kids may love spotting one of the Chick-fil-A cows or the "Pink Pig" ride while readers may enjoy the first edition of "Gone With The Wind" (reportedly the most successful book in publishing history behind only the Bible). 

"Atlanta In 50 Objects" is on view through July 10.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver


Monday, January 25, 2016

One Brandywine, Many Wyeths

In mid-January, on a business trip to Pennsylvania, I tacked on an extra day or two for museum exploration around Philadelphia.

What a treat it was to visit the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pa., home to an extensive collection of paintings by N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, additional Wyeth family painters and other artists.

With thanks to the museum P.R. department for a media ticket, I was treated to views of several dozen N.C. Wyeth canvases known since childhood via the pages of adventure books "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped" or "Robin Hood."

Though renovations are underway this winter, their permanent collection items on view were impressive, starting with a large room dedicated to the most senior Wyeth, N.C.

The third floor gallery features several of the artist's earliest work including his breakthrough commissions and follow up material that vividly captured literature enjoyed by millions. Over here, pirates! Over there, shipwrecks! Around each corner seemed a new yet familiar surprise awaiting discovery.

Many of these large, colorful illustrations remind me of the Dallas-based artist Bart Forbes -- a painter and illustrator known for his Olympic art commissions and paintings created for the U.S. Postal Service (my introduction to Forbes, when I was a teenager, included comparing his sports portraits to some of Wyeth's illustrations and paintings of literary characters).

One canvas that was new to my eyes was N.C. Wyeth's "Death of Edwin" with a young man drawing his last breath atop some hay. This jumped off the canvas for me as it reminded me of a favorite painting by Andrew, one of N.C.'s sons.

My expectations were elevated for the next gallery, which is dedicated to Andrew, an artist who I met briefly while working with with the P.R. account team for the High Museum of Art expansion.

The museum's new-in-2005 galleries in a Renzo Piano-designed building were filled with Wyeths, creating one of my all-time favorite exhibitions. Upon arrival at Brandywine, I was curious which of the Atlanta exhibition works would be on view.

It made me very happy to spot Andrew's work titled "Spring" featuring a hillside covered with dead, damp grass and just two remaining patches of snow, with one pile of powder sporting the likeness of "Old Man Winter" gazing skyward.

Having just seen "Death of Edwin" in the previous gallery, for the first time I noticed Andrew's possible homage to his father's illustration via the melting snowman (my guess is this comparison is commonly drawn but it was new to me).

I also enjoyed learning about the people and location depicted in the large Andrew Wyeth canvas titled "Snow Hill" featuring a May Pole-like structure and several adults enjoying winter play.

My best guess was the men and women included the artist's siblings, but this thinking was quickly corrected by a helpful staff member who explained the dancers instead include the artist's models and one "blank space" perhaps as a placeholder for Andrew's other source of inspiration, his father.

The hilltop setting is only steps from the current Brandywine site.

Gallery three included a handful of works by Jamie Wyeth -- the third generation of American painters -- and works by other Wyeths including Andrew's sisters.

The museum also presented a temporary exhibition titled "Natural Selections: Andrew Wyeth Plant Studies" -- my favorite in this room was the sycamore-inspired "Summer Freshet Study" which reminded me of spring in my parents' backyard in Edmond, Okla., where they planted four sycamores that are now enormous (for this writer, Wyeth is the best sycamore painter anywhere).

The Brandywine staff shared that the 2005 partnership with the High is getting recharged later this year as the museums are teaming up for a new exhibition titled "Rural Modern: American Art Beyond The City" on view initially at the Brandywine from Oct. 29 to Jan. 22, 2017 (the dates for the High exhibition remain "to be announced").

I hope to return to Chadds Ford during the spring or summer when the Brandywine offers tours of both N.C. and Andrew's studios and several other indoor and outdoor experiences.

When visitors find themselves near the Brandywine campus, I recommend a stop at the nearby eatery Hank's Place just across the highway. This place is hopping with great food and conversation (Andrew Wyeth himself dined there, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer).

Images include items from the Brandywine River Museum website and/or photos in the museum by Nicholas Wolaver. Image of "Spring" by Andrew Wyeth via this site


Top U.S. Skaters Now Bound for Boston

TV sports coverage brought some exciting moments this weekend.

In addition to learning the Super Bowl 50 teams (Denver and Charlotte), the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships took place in St. Paul, Minn., bringing back memories of skating in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and a trek to the Nationals in Greenville, S.C., a year ago.

Though I was not in the building for the 2016 event, the U.S. Figure Skating P.R. team on site helped answer some emailed questions for the top women on skates: Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Ashley Wagner, who finished Saturday with scores of 210.46, 207.51 and 197.88, respectively. 

Gold's gold medal score set a new record in domestic figure skating scoring at a U.S. Figure Skating qualifying competition, according to this press release

All three women, as well as men's medalists Max Aaron, Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon will soon head to the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships from March 28 to April 3 in Boston. 

Pairs skaters and ice dance teams from Team USA will also head to Beantown. 

A slightly different field of Team USA athletes will also compete in Chinese Taipei next month. 

I wanted to know the skaters' preparations for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in relation to the National Championship results. Knowing it was a long shot my questions would reach the women's competitors, I kept things brief and looked to the future, asking "With focus turning to Boston prep, how are you and your coaching team keeping the Korea 2018 Olympic in mind?" and "Is your trek to the next Olympics on schedule, behind schedule or ahead of schedule and how/why?" 

With thanks again to the P.R. team from U.S. Figure Skating for facilitating the questions, Wagner spoke to the Olympic topic.

"My training this year has been so astronomically different than in years past and I have shown up to every single competition so physically prepared for what I need to do," said Wagner. "I think that now we need to reassess a little bit to work on the mental training.

"This year I have committed myself to really attacking everything and so this Nationals -- while it might not be, you know, a gold in the books, at the same time everything that happened was not because I was holding back; I really was attacking everything -- so going into Worlds, hopefully leading up to Korea, it's more about continuing this mindset."

When asked about the pace of her "schedule" for PyeongChang prep, Wagner said, "I think I'm right where I want to be. I would love to be on the top leaving this Nationals but [being] three-time National champion stills holds some weight and goes to show I have staying power."

One surprise from the 2016 event in St. Paul: last year's men's champion, Jason Brown, unfortunately withdrew due to a back injury. It is my understanding the petitioned for a spot on the ISU Worlds and other international competitions, but he was not listed -- even as an alternate -- when the official selections were announced today. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Brown. 

Event logos via U.S. Figure Skating; Gold photo via Associated Press; Wagner photo via St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Guest Column: J. Brian Carberry’s 20:16 in Texas

My good friend and fellow International Society of Olympic Historians member J. Brian Carberry recently trekked to the capitol of Texas from his home near Bossier City, La. What follows is an "Austin Postcard" guest column Carberry wrote about the experience.

Though his colleagues and friends don't typically think of Brian as a "clock watcher," readers will see and appreciate that Carberry kept an eye on his timepiece during these experiences. Enjoy!

GUEST COLUMN: J. Brian Carberry's 20:16 in Austin, Texas

The Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend dates of Jan. 16-17, 2016, in Austin offered a unique opportunity for viewing an Olympic-caliber sporting event, exploring local ties to Olympic history, taking in a commemorative statue of a local Blues legend, and learning about one of Brazil’s most beloved sportsmen and athlete ambassadors via a world-class exhibit.

With 2016 upon us, and the Rio Olympics on the horizon (along with my family being out of town on school and family business), a driving journey to Austin from Shreveport, La., offered the perfect getaway to set the Olympic/Brazilian mood for the year.  

My 20 hours and 16 minutes (20:16) in the Texas capitol -- built around attending the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin (a FINA-approved competition for athletes to log qualifying times for Rio) -- accomplished this goal.

Departing at noon on Jan. 16, I arrived in Austin at 5:30 p.m. after a pleasant drive through eastern Texas’ pinewood-laden geography.   

Following a rapid check-in at the Courtyard Marriott (Official Partner of USA Swimming), I quickly navigated my way to the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the main campus of the University of Texas where the finals session of Day 2 of the Arena Pro Swim Series commenced at 6 p.m.

With 10 minutes to spare, I paused to take in the Olympians Plaza right outside the venue (modeled after the 1972 Munich Olympic pool, according to this page on the UT website), which features a fenced-in tree with a band of round medallions inscribed with the name of every UT swimmer or diver who competed in the Olympics. The name, discipline, and (where appropriate) medals won, are denoted. 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Illinois native and current oldest living U.S Olympic gold medalist Adolph Kiefer (USA) attended and swam at the University of Texas in the wake of his inspiring gold medal-winning swim (at age 17) during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in the 100-meters backstroke.

Given Kiefer’s Jewish heritage, it was a nice reminder of the overall climate at the ’36 Games, and an affirmative testament for the MLK Jr. Holiday.  

The final medallions denoted Kathleen Hersey (USA), who is a two-time Olympian through 2012 in the women’s 200-meter butterfly and James Feigen (USA), who won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics in the men’s 4 x 100-meters relay and whom I would see swim later that evening.  A long and rich Olympic swimming and diving tradition indeed!

After viewing the plaza and medallions, I made my way into the venue and to my seat with moments to spare before the first “A” final of the night in the women’s 400-meters individual medley. 

As veteran Olympic attendees know, you travel the swiftest when alone and focused on your destination. My fast-tracked entry was also assisted by the lack of multiple layers of security to process through prior to entering, and no line at on-site ticketing where $15 afforded me the equivalent of an Olympic “A” level vantage point for the evening session.

In year four of their exclusive sponsorship with USA Swimming, aquatic gear manufacturer Arena’s logo was ubiquitously presented at the venue with a full array of branded training and casual wear products available for purchase.

Eight finals were on the slate for the evening, and the performances did not disappoint. Over 35 Olympic medalists from around the world were on the program to swim, along with many noted up-and-comers set to make an impression as they worked to make their first Olympic team this year.  

Some swimmers at this meet were clearly in the process of rounding into shape or focusing on rarely swam distances/events as part of their training towards a peak in Brazil later this year.  

Others were there to serve notice as world class times were swam over the course of the night.

For the women’s 400 IM final, a notably partisan section of the crowd was on hand waving Hungarian flags as the 2015 World Champion and Olympic hopeful in this event, Katinka Hooszu (HUN), pulled away in 4:37.50 to win a final that included Olympic IM medalists Caitlyn Leverentz (USA) finishing sixth and Elizabeth Biesel (USA) seventh.

AP Photo/Stephen Spillman
Next up was what would turn out to be arguably the marquee performance of the evening as Olympic veteran Ryan Lochte (USA) took to the pool against a final field that included two other Olympic gold medalists, though in different disciplines.  

Backstroke Olympian Tyler Clary (USA) would finish fourth and long distance freestyle specialist Oussama Mellouli (TUN) would take eighth as Lochte, who at 31 was eight-plus years older than the average age of the field, set a UT Pool record of 4:12.66 in winning the event outright by 1.98 seconds over second place finisher Chase Kalisz (USA).

Not to be outdone, the women’s 200-meters freestyle final featured three Olympic gold medalists from the 2012 London Olympic Games. Missy Franklin (USA) came in third in her first of two finals for the evening, while her 2012 4 x 200 teammate Shannon Vreeland (USA) took eighth.  

Neither were a match for 2012 women’s 800-meters gold medalist and 2015 World Champion in this event, teenager Katie Ledecky (USA), who won in 1:54.43 to record the all-time sixth-fastest time in the event, beating out Sarah Sjostrom (SWE). This time by Ledecky was also a UT pool record.

AP Photo/Stephen Spillman
The men’s 200-meters freestyle final brought the crowd to its feet as Olympic legend Michael Phelps (USA) stepped to the blocks. Also in the field was Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Stravius (FRA); a perennial member of the French Olympic men’s relay teams that rival Phelps and others in the USA men’s relay units.  

On this night, Stravius prevailed in a time of 1:47.56. Phelps finished fourth behind Townley Haas (USA) and Jordan Pothain (FRA), foreshadowing the 2016 Olympic men’s freestyle relays should be as competitive as ever.

The women’s 200-meters backstroke final included the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Franklin and the 2015 World Championship bronze medalist Hosszu both contesting their second final of the evening.  Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist in this event, was also in the field.  Perhaps due to fatigue from the attempt to double, Hosszu, with the aforementioned Hungarian crowd contingency rooting her on was beat at the touch by .34 seconds by up and comer Maya DiRado (USA).  Franklin was third and Coventry was sixth.

The men’s 200-meters backstroke final included 2012 Men’s 100-meters backstroke and men’s medley relay Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers (USA) stepping up to the longer distance. With 2012 Olympic gold and bronze medalists (Clary and Lochte, respectively) absent from the field after the men’s 400 IM earlier in the evening, the event was a showcase for aspiring Olympians.  

Ryan Murphy (USA) who swam on the 2015 World Championship men’s 4 x100 medley relay gold medal team won easily in 1:55.99 with Grevers finishing fourth.

The penultimate final of the evening was the women’s 50-meters freestyle. Winner Sjostrom in a time of 24.17 and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace (BAH), who placed third, were semi-finalist and finalist, respectively, in this event at the 2012 Olympic Games, indicating a strong progression. 

Olympians Natalie Coughlin (USA), Dana Vollmer (USA) and Theresa Alshammer (SWE) swept the B Final in that order. The former two Olympic gold medalists were moving down in distance for this tune up, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics silver medalist in this event, Alshammer, is still going strong at the age of 38 after a sixth place finish at the 2012 Olympics.

The last Final event was the men’s 50-meters freestyle, which included 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meters freestyle, Nathan Adrian (USA), who finished first in 21.85. Olympic silver medalist and UT alumnus Jimmy Feigen (USA) finished third and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the event Cullen Jones (USA) finished sixth.  The 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medalist in this event, Anthony Ervin (USA) recorded the 10th fastest time of the night with a third place finish in the B Final.

After the competition, Arena provided an autograph and photo area with their sponsored athletes including 2015 World Championships silver medalist Connor Jaeger (USA), and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Breeja Larson (USA).

Hosszu, Cullen Jones (USA), and Rowdy Gaines (USA), who was there as media, all made time to mingle with the crowd outside of the venue.

Jones was born on Leap Year Day in 1984 so good luck and birthday wishes for the Olympiad year were offered as I secured an autograph before returning to my hotel to watch the last half of the NFL Divisional Round playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. Folks interested in the upcoming Arena Pro Swim Series events in Orlando, Charlotte, Indianapolis and other cities will find ticket information via this link

The next morning, I grabbed a hearty breakfast at the International House of Pancakes (a nod to the weekend’s global theme), and headed to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Downtown Paddock to take in the Hall of Fame Collection of memorabilia documenting and commemorating the career of Brazilian F1 legend Ayrton Senna (BRA).

The exhibit, which is described as having been “meticulously gathered over a period of 20 years by private collectors Howard Jacobs and Darren Jack,” consists of photo authenticated race worn clothing, steering wheels, autographed pieces, and original F1 car parts. 

The exhibit does an excellent job of documenting and including an array of items from each phase of Senna’s F1 career with an array of impressive items, many of which are signed by the late Senna. 

Of note is the inclusion of items from periods at the beginning and end of his career when he served very short stints with the teams of Toleman and Williams. 

The exhibit showcases some very interesting and appropriate items without overwhelming the viewer with clutter.

In an 11 year career in motor racing’s highest echelon, Senna won 41 Grand Prixs and three Driver Championships before his tragic death at the Imola Raceway in San Marino on May 1, 1994. In death, Senna remains a national hero in Brazil as I had learned more about in a preparatory viewing of the 2010 film Senna that documents his life.

A frequently used freeway in Rio de Janeiro, Avenida Ayrton Senna, has been named in his honor and many Olympic visitors this year will find themselves traveling this thoroughfare. Fans might also enjoy a listen to the CD A Tribute to Ayrton Senna: A Music Documentary, which features a collection of affirmational songs from noted artists including Queen, Tina Turner, Pink Floyd, Phil Collins, Enya, and others interspersed with recorded statements by Senna himself, and notable audio race calls from key moments in his career.  (The exhibit continues through March 2016, and it is advised to call ahead at 512-655-6400 to confirm dates and times.)

My final stop before departing Austin was a visit the commemorative statue of Texas native and
Blues guitarist extraordinaire Stevie Ray Vaughn. 

Unveiled in 1993 and installed along the Riverside Drive’s Bike Trail, the statue was executed by Ralph Helmick, and on this day small roses had been placed upon his sculpted hands by prior visitors.

Vaughn’s Blues guitar, which I first heard on MTV in 1984 while watching the video to his hit song Cold Shot, was distinctive and electrifying even among other guitar greats.

I was thankful for the morning walk along the bike trail, and the time to reflect on the musical genius of another legend whose time on Earth was short but made a global impact.

With the clock approaching 1:20 p.m., and with a long drive ahead of me, I pulled onto the northbound on ramp to I-35, and as I exited the Southern metropolis I noted it was 1:46 p.m., and my 20:16 in Austin had come to an end to the minute.


It was a weekend to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to a great Olympic year in Brazil and beyond.

Non-AP photos by J. Brian Carberry; image of UT Olympians Plaza via fd2s; Greetings from Austin vintage postcard via this blog.

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