This was my first full day in Chicago. I’m here with my sister, after spending a week hanging out in her hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. That was nice, too, but less eventful.
We went to the Shedd Aquarium, which is huge! Amazon, Caribbean, coral reefs, local lake life, and rivers and lake section. And a brand-new auditorium/whale area, featuring a show called Fantasea, which is a narrative about a group of sea spirits that take a young girl on an adventure to meet a sea lion, beluga whales, penguins, a red-tailed hawk, and dolphins.
Fantasea was so terrible, it made me sad. I understand that some people will tune out a straight lecture on sea life, but this is going all the way in the other direction of all flash and no content. We waste so much time waiting for the sea sprites to finish making sweeping arm gestures when we could, for example, be learning the NAMES OF THE ANIMALS. Which we never do. Who were those belugas? What are they like in the wild, and what are these individuals like in person? We never learn. They are depersonalized and made into props. The music is so loud that I’m worried for the nervous little penguins, who eventually have to be hauled offstage one by one. At one point, one of the penguins is left there, in front of the audience, without supervision– or protection. It’s horrible.
I would say, overall, the Shedd is a very beautiful facility, but they really need to step up on their interpretation. They have these computer touch screens to identify the fish, but you need to click onto several screens before you’ve seen them all, and then click through again to find out any information about them, which turns out to be very thin. Disappointing.
After that, I walked off my heavy heart and ended up at Millennium Park, which is a public art park. There’s also a very nice garden in it, plus a Frank Gehry-designed amphitheatre. But the focus is Cloud Gate, AKA The Bean. It’s a big, shiny piece, and people are drawn to it like magnets. They walk up to it, touch it, take photos of themselves. It reflects also the city behind it, and the park on the other side. It’s exactly what public art is supposed to do: attract visitors, provide a focal point for the city and showcase the city, and allow people to engage with it on a personal level. It’s such a simple thing, but I could stay there for hours.
I’ll post photos once I get home. But The Bean and the other artworks really cheered me up.