Day: February 8, 2020

Cedar Rapids art museum celebrates 125th birthday

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — From two oil paintings acquired in 1906, community visionaries have grown the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art from a club into an accredited institution with a $1 million annual budget and about 7,800 art works, including the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood creations.

The museum’s 125-year evolution from the art club’s founding in 1895 is being celebrated all year, beginning this weekend with the opening of a massive touring exhibition of Impressionistic art from the Reading (Pa.) Public Museum. “Across the Atlantic: American Impressionism through the French Lens” will be on view through April 26, along with a local companion exhibit, “Ooh La La: French Works from the Riley Collection,” displayed through April 12.

Both showcase the style of art that was sweeping from France to the United States when the seeds for the museum were planted.

Inspired by art shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Cedar Rapids community leaders formed an art club in 1895, according to The Gazette. Ten years later, they took the first step in a move that has come full circle. That’s when they were offered gallery space on the second floor of the city’s then-new Carnegie Library at 410 Third Ave. SE­ — home to today’s Museum of Art.

With the move, club members incorporated as the Cedar Rapids Art Association and soon began exhibiting works. Local artists joined the cause — including Grant Wood and Marvin Cone — arranging lectures, exhibitions and special events. With growth came change.

In the early 1960s, the Art Association moved into the four-story Torch Press Building at the corner of Third Street and Fourth Avenue SE. The name changed to the Cedar Rapids Art Center, and there it stayed until 1989, when the organization moved back into the renovated and expanded footprint incorporating the Carnegie library, while adding 16 galleries in an adjacent new wing.

Over the years, the community continued to add to the museum’s collection, eventually amassing 289 pieces by Wood; more than 230 works given by the late, pioneering University of Iowa printmaker Mauricio Lasansky in 1986; and 21 Roman portrait busts and other antiquities collected by Nan Riley and her late husband, lawyer Tom Riley, donated in 1996.

“This museum, which is one of the premiere smaller museums in the country, reflects this community in many different ways … and it’s for this community that we do all of our exhibitions,” said Sean Ulmer, executive director since 2014. He estimates 90 to 95 per cent of the museum’s art collection has been donated by area residents.

“The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is somewhat unique in that it has a close relationship to area, regional and Iowa artists,” Ulmer said. “Many art museums tend to forget about their local artistic community. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, because of its close association with artists like Grant Wood and Marvin Cone, has the local artists in its DNA.”

It’s a priceless relationship for working artists like Stan Wiederspan of Cedar Rapids. Now 81, he left a teaching position at then-Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant to become director of the Cedar Rapids Art Center from 1973 to 1978. He spent 25 years operating an art gallery on Mount Vernon Road SE before closing in 2016.

He knows firsthand the importance of the museum’s role in acquiring and exhibiting works by local artists.

“It’s just monumental,” he said. “I’ve been very, very fortunate as an artist living in Cedar Rapids. I’ve not only had the pleasure of doing a number of very large public art projects, but the art museum has treated me extremely nicely.”

Bill Stamats, 59, of Cedar Rapids, another exhibiting artist and an 18-year museum board member, has family ties reaching back to the museum’s early years at the Carnegie building, through his grandparents, Isabel and Herbert S. Stamats. Friends of Grant Wood, they commissioned him to paint “Overmantel Decoration” in 1930, depicting their home on Linden Drive SE. He also painted a portrait of their toddler daughter, Sally Stamats Hedges, in her high chair in 1927. Both pieces are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“My father (Peter O. Stamats) was instrumental in moving the Art Center into being the Art Museum — along with Henry Royer and Forbes Olberg,” Stamats said. He also has a couple of his own pieces in the museum’s permanent collection, and has had works on view there, most recently in the summer show “Into the Blue,” a juried exhibition showcasing pieces created by Iowa artists in the past three years.

Having such a museum here “is great,” he said. “It’s important for the art scene or the art culture we have, and quite frankly, we have very good artists in our part of the world. Because we’re not in New York or Basel, Switzerland, we don’t get the recognition, but we’ve got really good artists — as good as what I’m seeing elsewhere.”

“The museum becomes that cornerstone for the art community in terms of what’s important, and certainly for the visual arts,” he said. “With ‘Into the Blue,’ we’re seeing the ability for artists to have a piece in a museum and having that museum connection, and that resonates for artists. It’s important for them — they want to be in shows like that.”

Diego Lasansky, 25, of Iowa City, is the third generation to be involved with the museum, beginning with his late grandfather, Mauricio, whose work is on display in four permanent galleries, and Diego’s father, Phillip Lasansky, a longtime museum board member who died Jan. 18.

“Having three generations of Lasansky artists represented at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is incredibly meaningful to our whole family,” Lasansky said, adding that the museum has felt like a second home to him.

While still a student at the University of Iowa, his work garnered local, national and international attention and in 2016, the museum gave him his first solo exhibition.

About 35,000 people walk through the museum’s doors and galleries each year, Ulmer said. Staff members are hoping to break the 40,000 mark with the anticipated popularity of the Impressionist exhibition. Other anniversary exhibits include “125 Masterworks from the Collection” during the summer of free admission, followed in the fall by “Grant Wood Revealed,” featuring works not often put on display.

But art isn’t just on the museum’s walls. Activities are planned for all ages, reflecting the museum’s mission to “excite, engage and educate through the arts,” Ulmer noted. Pajama story times, family fun days, exhibit receptions, self-guided or docent-led tours, scavenger hunts for kids and school field trips offer ways for the public to have very personal brushes with art.

One of Education Director Erin Thomas’ favourite activities is having creative writing classes come into the gallery, choose a piece of art and write a story or poem about the piece. “That’s so much fun,” she said.

She also encourages student groups to bring sketchbooks and pencils and draw what they find interesting after touring the galleries.

“I’m always looking for that ‘aha moment’ in somebody’s eyes, where they make a connection to what our exhibitions are, what our collection has,” she said. “But it also brings in people who may not otherwise visit an art museum.”

All of these experiences foster return trips to see the ever-changing exhibitions, as well as cultivate future generations of people who appreciate art and unlock their own potential to enjoy making it, Ulmer and Thomas said.During his tenure as the museum’s executive director from 2000 to 2013, Terry Pitts, 69, of Cedar Rapids, is especially proud of helping to grow the museum’s then-$1 million endowment.

“That was insufficient, and the museum was struggling to make budget,” he said. “Endowments are important to the long-term sustainability of museums” since the funds provide financial support in perpetuity. He set the goal at $10 million; Ulmer said the endowment now stands at about $8 million.

Pitts also was at the helm when the Linge family gifted the Grant Wood Studio to the museum, and when the museum borrowed “American Gothic” from the Art Institute of Chicago to anchor the 2005 landmark “Grant Wood at 5 Turner Alley” exhibition that drew 100,000 visitors.

He also ushered the museum through the 2008 flood, where staff and volunteers were able to move all but a few sculptures to upper floors, out of harm’s way from a sewage backup in the basement. The lower-level storage facility was replaced afterward.

More period-correct renovations are planned at the Grant Wood Studio and the staff is striving to create “bigger, bolder, more audacious exhibitions” and expand educational programming.

And to embrace the digital age, the museum is implementing Guide by Cell to help visitors navigate exhibitions and hear descriptions as they walk through the galleries at their own pace. Ulmer realizes that with the internet, people don’t even have to leave home to see great works of art, but nothing can replicate the experience of standing in a museum, face to face with fine art.

“Seeing the Mona Lisa on a device is not the same as seeing the Mona Lisa in person,” Ulmer said. “And while digital platforms offer all kinds of opportunities for people who are never going to get to Paris to see the Mona Lisa … there is no substitute for seeing the actual work of art in person. … There are just some things that the digital platforms don’t capture. They capture the surface of things, but they don’t capture oftentimes the mood, and they certainly don’t capture the experience of standing in front of a work of art.”

Diana Nollen, The Associated Press

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Top Brazilian soccer club struggles to get past deadly fire

RIO DE JANEIRO — When Marília de Barros Silva heard reports that the widely popular Brazilian soccer club Flamengo was signing a player for almost 17 million euros ($18.6 million), she felt sadness — but also resentment.

For a year, she has been trying in vain to reach a settlement with the Rio de Janeiro club after her teenage son Arthur Vinicius died in a fire that engulfed his dormitory at the team’s academy for young players.

De Barros Silva says she was incredulous over the amount being paid for the team’s new star. She says it dwarfs the amount that she and the public defender’s office had been trying to get Flamengo to pay in compensation for the loss of her son, a promising defender who had played for Brazil’s under-17 team.

Saturday is one year since the fire killed 10 of Flamengo’s academy players, all between 14 and 16 years old. It was “the worst tragedy” in the team’s 124-year history, club president Rodolfo Landim has repeatedly said since.

Against that grim backdrop, Flamengo turned in one of its best seasons in decades. The team won the Rio state championship, its first Brazilian national league championship since 2009 and the prestigious Copa Libertadores in a nail-biting final against Argentina’s River Plate. Flamengo hadn’t won the South American crown for 38 years.

But while its 2019 success helped the club sign several million-dollar deals for players, it has reached compensation agreements with just four of the 10 victims’ families. Negotiations with the others seem stalled as the police investigation into possible homicide charges concluded Friday.

In a country where one of every five Brazilians is a Flamengo fan, de Barros Silva and other parents wonder when justice, and peace, will come.

“It’s Flamengo’s insensitivity, of turning that page,” she said at her humble home in Rio de Janeiro state.

She and other parents were emotionally destroyed by the club’s lack of empathy, she said. Some didn’t even receive a phone call from top executives.

“One person came to my house to bring me a Flamengo T-shirt, gave me (Arthur’s) passport and the Flamengo flag, but didn’t even know Arthur’s name,” she recalled.

Documents that emerged shortly after the fire showed that for years the club had flouted city regulations at the training facility, accumulated fines and was targeted by state prosecutors who questioned the treatment given to academy players and the container-like structure in which they were housed. Lawyers for the academy players’ families and fire experts have said that the polyurethane used in the construction of the temporary dorms could have fueled the fast-moving blaze.

Flamengo executives say the conditions at the academy have been improved since the tragedy. The club also stresses that it has been making a court-ordered monthly payment of 10,000 reais ($2,300) to families.

“Flamengo is an immeasurable force. We feel like ants fighting giants,” Mariju Maciel, a lawyer representing the family of one of the victims, said Friday during a hearing at Rio’s state legislature.

In 2019, Flamengo saw gross revenues soar to 857 million reais ($200 million) — the most a Brazilian club has earned in a single year — thanks to sponsors and TV rights. It is also making big money with its players — recent transfers of strikers Vinicius Júnior and Reinier to Spain’s Real Madrid reportedly brought the club some 75 million euros ($82 million).

Such sums allowed the most popular club in Brazil to spend big on obtaining new players.

Just days ago, the club reportedly agreed to pay Inter Milan nearly 17 million euros to sign top scorer Gabriel Barbosa, known as Gabigol, who came last year on a loan. Flamengo’s most expensive signing in 2019 was Uruguayan midfielder Giorgian de Arrascaeta, who cost nearly 20 million euros (nearly $22 million).

The team’s windfall has, paradoxically, subjected victims’ families to accusations of opportunism. Some Flamengo fans have claimed the families are using the tragedy to try to cash in, staining the image of their beloved team in the process.

Flamengo, too, has been targeted. On at least three occasions, fans of rival clubs have shouted things such as “murderous team” during games. The latest incident, during a match in Rio’s historic Maracana stadium last month, triggered an investigation by Rio’s sports court.

On Thursday, police investigating the Flamengo fire sent their conclusions — in 13 volumes — to the state prosecutors’ office for review. Prosecutors will evaluate whether to bring charges for homicide or manslaughter, local media reported.

Flamengo’s president, Rodolfo Landim, says the club’s financial success and compensations for the victims’ families shouldn’t be conflated.

“These are two entirely distinct processes. One has to do with the damage that we caused to the families, and the other is the economic result of the club,” Landim said in a Sunday interview that was organized by the club and released on its own YouTube channel.

Landim was joined by one of Flamengo’s vice-presidents, Rodrigo Dunshee, who said he believed the amount they offered families was satisfactory. “We have a limit,” he added.

At the state legislature, where Flamengo CEO Reinaldo Belotti appeared before with lawmakers only after they threatened him with a “bench warrant,” lawyers for victims’ families insisted they hadn’t managed to sit down with the club since rejecting their compensation offer months ago.

Lawyers said Friday that the parents haven’t sued the club because they don’t have access to the police investigation.

As Flamengo looks for another sterling season, the relatives are waiting impatiently for prosecutors to conclude their review of the investigation, and they are learning to live with their loss.

De Barros Silva misses her son most in the evenings, when she usually found time to speak with him by phone.

“My gaze goes directly to my watch at 8:50 p.m. — the time I used to catch up with him,” she said. “Interesting that, a mother’s heart.”


Associated Press videographers Lucas Dumphreys and Diarlei Rodrigues contributed to this report.

Diane Jeantet And Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press

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How Love Languages Can Help Your Kid Express Affection

If you consciously show your kid different ways you love them, they'll be able to express what thye've learned to others. 

When Dr. Natasha Sharma cuddles her two sons, they know that she’s expressing her love. But, what about when she asks them to brush their teeth? 

“At the end of the night, sometimes I don’t want to get up and make sure they’re brushing,” the parenting expert told HuffPost Canada. “But we do that because we love them.” 

The implied love in everything parents do can get lost in the daily shuffle. Grown-ups and kids alike tend to assume everyone feels cared in the same ways they do, which can pose a problem ― affection from one could get lost in translation if the other party isn’t receptive.

It’s through feeling loved by their parents and watching how their parents love others that kids develop their relationship skills they learn to identify the different ways someone can make another feel loved. As Sharma puts it, expressing love is a monkey-see, monkey-do situation.  

This is where love languages can help. We tend to think of the five love languages ― physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, spending time together, and acts of service ― in romantic terms, but they’re just as applicable to our family relationships. They’re helpful tools for parents who want their kids to know that showing someone you love them is just as fulfilling as feeling loved, and can be done in many ways. 

Here’s how you can teach your kids to express love by modelling different love languages, and by guiding them on how they can do it themselves. 

Navigating cuddles respectfully

Cuddles, tickles, and hugs are obvious signs of affection: babies learn they’re loved through touch and is the first sensation they seek for comfort. Science shows that kids who get cuddles grow up happier.    

Sharma, the inventor of the Kindness Journal, said kids receive great benefits from being positively touched and held. 

Some kids adore physical touch and can’t help touching everyone they see. If this sounds familiar, you don’t want to discourage them; Family therapist Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio told Fatherly that parents should emphasize physical contact isn’t bad, doing it without permission is. 

“People are born innately understanding that positive physical affection is loving … most children crave that,” Sharma said, but she noted that it’s not everyone’s preference; some kids, like those on the autism spectrum, might not prefer certain types of touch. 

Head-pats from grandma could be fine for the touch-adverse, but a surprise hug from behind could be an uncomfortable experience for them.

How to model physical affection with kids: Using your words before action first is, ironically, a good start. When they’re old enough, it’s good to ask kids what level of touch is OK and from whom, as bear-hugs from immediate family could be more welcome than those from extended family.

This not only teaches them that personal bubbles should be respected, it encourages them to know no act of intimacy is mandatory. 

Teaching kids how to express it: With young kids, getting them to practice asking for permission shows courtesy for the other person. This can look like asking them to request a hug from a friend. Should they be rejected, encourage your kid to fall back on non-physical alternatives, like blowing a kiss or giving a thumbs-up.   

Saying “I love you” mindfully

Unlike with adult relationships, there’s no wrong time to tell kids you love them and vice versa. However, there can be wrong ways to say it. Parents should avoid using “I love you” as a manipulation tactic or as a reward to hear when a kid does well; this talk doesn’t model unconditional love for kids and can warp how they verbalize affection in orders. If it’s conditional, it’s not love, as HuffPost writer Sheryl Paul puts it.

That’s why Sharma said telling a kid they’re loved, even when you’re mad or disappointed, is necessary.

“It’s very important to follow up that conversation, that serious conversation of discipline or disciplinary action, with a loving statement,” she said.

How to model words of affection with kids: Communicating how we feel with others is a form of information-sharing and helps the speaker process how they feel too. Words cut to the chase and make clear what was once only implied. Parents who compliment each other, their kids, and others de-mystify themselves for their kids: hearing what their parents feel gives kids insight on how their parents feel, which they could only guess at before. 

But if one parent struggles with saying “I love you,” that’s not the end of the world. As Slate agony aunt Michelle Herman writes to a woman whose wife worried about her non-verbal husband, a kid can pick up on the different personalities adults have and take different lessons away from their world-views.  

“You are going to be the parent who demonstrates that emotions have names. Your husband will demonstrate that not everything has to be said in order to be conveyed,” Herman wrote. “And your child will learn that there are different ways to express yourself—not just different ways to show love, but also different ways to be.” 

Besides saying “I love you” to your kids often and with feeling, there are other phrases they’ll take to heart. “It makes me happy being with you” and “Seeing you puts a smile on my face” will get across how much you admire them just for being themselves. 

And sharing loving words doesn’t need to be done face-to-face. Kids will be tickled pink to read them on hand-written notes in their lunchboxes and spelled out on refrigerator magnets. These methods will make them feel special, even when you’re not there.

It’s also important that kids know that this can go two ways. The next time you leave a handwritten note in your kid’s lunch, include a pen and a notepaper so they can pay it forward. 

Teaching kids to express it: Sharma notes that boys and girls often get socialized to express love differently; girls have an easier time expressing love verbally than boys do. She said she’s made sure her sons, ages three and six, aren’t shamed when they articulate how they feel.

One way parents can consciously encourage verbal expressions of love is through meditative exercises with their kids.

Dr. Ashley Miller, co-author of What To Say To Kids When Nothing Seems To Work, is a big proponent of mindful parenting and loving-kindness meditation. This practice emphasizes saying caring mantras, which been proven to improve an individual’s ability to process their emotions. By consciously saying a mantra, a child learns love can be directed in all directions, including inward; self-affirmations can be just as rewarding to hear. 

“May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be strong,” Miller gives as an example of a common mantra that carries significant meaning. “You can teach kids to send good wishes to themselves, someone they’re thankful for, someone they feel neutral about, and someone they feel tension with.”

 Watch: more adults and children are practicing yoga. Story continues below.

Another excercise is the “compli-mat,” which kids can share with siblings and friends whenever they need a reminder of how many people cherish them. 

Acts of service shouldn’t feel like chores

Changing diapers, cooking dinners, and helping out around the house are typical acts of service, but speaking this love language takes more than cleaning up. What makes an act of service meaningful is its no-strings approach; The giver is motivated to make the recipient feel special, which teaches the giver that making someone they care for feel good can be its own reward.  

“A loving action is effort, and showing love is effort,” Sharma notes. 

How to model acts of affection with kids: Grand gestures aren’t necessary to show someone you care. The little favours you do for others, like watering someone’s plants, show you care about all the ordinary parts of their life. 

“You don’t need to move heaven and earth for a partner who has the acts of service love language, just put effort into your actions,” dating expert Demetrius Figueroa told Bustle. 

Chicago-based blogger Laura from Lalymom suggests parents engage in acts like fixing a broken toy or volunteering at their child’s school. 

Parents already put effort into everything they do to care for their kids, and yet kids may not appreciate all the things you do until later in life. This is where verbally pointing out what a loving action is would be useful, Sharma said. Pointing out when you do something out of love and vice versa will give them an idea of what motivates acts of service performed for and by them. 

“Dialoguing with kids early around why we do these things is really important,” she said.

Teaching kids to express it: Your child will see tangible effects of acts of kindness through work they see making a difference and that they enjoy performing, PBS recommends. Giving puppies baths at the local animal shelter or cleaning up your favourite park can combine satisfaction in a job well-done as well as time spent doing something fun. 

And while love shouldn’t feel like a chore, doing chores for other family members can be rewarding acts of service. If you encourage them to help out on a sibling’s task or take over for their dishwashing duties every once in a while, it’ll make acts of kindness feel less like assignments, and more like a surprise. 

As Sharma noted, parents should emphasize how “doing the loving” feels different than receiving love. After the family activity, parents can ask kids what they liked the most about it and how it made them feel.     

Gift-giving should be thoughtful

Who doesn’t like getting a present? Turns out, giving them is scientifically more pleasing. American researchers found that the joy felt when gift-giving is more satisfying in the long-run than getting a gift.   

How to model gifts of affection with kids: If you want to model generosity to your kids, give them gifts that are meaningful and personalized — they don’t need to be costly. Toys in their favourite colour and books about subjects they’ve expressed interest in can show that because you love them, you’re paying attention to their likes and dislikes. Gifts that are homemade can be just as valuable, too.

Need to buy a gift for someone? Bring kids along on your trip. Watching how you make your decisions while shopping and potentially having them present for the gift-giving moment can give them an insider look on the joy of generosity. 

Teaching kids to express it: Around gift-giving holidays like Christmas, kids spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to get. Reverse that mind-set by asking them to brainstorm gifts they can get for others. Get them to list potential gifts for loved ones and include why each gift would be enjoyed. This encourages them to reflect on the gift’s meaning, for both the giver and the receiver.  

Spending time together

Quality time may not have the immediate wow factor gift-giving does, but the best examples have lasting power. Many cherished childhood memories involve routines; a dad who sang lullabies to his kids every night or a weekly fishing trip with Mom will be remembered for a lifetime. 

Emphasis on quality; your kid will pick up if time spent with others is actually time spent on your phone. As child development researchers note, phone-distracted parents impair the cognitive growth of their kids. Kids aren’t able to communicate their needs when the person they’re talking to is absorbed with what’s in their hands. When they feel ignored, kids withdraw internally or act out to get the attention they crave.  

How to model quality time with kids: Carving out time with others, simply just to see them, sends an important message to your young ones.  

Sharma noted that being there for no other reason than enjoying someone’s company packs an expressive punch. Actions like waiting at the bus stop until someone’s ride arrives or joining someone’s grocery trip shows that someone’s presence alone is special. 

You can emphasize the importance of quality time with loved ones by scheduling it. Having a one-on-one routine with kids, as well as with other loved ones, makes the time spent doing mundane tasks feel much more extraordinary. 

Teaching kids to express it: Parents are often the initiators of quality time, as they’re usually the schedule managers. If you want your kids to express this love language, give them the opportunity to join in on their loved ones’ schedules. For example, should a sibling take dance classes, they can ask their sibling if they can come with them every so often. Instead of being the one to arrange weekly get-togethers to a grandparent, invite your kid to call their grandparents and find out when they can be visited.

Challenges are a fun way for the whole family to spend quality time together, too. No Guilt Mom recommends calendars like 30 Days of Quality Time, a month-long list of activities that families can enjoy.  

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