"It was a cultural weekend," I heard one friend comment. Indeed, central Illinois is privileged to host two extraordinary exhibits this winter. They’re still on display and definitely worth experiencing. But those two were certainly not all that was scheduled this winter: Broadway theater; opera; symphony; Corn Stock, Bradley, and Peoria Players productions; Contemporary Art Center…every weekend could be a "cultural weekend."

The Marsha Glazer exhibit, one of the top 100 private collections in the world, is at the Peoria Art Guild. The descriptions I heard were "amazing, spectacular, fascinating, colorful…wow…I can better appreciate art after reading the artists’ synopsis of the piece and/or listening to a guided tour."

We were privileged to have Lakeview Museum Executive Director Jim Richerson narrate the Chihuly exhibit for us one Sunday afternoon. The only word to describe the blown glass is "awesome." After learning about the materials used, the method, and comparing the drawings with the glass sculpture, I was indeed awestruck by the artistic detail.

While viewing the Glazer exhibit, my husband and I began a conversation with a physician friend standing close by. One of the pieces included the actual shoe leather from an old shoe. Our conversation evolved into how, subconsciously, we’re reminded of another event, picture, experience, etc., through a memory trigger. The shoe leather reminded my husband of the millions of shoes on display at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Touring the museum a few years ago, we began to discuss how we could actually smell the leather before we had turned the corner to see the piles of shoes. Having watched many videos of World War II, read many books about the atrocities inflicted on Jews by the Nazis, we were unprepared for the shock of seeing the shoes. Our physician friend explained to us the physiological reasons regarding why and how the human brain works to trigger those memories.

As we walked around the museum and gallery, reading the artists’ descriptions and studying the works of art, we each were thinking different thoughts. My "lightbulb" moment was the realization that even if I can’t relate to the artist’s intention-or even found the creation a particular favorite-it spurred conversation. It challenged my thinking and my appreciation for other art venues. That’s what it’s all about! That’s why we need to experience diverse forms of art, be it visual, theatrical, or musical. We feel alive, we are humbled, we are challenged, and we are open.

Ah, art appreciation. Experience something new today! AA!