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African American Quilts and a bit of Broadway in Wisconsin - Trip Report

We're just back from a weekend getaway that included a visit to Ten Chimneys, the Lunt-Fontanne estate outside Milwaukee, and the "Quilts of Gees Bend" exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Both were eagerly anticipated events and both FAR fulfilled our already-high expectations.

For those too young to remember, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne ruled Broadway for a couple of decades, with dozens and dozens of starring roles under the belts - and a NYC theater named for them. Lunt was a Wisconsin native and his home in Genessee Depot, about 40 minutes outside Milwaukee, was the couple's summer retreat for years and years, during which time they hosted such luminaries as Helen Hayes, Noel Coward, Alexander Woolcott and Katharine Hepburn.

The home has just undergone and exhaustive restoration and opened to the public this past spring. It is superb! It's a thrill to walk through the rooms once brightened by the brightest of Broadway and Hollywood talent, rooms that reflect the personalities of the owners at every turn. The estate, set on 60 lush and rolling acres at the edge of the Kettle Moraine, is stunning and the 2-hour tour includes the entire home, the studio - a reassembled vintage Swedish barn - where they'd brainstorm, create and rehearse - and a delightful guest cottage.

The welcome center is filled with photos, and other treats and deserves an hour or more browsing on its own. (The tour is 2 hours). Only bad news: They will close for the season in a few weeks, but I can't recommend strongly enough that you make plans to visit in 2004! http://www.tenchimneys.org/tours.html

Then, after a great Priceline ($39) nite at the Sheraton Milwaukee (Brookfield) (and a surprisingly good and very rea$onably priced dinner at the hotel restuarant), it was on to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the spectacular Gees Bend exhibit.

This came to Milwaukee, I believe, direct from its acclaimed New York debut at the Whitney. The spark and spunk, the native and naive creativity that shines through these quilts is a testament to the human spirit and the quest for expression. (And be sure to take time to take in the video that shows in the exhibit space featuring interviews with some of the remarkable quilters.)

Details at http://www.mam.org/

or google "Gees Bend" for more information about these outstanding pieces of Americana.

(There is a separate admission fee for the quilt exhibit and I hate to admit I'm the sort of person who sometimes doesn't go to these things because of that. But in this case....it was oh, so worth it!!)

A good visit with friends and a visual feast on many levels was capped off with an excellent lunch at Coquette (delightful bistro-style restaurant) in Milwaukee's Third Ward...as good as it always is!

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