Friday, October 1, 2010

Oct. Art Show at the Gopalan

So today is the First Friday of the month, which means that the shops downtown will be open late, and the restaurants will have specials, and the art galleries and museums will be having openings.  The Swope Art Museum, for example, has a talk/presentation on the Samara House by Frank Lloyd Wright called "Wright around the House." The Halcyon Gallery is opening the works of Andrew McAleese & Anna Lee Chalos-McAleese, and Andrew Maurer.  But the one that I'm going to review today is the opening for the Gopalan Contemporary Art Gallery.  I went early, so that I could type up a post, before you all go out for the evening to enjoy the many delights of a Friday evening.  October's show at the Gopalan has two halves, the paintings and constructions of Stephanie Doty in one room, and a bunch of fiber art by Cathie Laska, Zann Carter, and John Salamone in the other.

Now I can't say much about Doty's work one way or the other.  I quite liked a piece of hers called Glacial Bay, and the piece shown in the top half of the image above was pretty cool, but a lot of it just missed my tastes, and I was there more for the fiber arts anyway.  You see Cathie and Zann are friends of mine, and my wife assures me that I've met John Salamone (ah now that I've found some web images of him, I do know him), but I just haven't seen much of their fiber art before.  And it did impress.  John Salamone had a lot of careful, restrained craft pieces.  Hand woven scarves in many patterns.  Much like the alpaca scarves woven at the White Violet Center, but with far more vibrant colors and patterns, clearly emphasizing color over texture.  Then there is Cathie Laska's work.  Perhaps the most striking were the "fleece paintings," impressionistic images of landscapes or still lifes, or even abstracts, rendered with tufts of colored fleece behind glass rather than with oil paints or weavings.  She had a nice woven piece too, but you can't have it (my wife is driving to buy it for our house while I'm typing).  Actually since we were there shortly after open on the first day of the show, a few issues of labeling and placing were being finalized and I'm not certain who did the fabulous coat in the window.  Then we get to Zann Carter's work.  Airy, chaotic and bizarre.  Light-hearted romps at the edges of plausibility.  There were shawls woven to look like colorful patchworks or tatters even though they were whole and undamaged.  Woven hats with mysterious and playful extrusions.  Magic charms and wands.  Sometimes the lines between yarn and fleece would be intentionally obscured.  In several cases, Zann's fiber art would be displayed together with poetry by Zann (you may recall she is one of the founding poets for the 3rd Thursday Poetry Asylum which I reviewed), as with the following piece, where the shawl and the poem are both entitled "Mangoes for Breakfast by the Startling Bougainvillea" .
I said before that I'll have to tell the story of Sujata Gopalan, tornadoes, and my son one of these days. Certainly her gallery, and the whole idea of an "art corridor" of several galleries and museums near each other trying to co-ordinate events, is a treasure for our community.  And we do have an awful lot of creative fiber arts types hanging about Terre Haute.  When I started this blog, I figured food would be by far the main thing I talked about, I certainly did not guess that fiber arts would be my second most common topic.  So these great local fiber artists, and the gallery that sponsors them, and even the painter in the next room, branching over into mixed media are

Just a few more reasons I'm proud of Terre Haute 

Moggers Restaurant and Pub

Moggers has been a Terre Haute tradition in a beery way for ... , well historical records get sketchy, you can make a case for 1855, and you can make a case for 1837, or 1848.  At any rate, Mogger's is an extremely long-standing local tradition, an old brewery that was 7th largest in the nation in 1893, shut down for prohibition, re-opened, shut down again in 1958, became a local brewpub in 1989, and is now just a pub.  These days Moggers is a classic American pub, a place to eat, drink beer, and on some occasions listen to live music.  Now you might be thinking, "American" - "Pub," isn't there a contradiction in there somewhere?  The more usual 20th century American eating/drinking establishment is the "Bar & Grill," which Terre Haute has several examples of, including my favorite 7th and Elm (which is in fact a Bar & Grille, with an "e").  Pub is short for "public house," often called a "local" or "regular" (even in the old US) a place where locals gathered to drink and socialize.  They were common in pre-industrial Britain, but also in the pre-industrial US.  As travel rates rose, some drinking establishments started catering to travelers, often in hotels or railway stations, or near them.  These started using long "bars" to serve alcohol from, to cope with the sudden rush of patronage when a train was about to arrive or depart, and these establishments became known as "bars" and tended to aim for an ambiance of upper-middle class modernity.  The "bar" format became so popular, that eventually even local drinking establishments not catering to travelers started having bars and calling themselves bars.  The British Isles are old enough to have plenty of drinking establishments from before the days of "bars" which still call themselves pubs, and (even though most have a bar) work to conjure the ambiance of long tradition, as well as the ambiance of cozy friendliness.  In the US, it is usually an affectation to older days or to UK ways to call a place a pub.  Sonka's Irish Pub and Cafe, another fine Terre Haute drinking establishment, is a "pub" not because it is old, but because it is trying to be Irish in style.  But, Mogger's isn't trying to be Irish, or Scottish or English.  It is trying to harken back to the days when Terre Haute was a center of brewing, of great beer, a time when everyday American's drank their beer with their friends and neighbors in a local establishment they called a pub (although Moggers too, does have a bar).

OK, enough history lesson, how is Mogger's today?  Well, its got good traditional pub food, and a selection of beers clearly aimed at beer-nerds.  Mogger's sells a dozen or so beers on tap, and probably over 100 more in bottles.  They almost certainly have a larger selection of beer than any liquor store in town.  If you're not already a beer-nerd, you can try a sampler flight of small doses of 5 different beers for a pretty reasonable amount, I've done that before.  Or just start working on whichever beers they have on tap that you haven't tried yet.  They have an MBA program ("Master of Beer Appreciation") for those who wish to increase their beer-education, and are pretty aggressive about training their staff on beers.  On my most recent trip to Mogger's I ordered an on-tap beer, but it was out, so I ordered something that was on "blow-out" sale, which was out, so I ordered a local beer, Clay Co. Coffee Stout, by the Bee Creek brewery in Brazil, IN.  It was nice, a bright, crisp stout, rather than a thick oatmealy stout, almost a porter really.  And then there is the food.  Mogger's food prices are a bit higher than some of their local competitors, but the quality is quite good.  They had a yummy mixed veggie side for Robyn (as in clearly put together competently rather than just re-heated out of a bag), and my french fries were much better than I expect for a restaurant, in line with good home-made fries.  We had a good Italian Beef, and Mogger's own variation on a Burger Melt, both fine.  When I last saw a band there, a guy at my table ordered the potato skins and got tons of well-made loaded potato skins.  Very much American pub standards rather than being particularly innovative, or achingly local, but high quality and well made.  Then there is the ambiance, which really needs to be divided into two sections, the inside and the outside.  The inside is a very old brewery redone as a pub.  Old but well-restored wood furniture.  The whole place emphasizes open space, old wood, and architectural eccentricities.  It might as well have a sign saying "a local tradition" as that is clearly the effect it is going for, but I like it, relaxed but dignified.  The patio is another story, open to the air, but fenced in, with some trees and trellising.  I've only ever been there when there was a band playing and the ambiance was very much, "let us bring you beers and munchies while you listen to this awesome band, oh and get up and dance if you want."  In fact, I'm still hoping for a guest review of a recent band gig at Mogger's patio that I didn't get to see (cough, cough), and another guest post from someone else involving the history of Terre Haute breweries (cough, cough).  Because of the weird legalities of Indiana, you can have kids present if it is outside.  I've never tried to bring my own, but when I've been on the patio there have been a few kids and they weren't intrusive, if anything they added to the vibe.

Every town with any kind of local spirit at all needs a good place for locals to eat, drink, and socialize, relax, and blow off steam, somewhere than can claim to be "a local tradition."  Many towns, especially college towns can claim several such places.  For Terre Haute, Moggers is clearly such a place, channelling the best of the spirit of our past, while living resolutely in the present.  Moggers is

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Postcards of Terre Haute

Bonus Side Post - (Not your regularly scheduled post)

A few weeks back there was a discussion of the seeming lack of postcards of Terre Haute, and I promised to investigate.  Then I didn't really quite get around to it.

Well today I did.  I went to many places around Terre Haute looking for postcards of Terre Haute, and I met more success than anticipated.  The Swope Art Gallery has quite a few postcards of art in their gallery.  Clabber Girl, had a few postcards in their giftshop, several of historical images of old Terre Haute, but one with contemporary pictures of Clabber Girl's office, and the Swope Art Gallery.  The Deb's Museum had 4 or 5 different postcards, mostly of images from within the museum, but one of the front of the Museum itself and the curator claimed they have boxes of copies of the postcards in back.  But there were no postcards of ISU at the ISU bookstore, or other places on campus.  When I asked the Children't Museum about postcards, the worker said, "no, we don't have any, but we should, I'll pass that suggestion up the chain of command."

But I still hadn't found anything like a "Terre Haute" postcard, something about the city, rather than simply about a destination within it.  So I decided to check out the "Terre Haute Convention & Visitor's Bureau" which I had never seen before.  Turns out it is a fairly new facility (just over a year old) on Margaret just a little off of highway 46.  It's a weird hybrid, not really part of the city, county, or state government, funded by the hotel room tax, and operated as a semi-autonomous governmental agency.  It had a wall full of free brochures, hundreds of different one's from all over.  There were Terre Haute attractions, like Clabber Girl, or Terre Haute Living magazine, but there were also brochures from other parts of Indiana, in some cases, quite far away in Indiana too, there were several for Fort Wayne attractions, for example.  Finding, no postcards, I decided to ask the two workers there just to be sure.  Yup they had many copies of one postcard, but it isn't free, it's 50cents.  And it is clearly a "Terre Haute" Postcard.  It is long (requires a regular stamp, not a postcard stamp), with 13 images on front:  a cross-country tack meet, the new ISU rec center pool, the Crossroads of America plaque, the downtown Hilton, the Corner Grind, Clabber Girl, the Swope gallery (when it had the Horse scuplture in front), the lobby of the Indiana Theatre, the ISU fountain, the Church at St. Mary's, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the Indy car in the Clabber Girl museum, a Rose-Hulman football game (??!, was that the best Rose-Hulman image they could find?), and a high school basketball game.  The workers there said they got the postcards only about a month ago, so it is possible they had none when the previous poster claimed they had none.  Likewise, the postcard has clearly been designed pretty recently, having several images that can't be more than 2 or 3 years old.

There is still room, I suspect, for a few more good Terre Haute postcards, something of the City Hall, or cranes in the Wabashiki, or the Erhmann statue, or of ISU images, say.  But after digging a bit, I'm just not as worried about Terre Haute having a critical and embarrassing lack of postcards as I had been a few weeks ago.  Although, as with many issues, you have to dig more here than in many places to find the stuff.  Likewise, I'll bet many other local attractions could have brochures to give away at the massive brochure wall at the Visitor's center, so they wouldn't have to fill it with stuff from as far away in Indiana.  For example, Lookout Farms had a brochure, but no other farm at the Terre Haute Farmer's Market had a brochure there. 

The Shape of Us

"The Shape of Us" is an art exhibit at the ISU University Art Gallery (at the Center for Performing and Fine Arts, on the corner of 7th Str and Chestnut.)  It runs for Sept 23rd to Oct 15th.  It is a collection of (mostly) photographs from the Kinsey Institute Art Collections.  Almost all of the images are nudes, with a few partially clothed images.  The exhibit shows human bodies of many, many kinds.  Some images are male, some female, some combine aspects of each.  There are very large people, anorexic people, beautiful people, ugly people, unremarkable people, old people, disabled people.  Some images are artistic, some are clinically scientific, some are clearly eroticized, some are bland.  There are even political nudes.  The exhibition is a sort of traveling photo-essay of the wide, wide range of what counts as normal for human body shapes, for human erotic lives.  Several of the images swirl in my brain still.  Laurel Lea, an armless black lady slinkily dressed giving the camera a wry smirk, while writing in a book with her feet and a quill pen.  Heather, an extremely over-weight lady, nude and on her back, but radiantly happy.  A photo of 6-7 "swingers" of mixed genders and bodies, mostly undressed, but settling down to a fancy meal with wine and nice china.  A photo of 5 men with gynocomastia, fully dressed and looking very normal, then the same men in only breechcloths, clearly showing their extremely female looking breasts.

J. D. Talasek, 2000, Untitled

The Kinsey Institute is one of the genuine treasures of Indiana.  It is reputedly the second largest collection of pornography in the world (after the Vatican).  But the Kinsey Institute has a long history of looking at, thinking about, and researching human sexuality through a wide variety of lenses; scientific, biological, health, art, policy, etc.  Famous sex-researcher John Money, coined the term sexosophy, for looking at human sexuality in a holistic way rather than just say through the very narrow lenses of medical practice, or biological research, pornographic photography, or legislative law-crafting.  And this exhibit is straining to be more than just art or pornography, but sexosophy.  

The Kinsey Institute used to be a very, hmm, user-unfriendly facility.   I had to go there once when I was a philosophy grad student.  I was researching everything having to do with the great scholar of ancient Buddhist, Edward Conze.  I actually found at least one text, buried in the library and falling apart, that had been claimed as "lost" in his official bibliography, although it didn't have much of interest for my project in it.  But IU also claimed that Edward Conze had a text in the Kinsey Library, so I figured I needed to go see it.  It was difficult to get in, but as a grad student they were at least willing to let me talk to one of the workers at the Institute.  (I've talked to two people who didn't even make it that far because they were undergrads at the time).  I was told that I would need signed letters from my dissertation advisor and my department chair if I wanted to examine the "document" they had.  I said that it was probably irrelevant to me, I just wanted to cross it off my research list.  After quite a bit of haggling, I got the to agree to have one of their staff view the "document" and answer a few questions about it verbally before I bothered my chair and advisor for permission.  The staffer said it was a single page cartoon of an explicit nature, and that no it did not seem to have any relevance to Edward Conze's research on ancient Buddhism.  Within the last few years, the attitude of the Kinsey Institute has changed from this, protective defensiveness, to more of a reaching out to the public.  One of my contacts says that this began a few years before the movie "Kinsey" was made, but it has certainly continued.

But the story of the Kinsey Institute coming to ISU's campus has more personal connections for me.  I have a friend, David, who is an ex-professor of ISU.  He left ISU a few years ago as part of a settlement concerning a dispute over his academic research into the sex-lives of disabled people.  He introduced the (then) gallery director of the University Art Gallery to the curators of the Kinsey Institute, and hoped it would lead to something like this.  David, who is an extremely kind and loving guy who has been hurt professionally for working on controversial topics, but with quiet courage keeps doing it anyway, describes the exhibit as "a mini-dream come true."  He says "Now, two years later, on a campus where I experienced a few too many people ignorant and/or blatantly fearful of academic exploration of human sexuality, the presence of this exhibit is perhaps a glimmer of hope..."

I agree.  It is easy to find images of unrealistic sexuality.  It is easy to find suggestions of sexuality used to sell products.  It is easy to find examples of rare body types being sculpted into nearly impossible extremes and then refined further by a host of skillful lighters, make-up artists, and extensive digital post-production to clean up remaining imperfections, to create an entirely unreal and artificial sexual package of desire.  What Baudrillard calls the hyper-real.  A level of being so artificial that the real seems shabby and second rate next to it.  There can be no doubt that hyper-real body images are a major contributing factor to anorexia, and other dysfunctional relationships with our bodies and body images.  Yet what can we do against these hyper-real poisons?  The only viable solution is a concerted cultural effort to re-value real human sexuality.  And here in the "Shape of Us"  we see artists, and scientists, medical folk, photographers, pornographers, librarians, academics, and students, each doing their part to create a paean in images to the real "Shape of Us."  And here, surprisingly enough, the university administrators are willing to allow this to happen.  Many hands, of many different kinds work in many ways to make something like this possible, and take many kinds of risks.  David isn't in the Wabash anymore, because his work was a little too edgy, but folk have decided to risk it anyway and allow this exhibit to occur.   That makes me both hopeful and proud.  So "The Shape of Us" is ...

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute.

P.S.Doug Kornfeld did a small related art installation entitled "Who Are You?" in the restrooms outside of the exhibit.  An actual art installation in a bathroom, and not as a joke.  After viewing the men's room, I hovered outside of the women's restroom for a few moments wondering if I had the courage to barge in and claim I was there to view the art, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it ...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gerhardt's Bierstube

I lived in Bloomington for 8 years for grad school.  Back then all Terre Haute was to me, was the place you turned from I70 to 46.  The first time I ever actually visited Terre Haute other than to travel through it, was for a friend's birthday.  He had requested that a group of us make a pilgrimage to an awesome German restaurant in Terre Haute.  He and his partner had clearly been there before although neither had ever lived in Terre Haute.  We drove an hour just to get there.  I'd never had German food before, but I was blown away.  We all had feasts, but everyone ordered different things and we all shared.  I remember feeling that I was not large enough to cope with the huge amounts of excellent food we got and shared (I was the thinnest person in our group).  Our meal was called the German Feast, and by sharing we had many meats, tons of sides, and then dessert, oh and of course imported beer to go with it.  And the fried sauerkraut balls.  I normally skip appetizers at fancy restaurants, so I'll have room for dessert, but I make an exception for Gerhardt's sauerkraut balls.  They are definitely one of the hidden gems of Terre Haute.


So to get to Gerhardt's you travel north on Lafayette until you come to the cute little German building that looks like it was airlifted from Bavaria.  That's not it, that's the German-American Oberlander's club.  Keep going until you get to the SECOND cute little German building that looks like it was airlifted from Bavaria.  THAT'S Gerhardt's.

We've been back several times since, although we are certainly not regulars.  The couple that first took me there are now my son's fairy godparents, and we take them to Gerhardt's when they  manage to get to visit us here in town.  I'm a little hesitant to review the food more specifically because I'm just not that familiar with German cuisine.  What I remember are the meats, the sides, dessert, and of course the sauerkraut balls, which I'll just be mysterious about.  I've had many different meat dishes there: a sauerbraten (sorta a vinegar and spice pot roast), a sausage platter with lots of different German sausages (including blood sausage which I have only ever had from Gerhardt's), several different schnitzels (breaded meat cutlets with various sauces or accompaniments), a nice thick hamy pork chop (kassler rippchen).  My favorite is the rouladen - a beef and bacon presentation.   These are served with many sides too, spatzle a kind of German noodle, fried potatoes, potato salad, red cabbage, applesauce, fried apples, etc.  Oh and a good delicate apple streusel for dessert.  Now that we live in Terre Haute we can (and always do) take home the leftovers, because my experience is that the portions are big here, but I don't want to waste any of the yummy food.

Gerhardt's has been in operation for 33 years, but this year they finally stopped serving lunch because of falling demand.  I get a lot of very energetic "moving-forward" vibes from many segments of Terre Haute, but the German community is one of the few that I get "winding-down" and "holding-on" vibes from.  Everything I've heard makes me think that Terre Haute has had a rich German-American heritage.  We still have a fairly active German-American community.  But it is getting older, and the younger generations are more American and less German.  Oh you can still hear German spoken aloud at the Terre Haute Farmer's Market, but it's by the Amish, rather than by other immigrants or their descendants.  There was a German-American booth at the Street Fair a few years ago selling excellent homemade German food, but I heard them talk about how hard it was for them to staff the booth and whether they'd be able to do in in future years.  The "Oktoberfests" keep getting pushed earlier and earlier into September and are frankly kinda disappointing.  But we still have an active German-American club - "the Terre Haute German Oberlander Club" - and we still have a top-notch German restaurant, er "Bierstube" (Beer Hall) - well a Beer Hall that serves a lot of traditional German food restaurant-style.  And, I for one, and very grateful to Gerhardt's for introducing me to German cuisine.  Gerhardt's is ...

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Square Donuts

Well, our baby chicks arrived at the post office early this morning, and we got a call at oh 4 or 5AM telling us to come pick them up.  So Robyn rolls out of bed and I say muzzily, hey I've been meaning to review Square Donuts ...  And it WORKED!  So for breakfast this morning we taught our kids the rules for the chicks, washed our hands, and had Square Donuts!

OK we didn't have THAT many....

Square Donuts is a Terre Haute tradition.  It began as Tasty Creme Donuts in the 1950s (1956?), founded by Eva Monkhouse.  In the 60s her grandson Rick Comer, had the idea of making square donuts, and her son Richard Comer, who was running the shop at the time decided to give it a try.  Square donuts were a success and before long the shop had changed its name to Square Donuts.  Square Donuts have been a Terre Haute staple for decades now, and are now on the third generation, Rick Comer is now the manager.  They have 2 locations left in Terre Haute, Fort Harrison Road, and Wabash Avenue, both only open until 11:30 AM.  They used to also have a South Third Str location,  open later, but it closed.  Since 2006 they have expanded to two locations in Bloomington IN as well.

Donuts so fabulous Bloomington copies us!
The Square Donuts are, in fact, about what you would expect.  Light, sweet, greasy, guilty yumminess. They are closer in flavor to Krispy Kremes than to Dunkins or grocery store donuts, (they are creme-style donuts not cake-style donuts) but you can taste the difference between them and Krispy Kremes even without looking at the shape.  They are pretty light even for a creme-style donut.  They pack a whollop on the calorie front, and no mistake, so they are more of the occasional treat than the daily habit for our family.  I try to assuage the guilt of the guilty pleasure by mumbling of "it's local, it's local."  Ooh look I dripped icing on my keyboard. Tee-hee. The classic is probably the most popular, but we had various jelly-filled ones too this morning.

Square Donuts is a place that people remember fondly even after leaving Terre Haute.  I have heard stories of ex-Terre Hautians stopping by for a nostalgia fix when they are going through town for some reason.  It's also somewhat popular with people who have never lived in Terre Haute.  My sister-in-law loves 'em.  Truckers will pick them up on their way through town.  Famously, Indy racers often send flunkies to fetch them.  I've heard stories of boxes of Square Donuts being "smuggled" onto a plane to Florida.  Apparently, Keith Olbermann plugged them on MSNBC once, but I haven't been able to find exactly when.  Rick Comer claimed in a Tribstar article that even though he has lots of regulars, that he hasn't had a single day in his almost 14 years working there where he hasn't seen a new face.  Before D Square Donuts in Auburn, Al (darn copy cats), opened up a few years ago, Square Donuts was the only place in the US making square donuts.  So even though Square Donuts is old enough to be a tradition, it is still also pretty innovative.  Square Donuts is

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deming Park

I'm not really much of an expert on Parks and Recreations departments, so I can't really tell if ours is just fine or way above average.  I can say that the town I lived in before Terre Haute had almost nothing for Parks and Recreation, and we greatly missed it.  When we can to Terre Haute and lived again in a place with a functional, competent (maybe even outstanding) Parks and Rec department it was a great relief.  In addition to being overall functional and competent, there are some real gems among the Terre Haute parks.  Today I want to talk a little bit about Deming Park.

Now Deming Park isn't really very close to our home, but we go there a fair bit anyway, and for many different reasons.  Sometimes we go for the shelterhouses, of which there are many, and in good repair.  Sometimes we go for the Disc-golf.  Deming Park has a great 18-hole disc golf course, and Terre Haute has a far community of disc-golfers.  I was never particularly into disc-golf before moving to Terre Haute and a few years ago I entered the novice division of a tournament as a total lark, but enjoyed it.  I've actually found out since that several other of my friends play occasionally and have gotten to play with my wife, my kids, and sometimes my buddies.  I find disc-golf to be more relaxed, and vastly less expensive than ball-golf, I suppose that also makes it lower class.  I can't hold a candle to the folk that are serious about it, but I'll take a canvas bag, a few discs, a water bottle, and have a great afternoon.  If the kids get kinda fried while "playing" along with us, maybe we'll only do 9 holes.  The course is set up so that most baskets can be moved to a couple different locations, so the course even changes a little periodically.  Deming has tennis, a pool, and a little duck pond, but we've never messed with those.

Our family has had good luck with special events at Deming Park too.  In the winter, they do a Christmas Decoration event, that we always go to.  A dozen or so local community organizations, each decorate one shelter house.  One of the things I always enjoy about this is the real sense of involvement from many segments of the community.  We've seen a two theatre presentations, that I can remember at the stage at Deming, both free, both excellent.  Deming park has a Holly Arboretum 

But the real center piece of Deming Park, for our family, is the Oakley Playground. 

Our friends the, Martlands, told us that when they first got to Terre Haute they found Deming Park to be disappointing, and all torn up, only to discover that in fact it was finishing up an major upgrade, and a few months later a brand-new awesome playground opened up.  And Oakley playground is awesome.  It is big, open, well designed.  Many children can play at once, and indeed it's busy pretty much all summer.  Our previous town had only one real park and it was dominated by a single large, but very poorly designed playground.  The kids sorta liked it, but it was a constant frustration for all parents, because it was so hard to keep track of where your kids were in it.  Oakley has lots of things to do, but it also has clean lines of sight, and two main areas one designed for slightly older kids one for slightly younger ones.  Oakley playground also has a real sense of public sculpture.  The main arch is really pretty much a sculpture itself.  There is a small bronze of a child playing.  At the moment there is one of the enamel horses from the temporary sculpture project a few years ago, too.

Upon a little research, Oakley Playground turns out to be even cooler than I realized.  It won the 2005 INASLA Merit Award for Constructed Projects.  What does that mean, (uhm, looking a few things up on Google, yes, ah here it is).  INASLA is the INdiana chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the professional organization for landscape architects.  (Oh it got an IPRA award in 2004 too, that's uhm .. International Public Relations Association, no wait, uhm more likely Indiana Parks and Recreation Association)  One of the main reasons for the upgrade to the new playground, and one of the reasons Oakley won, is because of a desire to make a place where severely physically handicapped children could "interact with other children in a barrier-free play environment."  And there are a lot of design elements making this playground particularly accessible.  It uses poured-in-place resilient rubber surfacing rather than dirt, gravel or mulch, making the whole area wheelchair accessible, but still fairly safe to fall on.  It has 2 circular swings, which are usable by the physically handicapped kids, but also very popular with non-handicapped kids.  (Alex gave up waiting in line for one last time we were there...).

Another cool thing right near the playground is the "Spirit of Terre Haute" a little miniature kiddie train.  It only runs during the high season, and it costs a buck for a ride, but both of our kids enjoy the heck out of it.  Given the theme of this blog, I'm love a good picture of the Spirit of Terre Haute, if anyone has one to share.

So for many reasons, from community decorations, to a place that "paves the way for all to play," to a great free golf course, (well disc golf), to a kiddy ride giving physical embodiment to the Spirit of Terre Haute, Deming Park is ...

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute