7/8/2019 0 Comments
A few years back when friends found out I was moving to Florida, specifically to the greater Jacksonville area, it was immediately suggested to me that I visit the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Finally, after a few years of living here, I made it there. With soooo many positive reviews online (it was actually very hard to find anything negative said AT ALL) and many recommendations from others to go for a visit, I can definitely see why people love and rave about the place.
It’s always quite an experience to visit an art museum. A visit to such a place can take you out of your familiarity and possibly your comfort zone as well, and place you inside so many varied and different hearts, minds, and personalities - simply by seeing and fully experiencing the immersion of art on canvas. Visiting an art museum can open up or awaken your soul to the variations of the human experience. I would definitely say there is a bit of magic going on there - but don’t forget you need to be open to receive that magic and let it come over you and let it change you.
You visit an art museum to see the art on the walls. So gazing at all the varied art on canvas and sculptures can go without saying here. See it. Do it. Immerse yourself in it. And see ALL the art, and take your time as well. What I really want to detail here today are some of the things at the Cummer that go beyond the art on canvas. Specifically: 3 major Wows I experienced while at the Cummer, plus a single piece of pure magic.
And as I mentioned above about art, I don’t see how going to an art museum, or any museum really, can be nothing but a positive, educational experience. But maybe I’m biased because I’m an artist and I paint on canvas every day of my life. So really it was hard for me to find anything about the Cummer I didn’t like. And I actually only found one single comment online even remotely negative about the Cummer, and that is that they need more seating - that they are very short on seating around the building. This commenter said they were an older individual and that walking around with hardly a place to stop and rest for a bit was too much for them. I’m 38, and by no means elderly, but I COULD NOT AGREE MORE with this review.
Why? Why? Why are there never enough seats in public places??? I LOVVVE me a good bench. There were a nice assortment and variety of seats and seating locations outside in the Gardens, but good luck finding a seat (and I mean a RELAXING seat) inside the building with all the art. Sure, there was the traditional chair and/or single bench in the center of an exhibit room, but that is by all accounts not a place for relaxation, or a place to chill for a bit. It’s simply a chair to sit in while contemplating the beauty of the art before you. But it’s not a place to grab a sip of water, take a few calls or texts, or post your latest Instagram shot. Plus, who wants to be selfish and hog the bench for a rest while so many other people are coming and going and may want to sit for a bit as well?
Really the only seating inside the museum itself where you could catch your breath was at the Cafe, which meant buying something to eat or drink in order to sit down. This was absolutely more than fine with me and the hubby because we planned this Cafe into our day and knew we wanted to eat lunch there to get the entire Cummer Museum experience. But there were definitely people who wanted to sit in the chairs of the cafe and not order anything. And with the quite obvious ‘PLEASE WAIT HERE TO BE SEATED’ sign as you approach the Cafe, it was clear we couldn’t just walk up to a chair and sit. So yes, there is a definite lack of seating at the Cummer. And really the only strange and awkward aspect of the entire museum was the location itself of the Cafe.
The Museum is set up as a series of exhibit rooms, with doors that open and close into a main hallway of the museum. This main hallway is what I would call the artery of the museum and is the main corridor for all traffic coming and going. This hallway takes you up and down the entire length of the museum and all exhibit entry and exits, plus restrooms and gift shop... however, this hallway is where the Cafe is as well. And I’m not saying the Cafe has an entrance off the main hallway - I’m telling you the Cafe is IN the hallway. Like, the Cafe is the hallway, and the hallway is the Cafe. It seemed like the Cafe was a complete and total afterthought to the Museum. Which was somewhat of a disappointment to me. As soon as I saw it I thought THIS is the Cafe?! I was expecting at least a tiny bit more from a museum that charges $10.00 a person to enter. There was no ambiance, no set mood or theme going on or even attempted to go for, and no decor whatsoever. The Cafe is literally tables and chairs set up inside this main hallway of the museum. So everyone coming and going (and going in and out of the main bathroom as well) has to pass by these chairs and the drink station. It was a bit of a bizarre set up.... but I’m telling you right now I would definitely go back. Which brings me to my first WOW of the day.
Wow #1 - The Cummer Cafe
This Cafe rocks! I know, I know, you’re saying what in the heck? She just mentioned how awkward and strange the Cafe is set up, and yes, all of that is so true. But the Cafe was also very, very enjoyable, and I absolutely loved my delicious and flavor-filled lunch. It’s so, so true that good food can make up for bad atmosphere. And while like I said, there was no real decor to the Cafe, there was a vase of fresh flowers on the table we were seated at. Adorable. I so love fresh flowers on a table, it brings immediate joy and delight into any day.
I sat down and ordered an iced tea. Well, when iced tea is served to me in a mason jar, I’ll be happy for the rest of the day. Add a delicious and delicately fruity taste to the cold, refreshing tea, and I declare it the best tea I ever drank in my life any day of the week and twice on Sunday. And this tea was just that and more. I ordered the breakfast quiche as my dish, which was served with a light and fresh seasonal greens with strawberry salad including a vinaigrette dressing on the side. Wow. I so thoroughly enjoyed my meal that I wanted the chef to come home with me and make this meal for me every day for lunch for the rest of my life. Hence the wow factor here. Loved the Cummer Cafe, yes, would go again.
After we ate and received the check, I overheard a woman at the next table order an iced latte. The server asked her if she would like whipped cream on top. She said yes. I love hearing people talk of coffees and creams. Well we were stuffed from the delicious lunch and passed on drinks and desserts. As we were paying our check the iced latte walked past us, and my jaw dropped. Wow, whipped cream will always do that for me. That drink looked so gosh darn amazing and refreshing, I know exactly what I’m ordering when I go back, no need to even give me a menu. Actually, I’m quite sure that whipped cream drink is going to haunt me in my dreams every night until I get it.
Wow #2 - The Gardens
There’s a reason it’s called The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. & Gardens was not an afterthought. The Gardens at the Cummer deserve their own Wow and you should include time during your visit there for sure. I thought ahead and tried to time my visit around the afternoon Florida summer thunderstorms, so we experienced the gardens before visiting the special Impressionism exhibit later into our afternoon. Walking out back of the main museum building to the Gardens grants you a breathtakingly scenic view of the St. Johns River. So with the flowing river water as a backdrop, and flowers, trees, quaint little pathways and vines, trellis’ and canopy’s and quaint seating, and let’s not forget ponds and fountains, the Gardens are certain to impress. I was right in my element walking around all the natural Floridian beauty before me, so many future scenes I dreamt of painting from that single experience. Visit this Garden... and soak all of it in to take home with you.
Wow #3 - The Live Oak
As you enter the Gardens outside, you cannot help but see the beauty and majesty of the Cummer Live Oak Tree. A miracle that Hurricane Irma didn’t take this tree, this Live Oak should require its own visit just to IT if you are visiting or live in Jacksonville. I’ve never seen a tree quite like it. It was a tree out of a fairy tale book. Spanning the top of the gardens and its various branches winding down to the lowest levels of the gardens reaching out toward the river bank, this tree definitely has a personality and life of its own. This tree owns the place. This tree is the boss.
I immediately thought of Disney’s classic film ‘Pollyanna’ when my eyes first gazed upon this Live Oak. Trees are and really can be gifts from God to this Earth. Breathing life into anyone who is willing to accept the gift. In the film, Pollyanna’s friend Jimmy Bean (played by Kevin Cochoran - otherwise known as Moochie if you are a classic Disney film fan), always wants to climb trees with Pollyanna, and she basically is like, now why would I ever want to do that?... not understanding the appeal). Well, Mocchie says, God put them there so I could climb them. Simple as that - matter of fact. I have always loved that part of the film for some reason and apply it to many aspects of my life. And while there are clearly represented signs everywhere at the Cummer Gardens informing you NOT to climb the tree, and rightfully so considering its age, history, and safety issues, if Moochie was around to see this tree today, I’m not sure if there would be anyone who could stop him from climbing it. After all, isn’t that why God put it there?
While the food, fun, and fabulousness of the Cummer was an ideal Saturday outing I highly recommend, and be sure to catch all of my three wow’s mentioned above, there was one more piece of magic both hubby and I didn’t expect but were blessed with.
1 Piece of Magic
As were were looking out at the beauty of the St. Johns River while standing at the edge of the Gardens and watching all the boats go by, I quickly saw a flicker off the water out of the corner of my eye. I focused my eyes on the area, not too far in front of me at all, and watched. Only about a second later I saw it again. A dolphin jumped right out and back into the water. He seemed to say hello to us watching him. I gasped, shocked, never, ever, ever sick nor tired of seeing a dolphin out on nature. I wondered to myself - why was he here? Right here. At the banks of the River. We watched and followed him with our eyes for a long time.... he seemed to be all alone in the water. Just him jumping to and fro.
We continued watching him swim farther and father from our sight, still jumping, until we couldn’t see him anymore. I hoped and prayed he wasn’t lonely, afraid, or injured - although he seemed just fine from my quick gaze. He was well on his merry way, exploring the Floridian waters, many adventures ahead of him. Something in the back of my head made me think he was there because God put him there. At that place at that moment in time. He was meant to be there, for reasons the heavens above and him alone to know his purpose in life. But because I’d like to think God put him there, I was able to say hello to him that hot summer day before he went on his way. ~
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