Archive For June 27, 2016
The Morse Museum — A Winter Park Winner!
Are you an admirer of Tiffany glass? I wasn’t, until I visited the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida. At the risk of offending long-time Tiffany glass aficionados, I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss over Tiffany lamps was about. I thought they were just okay, nothing special, and certainly not superb enough to warrant the kind of bucks required to purchase an original. In fact, I used to think the Tiffany connoisseurs were a bit crazy to dish out such colossal sums of money at those high-end auction houses — more money than brains is what I thought. But my attitude changed when Hubby and I spent some serious time at The Morse Museum during my birthday getaway to wonderful Winter Park.
“Judging art is no trouble at all. Everyone does it. Understanding art calls for time and thought. That is where the excitement and fun are.”
~Hugh F. McKean
World’s Most Comprehensive Collection of Works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933)
Although there are other galleries and exhibits at The Morse Museum, the majority of the building houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Since I wasn’t a Tiffany enthusiast, I had no idea his artistic talents were so vast. Whenever I heard the name “Tiffany” I automatically associated it with Tiffany lamps. But I learned there was so much more — including jewelry, pottery, enamels, paintings, mosaics, blown glass, and leaded-glass windows. In fact, Louis Tiffany was a painter, a decorator, an architect, a photographer, and a designer of furniture. In 1881 he was commissioned to decorate Mark Twain’s residence in Hartford, Connecticut. The following year he was commissioned by the 21st President of the United States, Chester Arthur, to decorate the Blue Room, East Room, a corridor, and the State Dining Room of the White House. His achievements were as broad as his success which extends across America, through Europe, and around the world.
The Morse Museum offers a short, but in-depth film which beautifully covers the life and art of Mr. Tiffany. It plays continuously, which enables visitors to enter and exit the theatre at any given time. I recommend watching the film before touring the galleries. That’s where I became educated regarding Tiffany’s accomplishments. Having that knowledge brought a huge appreciation for his works as I viewed the masterpieces on display.
The Morse includes works from every medium and type produced by Tiffany, and they’re nicely separated in many different rooms. Each room has a pamphlet specific to that gallery. Make sure to pick one up every step of the way. Not only does it include an Object Guide with information on each individual item in the room but also gives much history. By the time I completed my tour I had accumulated nearly 20 of them, which, when woven together, creates a wonderful biography of Mr. Tiffany. They’re a nice keepsake and souvenir. NO PHOTOGRAPHY of any type (camera, cell phone, video, etc.) is allowed in the Morse Museum, which is another good reason to take home the Object Guides, which contain small black & white photos of the most popular Tiffany works.
One of my favorite parts of the Morse Museum was the chapel. Mr. Tiffany originally created the chapel interior for an exhibit at the Chicago world’s fair in 1893. When the fair ended he reinstalled it at his New York City studios. After that, the chapel interior was installed in Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York. Eventually, the chapel fell in disrepair so Tiffany reacquired it, restored it, and moved it to his private residence on Long Island. And currently, it’s on display at the Morse Museum. All of the elements of the chapel exhibit are original, except two of the four benches. Amazing, considering it dates back to 1893! With the marble and glass-mosaic furnishings, four huge leaded-glass windows, sixteen glass-mosaic encrusted columns, and 10-foot by 8-foot chandelier, it was difficult keeping my camera concealed. More than any other part of the Museum, I really wanted a few photos of the chapel. It was soooo tempting to sneak a pic… but I obeyed the rules!
Since visitors are allowed to enter the chapel and sit on the benches, hubby and I did so. There was not only appreciation for the incredible talent on display, but everyone present had a deep reverence for the religious aspect. It was so quiet we could have heard a pin drop, and the atmosphere seemed to carry a Divine presence.
Laurelton Hall — Louis Tiffany’s Most Personal Design Project
In addition to galleries with Tiffany art glass, pottery, jewelry, and Tiffany lamps, a large section of the Morse Museum is dedicated to art and architectural objects from the most personal design project of Tiffany’s career — Laurelton Hall. About a half dozen rooms have been re-created to simulate the appearance and character of Tiffany’s private residence.
Laurelton Hall was a vast country estate located on 580 acres on Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. The mansion consisted of 84 rooms on 8 different levels. He also built other structures on the property including conservatories and stables, and 60 acres of gardens. Every aspect of the estate was designed by Mr. Tiffany, and he was the interior decorator as well. Many of his own creations shared space with objects he collected from his travels around the world. Upon his retirement in 1918, Laurelton Hall became a study center for young artists and a museum for his collections and personal works. Mr. Tiffany died in 1933 and by 1940 a lack of finances forced the Tiffany Foundation to move to New York City and sell his prized collections as well as Laurelton Hall estate. Tragically, a fire gutted the mansion in 1957.
The Florida Connection
As news of the fire spread, Jeannette McKean (founder of The Morse Museum) along with her husband, Hugh, travelled from Florida to Laurelton Hall and purchased whatever Tiffany art pieces survived on the estate. Jeannette had been a long-time collector of Tiffany’s work, and Hugh was an artist himself who studied at Laurelton Hall. Undoubtedly, they were two of Mr. Tiffany’s biggest fans. The husband and wife team had the items shipped back to Florida and became the overseers of a massive restoration project on the Tiffany pieces (including the previously mentioned Chapel). The film we watched chronicled the process which was nothing short of remarkable. Jeannette and Hugh used the help of former Tiffany employees, artists who studied at Laurelton, collectors, and scholars to painstakingly piece together the life and art of Louis Tiffany so that visitors like me can experience it at the Morse Museum. Their collections were built over a half-century. Jeannette founded the Winter Park Morse Museum in 1942 and named it after her grandfather, Charles Hosmer Morse.
The McKeans set up the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation to support the private Museum, and today it is able to operate without contributions of public funds. Trust me, the very modest admission fee of Adults $5/ Seniors $4/ Students $1 is well worth it. As an added bonus, Friday nights from 4-8pm are free from November through April! There’s always something special happening at The Morse Museum like “Holidays at the Morse,” “Spring at the Morse,” and “Summer at the Morse.” Each season you’ll find options like live music, curator tours, art demonstrations, lecture series, organized children’s events, or free films and matinees. Additionally, throughout the year, many of the Holidays have free admission. Visit their website at http://www.morsemuseum.org for hours of operation and more information.
The Daffodil Terrace
After leaving the Tiffany Chapel exhibit we headed for the Laurelton Hall section of the Museum. There was a small area aptly named “Introduction to Laurelton Hall,” followed by the Daffodil Terrace. Mr. Tiffany loved daffodils. In fact, it was his favorite flower. Not only did he cultivate and plant them in prominent locations throughout Laurelton Hall, he made his own versions in glass for windows and lamps.
Just like the original Daffodil Terrace at Mr. Tiffany’s Long Island Estate, the one at the Museum contained eight Carrara marble columns each with concrete capitals encrusted with cast-glass daffodils. In the center of the columns was a skylight made of iridescent glass in a pear tree motif (his Long Island residence had a real pear tree in a planter that poked through an opening in the skylight). The ceiling was painted cedar wood, (the original used stenciled cedar Mr. Tiffany acquired in North Africa), and more than one hundred molded tiles in geometric and floral motifs, perfectly replicated right down to the wood-grain patterns of the originals. The Daffodil Terrace has a small sitting area where Museum guests may rest and overlooks a beautiful courtyard. This is the only area in the entire Museum that allows photography.
The Daffodil Terrace leads to the entrance of Laurelton Hall, which contains an original Iron Gate, circa 1904. Here, we were able to view replicated rooms of Tiffany’s mansion including the Dining Room, Living Room, Reception Hall and Study, all containing many original works of art.
My visit to the Morse Museum was worth far more than the meager $5 admission fee. You can scurry through and be out in an hour, or, like me you can tarry and read the Gallery Guides as you go for a deeper appreciation of the life and art of an American Icon. The Staff/volunteers at the Museum were all friendly and beyond helpful. Most of the larger rooms had a dedicated Security Guard, especially in the Tiffany exhibits. I had questions along the way, all of which were impressively answered by the Security team who were extremely knowledgeable. Feel free to ask them anything. I got the impression they actually liked the engagement.
Yes, Tiffany Studios in New York City made leaded glass lamps by the thousands — but Louis Comfort Tiffany also made unique one-of-a-kind massive windows and little known works of art that can only be seen in one place… the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida! I highly recommend this Museum!
ADDITIONAL POINTS OF INTEREST & ACTIVITIES IN WINTER PARK
Have you been to the Morse Museum? Please share your experience with our readers, or let us know the name of your favorite Florida Museum.
May 2016 — The Opening of Animal Kingdom at Night
It’s here… the long awaited opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at night! This is a first for Disney; never before has Animal Kingdom been open after dark. Previously, of the 4 Disney Parks in Orlando, Animal Kingdom had the shortest hours. Since its inception, the park always closed at dusk. There was a good reason for that — the animals! After all, this park is dedicated to the animals. And animals, like you and I, need proper care and rest. Bright lights and loud noises are known to be very stressful for certain animals. So you can imagine the immense challenge that Disney had in creating a nighttime experience that pleased its guests without compromising the pampering and well-being of the animals. But hey, if anyone is up for a challenge… it’s Disney!
Hubby and I experienced Animal Kingdom at night on June 1st, just 5 days after its debut. Just like a Hollywood Premier, there was much chatter and anxious anticipation from Disney fans, fanatics, and critics. So yeah, I just had to see for myself what all the buzz was about. As seasoned Annual Passholders we have the luxury of choosing to spend an entire day or just a few hours at the theme parks. With a heat index of 106° that day, guess which option we chose? We arrived at Animal Kingdom around 5:30 PM — that’s about the time of day the fiery heat of the Florida sun begins to dissipate. When we went on Wednesday the park was open until 11:00 PM. We had done our homework, scheduled our 3 FastPass+ attractions in advance, and planned on staying late.
The Festival of the Lion King — A Kaleidoscope of Color!
Our first stop was The Festival of the Lion King performance in Africa. I regret not taking the time to view this incredible show in previous visits. I was thinking it would be too ‘juvenile’ for me without my grandson present… WRONG! It’s a 30-minute high energy Broadway-like stage show of puppetry and colorful pageantry celebrating, of course, Simba. The little lion prince and his friends take the liberty to do their version of the story, a bit different from the movie, but hey, the would-be king can do what he wants! There were dazzling dancers, stilt walkers (how do they do that?), gigantic moving floats with animatronic characters, larger-than-life puppets, acrobatic monkeys, and (near and dear to my heart) a fire dancer twirling his torch. [Did I mention I used to do that? No, really! Waaaay back in the day, I was a competitive twirler using multiple batons, knives, and fire batons (have you ever smelled singed hair or fingernails?). But I’m all grown up now, only a spectator with enormous respect for those who attempt such fascinating feats.] Disney also managed to strategically insert at least 6 songs from the film — Hakuna Matata, Be Prepared, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Circle of Life signaled the grand finale, which, quite honestly, came a bit too soon for me. I thought the fast moving production was magnificently done. Even if you’re doing an adult-only Disney vacation, you need to make room for this energetic tribal celebration. You’ll leave the theatre feeling good… and refreshed (it’s also a great place to cool down!).
Finding Nemo — The Musical
Our next stop in Animal Kingdom was the 7:00 show of Finding Nemo — The Musical, located in Dinoland. Thus far, the park looked and felt just like it did on any of our previous visits, but the sky was still sunny and bright. Finding Nemo is a stage show whereby Disney took a hugely popular non-musical animated movie and recreated it into a musical production; the first time Disney had done that. The show is almost entirely portrayed through outstanding puppetry mixed with colorful props, animated projections, really cool lighting, and under water effects that only Disney masterminds could produce. Now when I refer to “puppetry,” you need to reprogram your brain to think of puppets the Disney way… not those tiny little (boring) hand puppets we remember as a kid. No, you need to envision gigantic, humongous, colossal creations that so cleverly camouflage the puppeteers that you forget real people are controlling them. Two of the puppets in particular were so massive they practically consumed the entire stage. Remember Crush the turtle? Well, he was the cadillac of puppets since he was as big as a car. Then there was Nigel, the pelican, who was so tall his head almost went through the roof. I’m not kidding. It’s a 40-minutes show, unless they have technical difficulties right in the middle of it like they did during our show. Even so, they fully recovered, and after a 10 minute delay the show went on. It’s a great story line with elements of drama, humor, and suspense — I won’t give away the plot, though, in the rare event that you haven’t seen Finding Nemo.
I was impressed with both The Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo. However, if time is an issue and you have to choose just one, I would recommend The Lion King. The non-stop high energy vibe is a bit more exhilarating. Both of them are indoors allowing you to wipe the sweat from your brow.
***TIP #1 For both of the aforementioned shows, because of the layout of the theaters, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house! In other words, you can arrive late in line and still be assured a good viewing spot. Therefore, you can save your FastPass+ to use on busy ride attractions rather than these two shows.
***TIP #2 If you’re a camera buff like I am, be advised that Finding Nemo does not allow flash photography or video lights. While you’re waiting for the show to start, set your camera to nighttime setting (with no flash) and you won’t miss any good photo opportunities. In The Lion King it’s okay to use flash photography.
After Dark in the Park
By the time we had exited Finding Nemo — The Musical it was 7:50 and sunset was just a half hour away. Animal Kingdom was beginning to take on a whole new look and ‘feel.’ It was dusk, and small pockets of lights were popping up here and there. The lighting was not over-done. In fact, some areas in the park were very dark with little or no lighting. At times, it became difficult to read the signage. Several times we asked a Disney Cast Member for directions.
We had some time to spare before our scheduled FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safari, so we stopped at Yak & Yeti’s™ counter service for a bite to eat. Hubby had the Teriyaki Beef Bowl and I chose the Honey Chicken. We shared a side of Pork Egg Rolls. By the time we finished it was quite dark in the park and time to head over to the Safari.
We walked through Harambe, the African village within Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. This is where the Harambe Wildlife Parti takes place. Playing on the stage was the Burudika Band, a group of Afro-Pop musicians performing music popular in Africa. Park guests were dancing in the street to their upbeat tunes. Harambe also has a vibrant marketplace and diverse eateries. You’ll notice from the photo below that the daytime crowds had thinned out. In fact, this section was quite un-busy by Disney’s standards. We did not see the advertised stilt walkers, the Karibu Sisters, the Harambe Soccer Meerkats, or the Village Acrobats. I’m not sure if they were not performing this night or if they were in a different spot and we missed them. Again, Animal Kingdom at night is a brand new Disney experience, and like any opening, they are still working on perfecting things.
Kilimanjaro’s Safari Nocturnal Encounter — Highly Disappointing!
We arrived at the Kilimanjaro Safari and took our place in the FastPass+ line. Our wait was approximately 10 minutes, far better than the 30-minute posted wait time in the standby entrance. I had been on the Safari ride umpteen times before, but was excited to be able to view the nighttime habits of the animals. For some of them, the setting sun doesn’t signify bedtime. For instance, lions lounge around during the day, but become more active at night. Antelopes only sleep in short spurts as they’re constantly aware of predators who desire them for dinner (of course, they don’t realize their home is Disney, and not the African savanna in the wild!).
We boarded our open-air safari jeep and my camera was pre-set to ‘nighttime’ as I didn’t want to miss a photo opportunity. Unfortunately, during our 18-minute expedition into the 110-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve, we only seen a few animals… maybe 6 or 7 at best. I was certain our bumpy transport through the rugged terrain would yield many glimpses of the rarely seen nocturnal habits of certain animals. But exploring the African savanna at night wasn’t the unforgettable journey I had anticipated. At times, the tour seemed like we were actually in Africa with some elements of adventure and suspense. It was eerily quiet, except for weird unidentifiable animal noises in the distance and surrounding bush. I expected something to jump out at any moment… but, nope! Sometimes the 18-minute tour seemed like an eternity and actually, well, for lack of a better word, boring. That was my personal opinion, but in exiting the ride, I overheard many people expressing the same sentiment. I felt bad for the droves of park guests who stood in the standby line for upwards of half an hour. I fully understand that, just like the daytime Kilimanjaro Safari Tour, everyone’s experience will differ. After all, even Disney magic can’t control the actions of live animals. Even though I was disappointed, hopefully your tour will yield better results.
How Disney Prepared for Nighttime at Animal Kingdom
To me, it seemed that Disney spent a ton of time and money on something that can be very hit or miss. The Kilimanjaro Safari nighttime project actually started 3 years ago. Everything had to be done carefully to ensure they wouldn’t disturb the animals. Here’s a few of the changes they made to the Safari:
- Doubled the animal population. Many of the animals receive their pampering after dark. For example, this is when the elephants get bathed backstage. And yeah, the process is a little longer than bathing a dog! So, in order to have enough animals on display for the tour, they almost doubled the animal population by both breeding and acquisition. They even added 2 new species — hyenas and painted dogs.
- Disney installed soundproofing. For some of the animals noise can be bothersome and even stressful. As you know, Disney’s nighttime shows can be very loud, so Disney installed soundproofing around the areas of certain animals. Soundtracks for their new nighttime shows were played over and over again so the animal caretakers could observe what they could comfortably tolerate. Fireworks were a definite no go! Even though Disney’s other 3 theme parks have them, they were considered too stressful for the Animal Kingdom inhabitants. Instead, they created a nighttime show with floating lanterns and huge water screens called, “Rivers of Light.”
- Special Safari lighting was installed. In order for the Safari guests to be able to see, special lighting had to be installed. The positioning of the lights and the wattages had to be carefully considered. To maintain the quality of life for the animals, Disney wanted a softly lit environment, something that looked like ‘natural’ light. Now, parts of the savanna was made to look like the glow of the setting sun. Other parts are still dark with no special lighting so the animals can choose whether to roam in the light or remain in the dark. (The latter was the case on my tour!)
As mentioned, we only seen a handful of animals during our nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari Tour. I captured this giraffe (photo above) in the darkness. In addition, I saw some Nile Crocodile, a White Rhinoceros, Nile Hippopotamus, Sable Antelope, and a few unknown birds. Unfortunately, my photos were too dark for the animals to be recognizable. I’m glad I took the nighttime Safari to see what all the fuss was about. But honestly, unless I’m hosting out-of-town visitors who insist on seeing it, it was my first and last nighttime Safari. For me, the whole idea of taking a Safari ride is to view animals, and the daytime tour at Animal Kingdom is much more conducive for that!
The Tree of Life Comes Alive!
One of the highlights of my visit to Animal Kingdom at night was watching the park’s iconic Tree of Life come ‘alive.’ I’ve always enjoyed looking at the Tree of Life, the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom, and marveled at the artistic carvings of various animals in the trunk of the massive 145-feet-tall, 50-feet-wide sculpted tree. But this night it was even more spectacular. One of the new nighttime additions to the park is the “awakenings,” as Disney calls it. They are high-tech projection shows that feature short stories (about 3 0r 4 minutes long) of a particular animal. “Magical fireflies” kick off each scene. When you see the tiny dancing white lights surround the tree, that is your cue to look up. The flickering fireflies seem to “awaken” the animal carvings that suddenly come alive and almost appear realistic.
The first was the story of a red fox and its unlikely friendship with a polar bear. (Only Disney can turn a lush green forest into a winter wonderland before you can blink your eyes.) For me, this was the most visually stimulating of the 2 shows. It was action-packed and at times the tree seemed to explode. The second story was a playful deer and bird in the woods. Simply incredible! Disney has taken the invention of projection mapping technology to new heights. I would have liked to see them all. Disney Cast Members have said there is no set time for the projection shows, and in the Animal Kingdom brochure there is no set schedule listed. They are advertised as random, but seem to be every 15-20 minutes. We watched 2 of them in half an hour. But even when the projections are not being played, the bright, almost psychedelic-looking, changing colors on the Tree of Life create continual photo and video opportunities. Yes, this is definitely a not-to-be-missed event in Animal Kingdom after dark.
New Evening Experiences at Animal Kingdom
Disney is working on a new animal-friendly nighttime water and light show called, “Rivers of Light.” A sneak peek into the previews looks pretty spectacular, but the opening has been delayed. There is a temporary water show called, “The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic” that debuted on May 28th. Like any Disney “first” it’s difficult to see it without waiting in the standby line for hours, scheduling a FastPass+ (which was already maxed out for the night we went), or booking a pricey combination dinner/show package which allows VIP seating for the show. Initially we opted for the standby line, but changed our mind when we approached the brand new 5,000-seat amphitheater. Patience is a virtue but sometimes I’m not a virtuous woman! Wasn’t in the mood to exchange 2 hours of my time for a 20-minute show — after all, I am a local so I’ll catch it later.
Part of the new evening experiences at Animal Kingdom include a few of the daytime classics… after dark. Not all of the attractions remain open at night, but in addition to Kilimanjaro Safari, 2 hugely popular ones, Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids are both available until the park closes. Also, a new full-service restaurant called “Tiffins” has opened along with the “Nomad Lounge” right next door. The menu items look a bit more exotic and upscale compared to other restaurant offerings in the park. A must-try for me and the foodie in your family!
All in all, I had a great night at Animal Kingdom. A few disappointments for sure, but the overall atmosphere after dark was worth a visit. I think it’s especially nice for adults. It almost has a ‘romantic’ feel to it. Perhaps its all the deliberately dimly-lit little alcoves hidden here and there — and really, all the best things in life happen in the dark!
Have you been to Animal Kingdom at night? I’d love to hear about your experience. Or maybe a question popped into your mind while reading this article. Submit either of them via the comment section below! And… have a “magical day!”