Tag Archives: #MuseumMonday

Rock’n Roll on Museum Monday with Rick’s Picks

ELO Kiddies!

I am updating this post in order to share the news that Cheap Trick will be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame during the 2016 ceremonies.  In honor of this long awaited accomplishment, enjoy a museum experience like no other, with Rick’s Picks, my first #ThrowbackThursday.


Hall of Fame logo

On this Museum Monday, we are going to take a tour through some rock ’n roll history in Rockford, Illinois.  The Burpee Museum is currently exhibiting the guitar collection of one of the greatest musicians of all time, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, with Rick’s Picks.  This is not your average grouping of memorabilia.  From Cheap Trick’s humble beginnings of a local band to world-wide recognition, Rick saved everything from his worldwide tours, and now this nostalgia can be viewed by everyone at the Burpee.

Timeline of Rick Nielsen’s life

Nielsen, when asked what the exhibit means to him, had this to say, “It’s a lot more than just guitars. It’s my life. It’s perpetual motion, magic potions, evolutions, false conclusions, harmonic fusions, full color illusions, black and blue contusions, diffusions and delusions, late night seclusions, superstition and ambition, flights over oceans, shameless promotions, occasional demotions, sonic explosions, prepositions and compositions, traditions and transitions, collisions and decisions, expectations and exhilaration, havens and invasions, schemes, dreams and extremes, documentation and amplification, loving emotions conquering pre-conceived notions. It’s my story in guitars, music, video and all the stuff I’ve saved all these years: cracked open for all the world to see. Hope you come, hope you have fun, ‘cuz oh boy, this house’ll be rockin’.”

One of the most interesting aspects regarding the influence of Cheap Trick in Rockford is that everyone seems to have a story about the band.  Rick and his family have lived here for years, a part of the city’s nomenclature.  I have run into Mr. Nielsen several times on the Sunday morning Starbuck’s run before going to the grocery; he can be found having breakfast at the Stockholm Inn, a city staple, or dining at the Japanese restaurant JMK Nippon; driving past in traffic in his classic Thunderbird; there is even a special seat at the Coronado Theater tricked out in black and white checkerboard, a favorite design.  The influence of Rick can be seen throughout Rockford, as he continues to give back to the community.  He appears in YouTube tourism videos that parody the Wisconsin state senators who hid out in the Best Western Clock Tower Resort last year.

At Burpee, the immense exhibit had a real challenge to showcase Rick’s guitars and the accompanying memorabilia.  I cannot imagine the amount of meetings required to discuss the choices.   According to the website, Rick gave the keys to his colorful past and storage units to the curators and said, “Go for it!  Surprise me!”  Fans have declared Rick’s Picks “Better than Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Seattle’s EMP Museum.”

Rick being one of those guys that has common ground with any musician, brought along friends Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, Slash of Guns n’ Roses, Todd Rundgren and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.  Video commentary throughout the exhibit on the guitars and Rick’s influence on musicians is available on the latest iPad technology, with headphones to catch every nuance provided by Shure.

The art of this exhibit is found on the guitars.  Rick has a collection of 2000+, many of his own design, some are guitars of his celebrity friends like Brian May of Queen.  I particularly like the Batman guitar, but the showcase piece is Rick’s famous five neck, manufactured by Hamer in 1981.  This unique instrument was so popular onstage a second one was designed with the signature checkerboard pattern.  Why five necks?  Rick’s desire to play multiple guitars during songs spawned the creation.

The most creative idea in the exhibit is the drawers.  How else to showcase a collection of incredible miscellany that spans an entire career?  Early letters from Rick’s high school, lyrics to ‘Heaven Tonight’ on scraps of paper, tickets, boarding passes, hotel keys, its all there; showcased in drawers that can be opened by the viewer bringing the exhibit to a new level, with a personal invitation to dig through his drawers from Rick himself.

I would like to thank Alan Brown, executive director of the Burpee Museum, for pointing out that Cheap Trick has yet to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; this oversight is no longer the case, as the band will be a part of the 2016 Inductees ceremony, announced 12/17/15 .  And many thanks to Jay Graham of Graham and Spencer, who was giving a special insider tour when I visited the museum, providing many special insights and details.

I hope you have enjoyed this Museum Monday, I included lots of video clips and interview bits to click through on the photos.  If you have any comments on Rick’s Picks, please use the space below.  I hope you as much fun with this as I did!

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The Museum of Russian Art

Museum of Russian Art masthead




Earlier this summer I visited Minneapolis to see the Museum of Russian Art and their fabulous exhibition of porcelain Easter Eggs, which runs through September 20, 2015, sponsored by the Bentson Foundation.  Drawn from the collection of Imperial porcelain owned by Raymond Piper, the exhibition includes seventy presentation Easter eggs featuring Russian orthodox saints, traditional Russian geometric patterns, and ornate floral designs.  The Easter eggs were produced at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Commissioned by the Romanov Imperial family, porcelain eggs were a traditional presentation gift to relatives, friends and courtiers at Easter time.

The presentation of porcelain eggs explores the popular tradition of exchanging painted eggs at Eastertide, focusing on the upper social strata of pre-revolutionary Romanov dynasty.  The Russian tsars commissioned their porcelain Easter gifts from the Imperial Porcelain, established in 1744, expressly catering to the needs of the Imperial family.  Finely painted Easter eggs were presented to those in attendance at the Imperial court following a solemn Easter service.


Alexander I

Alexander I 1801-1825

1802 brought a stellar year for the Imperial Porcelain as they produced 960 eggs for the Easter festivities of Alexander’s court. The oldest of Tsar Paul I’s ten children and raised in a like manner by a doting grandmother, Catherine the Great, calling home the magnificent palace at Tsarskoe Selo.  Following the tradition of his ancestors Tsarinas Catherine and Elizabeth, Alexander was a devoted patron of this porcelain. The first egg produced by Imperial in the course of 1749 was under the rule of Elizabeth, a tradition carried on by Paul as the Factory produced 254 eggs for Easter 1799.

Alexander I collection


Nicholas I

Nicholas I 1825-1855

Imperial Porcelain prospered during the reign of Nicholas I.  Mid-nineteenth century saw the factory begin importing fine clays from Limoges, France, thus improving the quality of porcelain wares significantly.  The Factory received awards at international expositions of London, Paris, and Vienna.  Their talented artists decorated Easter eggs with miniature reproductions of European masters by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian, inspired by the Hermitage collection. Remarkably, the Hermitage was opened to the public in 1852, correspondingly this influence on the Arts in all their forms can be seen immediately.  A limited number of eggs were produced in this meticulous fashion each Easter, exclusively for the needs of the Tsar and his family.  One of the eggs on display features a copy of Ludovico Carracci’s painting Christ Bearing the Cross from the Hermitage.


Collection 2Collection


Alexander II

Alexander II 1855-1881

The Imperial Porcelain Factory downscaled operations under Alexander II.  In spite of the decline, Easter gifts continued to be successful at the Imperial court.  New elements of design were popularized featuring images drawn from the natural world, incorporating a wide variety of plants, birds and insects. Designed by August Karl Spiess, (1817-1904) the head of the Imperial’s sculpture workshop, this styling reflects the influence of the distinctive two-colored relief of Wedgewood English pottery.  Madonna and Child, on the larger egg, is based on Raphael’s painting ‘Sistine Madonna’


Alexander II CollectionAlexander II


Alexander III

Alexander III 1881-1894

Producing wares for Alexander III, the Imperial Porcelain Factory began a return to prosperity.  One of the Tsar’s early decrees states, ‘His Lordship, the Emperor wills that upon the Imperial Porcelain Factory shall be bestowed every advantage, relevant to its technical and artistic needs, so that I may justly be called Imperial and serve as a model  to all private manufacturers.’  Whereas, fewer Easter eggs were produced as part of the Tsar’s effort to cut Imperial household spending.  Alexander’s order of 1887 states, “For his Lordship the emperor, twenty eggs with the images of saints and fifty regular eggs, decorated and large-sized for Her Ladyship, the Empress, only fifty large eggs with various patterns.”


Alexander III


Nicholas II

Nicolas II 1894-1917

After the Easter service of 1896 in the Winter Palace, Nicholas II wrote in his diary, “We went to bed around 4 am, at sunrise.  At 11:30 am, the Easter greetings and exchange of kisses began in the Malachite room. Almost five hundred guests received eggs.”

The production of porcelain Easter eggs increased during the reign of Nicholas II. Introducing eggs with the monograms of the Imperial children, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchesses. Easter of 1914 saw the Imperial Porcelain Factory produce 3,991 eggs.  In 1916, in the midst of WWI, 15,365 eggs were produced, two thousand bearing the symbol of the Red Cross. To that end, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her five children visited hospitals presenting eggs to wounded soldiers and officers.

From that view, 1916 brought the Russian Empire its last celebrated Easter, as the following year the former Imperial family found themselves under house arrest in the Alexander Palace.  The few attending guests received Easter porcelain eggs “from old supplies,” as Nicholas’ diary stated.


Nicholas II 2

Nicholas II 1

Tucked near the end of the exhibition, the Museum of Russian Art shares a tiny piece of their archive.  The front page from the Illustrated London News, Easter weekend edition, April 14, 1914; displaying the chaos following the end of tsarist rule.  In consideration of that moment in time, the frivolity of porcelain eggs becomes a questionable extravagance in a dynasty trapped by pomp and circumstance.  The photograph at the top shows the Russian Duma, with an empty frame that once displayed a portrait of their tsar.  Likewise, the image underneath portrays a crowd burning the spoils of the old regime.

Final Cut

These beautiful eggs are drawn from the collections of Raymond Piper, renowned porcelain collector, whose intimate, moreover, wide ranging exhibition includes eighty nine porcelain Easter eggs dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.  The organizers should be commended not only for assembling a superb group of works of art; it is important to realize the wisdom of their decisions on matters such as lighting and wall color; allowing the intended dramatic effect of colors and images on the viewer.  An exquisite collection of Soviet era art and Tsarist Russia influences.

 My next Museum will be the Minneapolis Institute of Art, including some Frank Lloyd Wright pieces

Cheers to all!



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