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As told to Lindsey Howald Patton
When I have friends who visit me from Europe I say, ‘This museum is one of the places you have to put on your list.’ There are European influences in the house but it is really specific to the Midwest—it’s the Gilded Age of the Midwest. That in itself makes it a unique kind of place. My husband and I had friends from Nantes, France, come and I was showing them pictures in the museum brochure. The dining room chairs have those little Italian putti heads carved into them, but they don’t have wings—they don’t have the usual European ornamentation around the head. One of my friends from Nantes looked at it and said, ‘Well, it’s missing certain things.’ And then his partner said, ‘Yes, it’s missing certain things, but don’t forget—it’s American.’
I’m a native Chicagoan—I’m from Hyde Park. After working at the Art Institute for 11 years, I moved to L.A. where I was an archivist for MGM. Then there were all the earthquakes and riots and fires, so I came back to Chicago in 1994. Everything I owned that could break, broke in the earthquake. L.A. at that time was just so violent, it was such an exhausting experience that I just wanted to come home. Now I teach at Lane Tech College Prep High School. I teach Studio Art, and I teach AP Art History. I’m also a filmmaker myself. One of my big interests is exploring, visually exploring, cultural people and their environments. My work has been shown in a lot of exhibitions around the world. Pompidou. Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
I decided to become a member of the Driehaus Museum as soon as they said, ‘We’re starting to offer memberships.’ I’m Teacher Member number one! I’ve visited at least four times. My first experience was a lecture I came to on the New York Armory—it was last September. I like house museums. I enjoy for example the Frick in New York, but I didn’t expect anything on the scale of the Frick because it’s Chicago—you know, because we’re the second city. People had told me it was lovely so I assumed it would be, but I was so impressed on many, many levels. The restoration is just astounding to me. And the attention to detail is incredible. Chicago certainly has other museums that are very well-known of course, but they are encyclopedic museums. This is an entire experience.
When I travel I always seek out whatever museums there are. When I was working at the Art Institute I used my vacation time to have exhibitions of my own work in Europe, and I visited many museums while I was there. Recently when I had a show in Paris in March of 2010, I went to a Lucian Freud exhibition at the Pompidou. Because of limited time, I had to choose between that and a J.M.W. Turner exhibition at the Grand Palais. I mean, cut me in half! What are you supposed to do with that? I chose Freud and it was a fantastic exhibition. Perhaps your more typical member of the Driehaus would have chosen Turner—but he was radical in his day, so who knows? I would go to museums regardless of what I do for a living. But does it help my teaching? Yes, it helps my teaching too. Everything does—that’s the way it is.
Adele Friedman received her MFA and Graduate Certificate in Art History and Aesthetics—now called the Master’s in Art History—from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has a K-12 certification in Art from North Park University. Her work has been exhibited internationally in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Tokyo, and in the U.S. at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Ms. Friedman has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, Daley College, and Truman College.
Photo above: Adele Friedman visiting Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. This garden is the topic of her newest film, Giverny, which will be shown at Chicago’s 24th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival in June 2012.