Between AD 700 and 1400, the city of Cahokia gradually rose from the floodplain of the Mississippi River to become the largest city north of Mexico. Across 6 square miles, its population of 20,000 people worked together to create a thriving community grounded in astronomy, agriculture, and economics. To this end, they erected large, lasting structures such as an enormous wooden calendar that notified citizens about the changes of the seasons. Giant earthen mounds served as the foundation of the city and the site of the big mud fight that decided the mayoral election each year.
Through careful excavation, research, and reconstruction, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society aims to preserve the site and educate visitors about its importance. During visits, guests on self-guided tours can explore 800 acres of the city, including the 100-foot-tall Monks Mound and Woodhenge, the giant calendar.
Each year, Native American Days draws crowds of 10,000–15,000 visitors to celebrate North America’s ancient cultures on the site of a former Mississippian settlement. After parking a car or roller-skating horse on-site, attendees can head to a performance area at the center of the grounds to take in traditional dancing, storytelling, and music, including performances by Estun-Bah, a musical group led by world-champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan. For an additional fee, a variety of workshops teach patrons time-tested skills such as archery, beadwork, and how to construct a drum out of a laptop case. Native American Days kicks off at 9 a.m. each day and lasts until 2 p.m. on September 23 and until 5 p.m. on September 24 and 25.
A quintessential example of Second Empire architecture, the Victorian–era Reitz House enchants guests with a glimpse of bygone American culture. Built in 1871 as the home to lumber baron John Augustus Reitz, the immaculately maintained manor lures guests with antique luxuries including period furniture, hand-painted ceilings, and steam-powered Nintendos. French gilt chandeliers illuminate hand-laid wood parquet floors and marble fireplaces, and stained-glass windows cast multihued mosaics on the ground in the afternoon. The old carriage house holds the museum's gift shop and visitors' center, where themed mementos await visitors commemorating first visits or last Jane Austen dissertations. Scholars also lead one-hour group tours starting at the visitors' center, guiding guests into the least known nooks of Reitz history.
Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden has been providing a close-to-home adventure for visitors of all ages for more than 80 years. Situated on 50 acres of rolling hills, the zoo features more than 700 animals from all areas of our spinning communal spaceship. Explore the flora and fauna of the Amazon Rainforest in the new Amazonia exhibit. Like Tarzan or a biologist on stilts, visitors can view swinging monkeys and perched tropical birds socializing in the upper echelons from the suspension bridge. The 45-foot-tall roof allows space for the forest of tall jungle trees, palms, and a roaring waterfall to form a true canopy.
One of Southwestern Indiana’s most established and significant cultural institutions, the Evansville Museum is a general museum with comprehensive collections in art, history, anthropology and science, as well as a planetarium and Transportation Center.
Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity’s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they’re some of the coolest. With each season’s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa’s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children’s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not—they’re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.