Art helps this kid appreciate all of his life!

One of my playgrounds when I was growing up was the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Fairmount section of the City of Brotherly Love.

I lived in a neighborhood called Brewerytown which is located just north of the museum. I’d walk six blocks or so and climbed on the rocks that surround much of the museum grounds. There was something thrilling and challenging about reaching out to the boulder just above my head while I pulled myself up and onto the next rocks. I didn’t need playmates. I became a solitary mountain climber about to scale Mount Everest or some other mountain top of the mind.

I’d also play in the shallow pools toward the front of the museum. The steps are familiar to most people who saw the movie “Rocky.” Hidden off the side of the steps are concrete pools of water no deeper than a foot or two. I usually played with other fellows from the old neighborhood and had a ball looking toward the east where the statue of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, rested on top of city hall where I would try jury trials many years later.

Philadelphia Art Museum near the Waterworks.jpg

Philadelphia Art Museum near the Waterworks  off the Schuylkill River

I’d go into the museum proper every now and then. You used to get in free as a kid on Sundays. Now, you determine what offering to provide the museum caretakers on the first Sunday of the month.

What greeted me was this giant statue of a warrior, a tall metal one at the top of the steps. It was a girl, a woman named Diana, the huntress from the age of the Romans. Her Greek name was Artemis. I didn’t know woman were ever depicted as soldiers or warriors and the statue opened my eyes to a world I had never imagined before.

So did this really gross picture, a painting of a guy in the nude trapped on the side of a mountain by Peter Paul Rubens. A large black eagle is depicted chewing a red part of his body, the liver, ripping it from his uncovered side. The fellow was one my father’s  countrymen, a Greek, who pissed off the gods by sharing fire with mankind. The gods of Olympus doomed Prometheus to be forever chained to the mountain with the bird feasting on him for all of eternity.

One of my favorite recollections from the museum was the large painting by the French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He painted a bunch of women near a stream and he entitled it “The Bathers.” The attractive women had different hair colors, but all shared the same type of physical attributes. They were large women and girls. Bountiful is the word I learned from seeing that painting. I fell I love with them and see how attractive Renoir made what most women actually look like.

They became part of my playground and the appreciation of true beauty ever since.

4 comments on “Art helps this kid appreciate all of his life!

  1. nursebelva says:

    I loved the philly zoo. George and I visited the K.C. and Philly zoo often. Such good memories.


    • contoveros says:

      As you remember, my family’s house was just three blocks away from the Philadelphia Zoo. We’d walk there and spend the whole day enjoying the lions, the apes and the elephants.


  2. contoveros says:

    This post about the Philadelphia Art Museum providing culture to Contoveros while growing up in Brewerytown was “liked” by the following art-lovers on Facebook:

    Belva Thrasher, Tamara Ambros, Milagros Morales-Santiago,
    Amy Nora Doyle MacLeod, Angela Marie Petrilli, Frank Skillman, Joanne Beattie, Jason Zaczyk, Ruth Dickerson Moffatt, Jack Wilson, Madian Prado, Rosemary DeRosa, Ken Class, Bill Benedict, Iryne Carrasquillo, Helen Anastasia, Jacob Woodrow Shelton,Courtney DeRocini, Denise Getchell, Jacqueline Lesser Faust, Mark E Carl, Edyta Schwartz, William Woods, Jane Hulting, Lisa Baxter Horwitz, Jeffrey Carr, Kathleen Obrien, Luba Schmid, Bonnie Prest Thal, Jennifer Lipski,Janka Solivajsová, Barbara Quinn Osborne, Lov Angel, Tony Boris, Lynn Cotellese, Tina Fernandez and Christine Ewer.

    Meanwhile, the following messages were shared on the Facebook page:

    Lynn Cotellese
    Good reading.
    Contoveros: Thanks. It was so nice to see you at the reunion of those of us who enjoyed the art museum as kids!

    Patty Kline Capaldo
    Sweet memories!
    We all got ’em. That’s why we love to write!

    Luba Schmid
    It was my playground as well!
    Contoveros: I could see you running up the steps of the art museum long before Rocky made it famous!

    Kathleen Obrien
    Me too — Loved Fairmount Park and Lemon Hill also!
    Think of how fortunate we were to be that close to nature and the works of art both inside a building and outside . . .

    Kathleen Obrien
    Oh yes I tell people all the time how blessed I was
    Contoveros: For some, it was the only way for us to get some culture. I loved the museum grounds and the view of downtown Philadelphia from the top of the hill . . .

    Calliope Contoveros
    How descriptive. How beautiful!
    Contoveros: Greek themes influenced many of us growing up in America. The museum itself is based on Greek Architecture and Greek life and myths make up so many of the artworks. Ain’t it grand having such a heritage!

    Calliope Contoveros
    Yes it is indeed!!
    Contoveros: I can’t get over how much those Grecian themes have influenced me in art, philosophy and of course love — especially, the “Agape” Way!

    William Woods
    Very nice photo Michael 👍
    Contoveros: Cool. It is a great place to meditate both inside and out!

    Pamela Mundy Hicke’
    Frank was just telling someone about his playing in the Art Museum yesterday
    The good old days…….
    You can take the boy out of the old neighborhood but you can’t take the old neighborhood out of the boy!

    Ruth Dickerson Moffatt ·
    My playground also thanks for the memories
    Contoveros: It was a lot of fun at the art museum and I wish all kids from Philadelphia could get a chance to play and learn like we did!

    Ruth Dickerson Moffatt ·
    Yes I remember swimming in the fountains getting chase by park guards staying under water if one was coming lol the good old days
    Contoveros: Wow, what a memory! And how devious you were at such a young age to duck under the water to evade authority figures who would kick you out and stop you from having fun.

    Great memories are there for us to simply dip into my new dear friend!

    Jason Zaczyk
    Dreamy…Thanks for sharing.
    : “Dreamy.” That sounds like something someone in the 1950s would say.
    Oops. That’s just about when I played at the Art Museum.
    Or was it the 1850s?

    Evangeline Bragitikos
    My husband proposed to me at the top of the PMA steps! Special place!
    Contoveros: How romantic! How special!

    Judi Halpern
    I remember taking the A bus now the 32 to the Art Museum and spending hours there, and the central library was also a great place to go and use the old card reference files I loved those places. Then if you had I think a little money you could go to the original Bain’s cafeteria on Chestnut Street and get a bowl of mushroom barley soup, fresh rye bread and butter! Or Tad’s steak house on Market Street.

    Kathleen Obrien
    Or the H&H automat for hot apple pie

    Judi Halpern
    Or when you really had $$$$$ the Harvey House!

    Contoveros: I remember Horn & Hardart’s but not the Harvey House. When we could afford it, we’d “dine” at one of the Dewey’s, the tiny little restaurant chain downtown. I have a photograph of the owner — Dewey Yesner — greeting my dad while my father was dressed in his white chef outfit with long and tall chef hat while working at Dewey’s flagship restaurant, the “Flaming Angus.” It was located at 17th and Market streets.

    Lynn Cotellese
    H&H a memorable spot. Sundays we’d go to either the museum or Franklin Institute. Loved the library. Being a Hallahan girl …walked to school sometimes. Got off the 48 bus and walked across the Parkway every morning to school. Spent my childhood in the Fairmount park playground!!!!!! There was Always the zoo on Easter Sunday. Those were the days my friends.

    Contoveros: The Philadelphia Zoo on Easter Sunday. What a trip.

    Let’s not forget we also had the Eastern State Penitentiary on the other side of the neighboring town. I’d tell people I was influenced a little by both the zoo, the oldest in the nation, as well as the prison where Willie Sutton once escaped while visiting Fairmount . . .

    Kathleen Obrien
    Yes great times!


    • contoveros says:

      Facebook entry:

      Sharon Sabrarose Ivanov

      I focused on the same art at the museum as you as a kid- The rocks outside, Artemis, Prometheus, Monet’s woman and green bridge reflected in the water… OX

      Michael J Contos
      A timeless treasure is inside for all who venture forward!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.