Arts Appeal

Blog about Art and Events in Chicagoland

The History of Kentucky Derby Hats

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One of the most interesting features of the Kentucky Derby is the astounding hats that regularly show up at the event every year. In fact, hats are quite normal here; one of the few places ladies still choose to wear elaborate headgear.


For an event that centers around a horse race, this could be a puzzling tradition from the beginning. How did the tradition of hats get started in the first place?

From the very beginning, fashion has been an important part of the Derby. In the beginning, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr wanted to start a high-profile horse race after seeing many in his travels abroad. However, horse racing in America had always been regarded as somewhat on the seedy side of social events. In order to change that conception, the colonel and his wife decided to showcase it as a fashion event.

black kentucky derby hat

Colonel Lewis

To bring this aspect out to its fullness, they implemented a dress code of ‘full morning dress’ for men and women. Among other things, this code required the ladies to wear hats and gloves. Colonel Lewis and his wife personally invited the ladies of Louisville to make this event a success.

And it was a an amazing success. The first race quickly led the way both to making the racetrack open to the ladies of the United States and to a surge of business for hatmakers. Everyone bought hats, from the middle classes’ off-the-rack hats to the custom-made affairs of the wealthy ladies.

News Coverage of the Hats

As the years went by, lists of notable people who attended the Kentucky Derby appeared in the papers, along with extensive coverage on their clothing and the women’s Derby hats. Soon the Kentucky Derby became a fashion event equal to a ball and was something not to be missed if one could possibly help it.

As fashions changed throughout the years, the hats remained firmly in the place of honor. However, the showstopping hats of today did not arrive on the scene until around the 1960s. With the wave of new fashion hitting the streets, the hats became bigger and better than ever.

TV Footage

The presence of television gave the ladies of the race added incentives to stand out among the throng of people. Since the fashions were more loosely governed than in the past, there was ample room for imagination and size to take over the scene.

red kentucky derby hat

Even though the importance of the Derby hat lessened during the 1970s and 80s, the 90s and onward saw the hats coming back. As can be seen from the videos and images of today, almost anything goes on the hats today. Custom hats are still popular, with their season peaking in April. They carry a hefty price tag as well.

Kentucky Derby Hat Options

Some people make their own or buy a pre-made hat and add their own embellishments to suit their fancy. However they are made, each hat reflect its owner’s personality and fashion tastes, something that is as long-standing as the race itself.

After all, if it hadn’t been for the hats at the very beginning, the Kentucky Derby may not have been such a major event as it is today.

Four Tips for Beginning Ballroom Dancers

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Ballroom dancing is a great hobby that’s social, active, and tons of fun! From the acrobatics of East Coast Swing to the stately Viennese Waltz, there’s something for everyone.

But if you’re feeling nervous about heading to that first lesson without a little background, no worries. Take a look at these basic tips to get you off on the right foot.

1. Gentlemen, lead with your left, because ladies are always right!

With very few exceptions, every ballroom dance step sequence begins with the lead dancer (the gentleman, typically) stepping with his left foot, either forward or backward, while the lady follows with her right. If you ever find yourself confused, just remember: lead with your left, and ladies are always right.

2. Work on the Closed Hold

The closed dance hold is your home base in ballroom dancing. In this stance, the partners are slightly offset, each standing slightly to the right of the other so that no one’s toes are stepped on. The gentleman’s left hand holds the lady’s right; don’t interlace your fingers, as that makes it difficult to quickly change to other positions.

ballroom dancers

Unlike awkward high school slow-dances, the gentleman’s right hand does not go on the lady’s hip. Rather, he keeps it against her left shoulder blade, maintaining contact all the way through his wrist. This allows him to easily lead her through the figures of the dance and doesn’t leave her wondering what he’s planning to do next.

3. The Importance of Strong Posture

Standing straight and tall is crucial to cutting a dashing figure out on the dance floor. It helps keep you and your partner aligned, allows you to keep your head up to watch for other couples, and in general looks more dramatic.

Though it’s important to stay flexible enough for smooth and graceful movements, keeping a firm stance allows you to more easily lead (or follow) your partner. This is especially true of keeping some tension in your arms. This allows the gentleman to direct turns, promenades, and other changes in direction.

When working on your posture, imagine yourself like a tree, strong enough to withstand a gale, but also flexible enough to bend with it.

4. Don’t Fight the Music

If you’ve ever played an instrument or sung in a chorus, you know that music is broken down into beats. Those beats are the pulse that drives music forward and dictates how dancers will move through their steps.

What can be tricky is that in order to keep in time with the music, each footstep should land on the beat, rather than starting on it, and some dances call for “offbeat” steps, or those that land between beats.

If you’re not accustomed to thinking of music in this way, the easiest thing to do is listen to ballroom dance music in your free time. That way, you can practice even sitting on the couch!

With these tips and tricks in mind, you’ll be cutting a rug in no time. Check out ballroom dance classes to take your new skills to the next level.

Exciting Art Events in and Around Chicago

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exhibit in the Chicago Art Institute

For aspiring artists in the Chicagoland area, there are several events to look forward to this Fall. Even if you simply enjoy looking at art, these events will cater to the spectator as much as the artist looking for inspiration.

The Lincoln Square Art Walk

On Friday, October 16-18, the Lincoln Square Art Walk will take place. This event will feature a juried showcase, an exhibition of individual artists, and a group show featuring prize awards with a gala artist reception as well. There is plenty to enjoy here, and it will be at the Lincoln Square Venues in Chicago.

Foursided’s Presentation of Artist Adie Janci

This event will take place on Friday, October 9 from 6-10pm, and will feature new work from artist Adie Janci, as well as some live painting. Food and drinks will be available at the event, and should be a great time for all of those attending.

Adie Janci graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has produced artwork in a variety of mediums. She currently both lives and works out of her studio in Avondale. The event will be held at the Foursided venue in Chicago.

Opening of “Environment of Concern” Gallery

For who share a concern about the environment, the opening of the “Environment of Concern” gallery should be an interesting event. Taking place on October 9, from 6-8pm, this gallery will feature the photography of Allison Grant, Michelle Keim, Judy Natal, Alison Carey and Terry Evans.

Reception will begin at 6, and attendees will hear remarks from the artists at 6:30. It will take place at the Mary-Frances and Bill Veeck Gallery at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Free parking is available at this location.

The Artists at 3150 Open House

On October 17 from 3-8pm, you can view the open house for The Artists at 3150, featuring work from artists Nina Weiss, Daniel Weinstock, Robert Tolchin, Pamela Lee, William Goldman and Suzanne Horwitz. It will take place at The Artists at 3150 in Highland Park.

These are simply a few of the many art events you’re likely to see this season, leading us into winter with something to remember the fall by. We’ll also update with more activities later in the winter to keep artists occupied throughout that notoriously miserable season.

Three Cool Exhibits to Check Out at the Art Institute of Chicago

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If you are thinking “I’m soooo bored of winter” and want to see some awesome artwork to liven things up and take your mind off this dreary weather, the Art Institute of Chicago is, as always, an affordable and entertaining way to spend a day. Here are a few cool exhibits to check out this season.

Holiday Thorne Rooms

Holiday Thorne Rooms exhibit at the Art Institute

Open from November 22, 2014 to January 6, 2015, this exhibit features miniature historical rooms that are decorated for the holiday season, meticulously detailed to feature all of those little things that make the holidays special, from Christmas trees to miniature stair railings fitted with miniature green garnishes and mistletoe hanging from chandeliers.

Some of the mini rooms include the English Great Hall of the Tudor, Virginia Entrance Hall, California Hallway and the 1930s French Library.

The City Lost and Found

City Lost and Found exhibition photograph of NYC

The City Lost and Found is open from October 26, 2014 to January 11, 2015 and features photography and cinema to showcase the alterations made to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles from 1960 to 1980. Although this might seem like a relatively short time period to explore, you can see how drastic the changes are between these two decades alone. You’ll learn about the cities’ different cultures and follow each as their landscapes change along with their pedestrians, all through different lenses. It may even help explain how the people in these cities and even America in general have evolved up through today.

Ghosts and Demons in Japanese Prints

woman ghost in well painting by Hokusai

For a taste of the bizarre and not entirely holiday-themed world of art, visit Temptation: the Demons of James Ensor up through January 4, 2015. This exhibition displays many prints featured in the Clarence Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints. One unique artist in this series is Katsushika Hokusai, whose paintings often feature depictions of ghouls placed against bright blue backgrounds. Through these artists’ renditions, you’ll also learn about the many Japanese legends that have frightened children and adults for centuries.

2 Upcoming Art Shows in Chicago You Shouldn’t Miss

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Summer is quickly approaching, which means more agitated Chicagoans used to gray skies and tiring cold weather will hopefully lighten up, finding more inspiration to get out and explore the city once again. As an artist, you should do what you can to absorb the artistic works of others and harness inspiration from them. Here are two Chicago art shows that you’ll want to check out for a glimpse of some unique talent.

35 Years of Public Art

This art show is currently going on and will close on May 4th. It features over 500 creations of over 300 artists, and is taking place in over 140 public locations all over Chicago. This event presents commissioned proposal as well as examples of art appearing in police stations, libraries and other surprising facilities around the city. For more information about this Chicago art event, visit the Chicago Cultural Center’s website.

The Lost Artists Show

Taking place in the Art Colony Studio Building, located in Logan Square on Fletcher St., The Lost Artists Show on May 10th will present the work of studio artists Walter Fydryck, Frank Mascenic, Kirk Rohrbaugh, James Vellner and Adam Helman, as well as those of visiting artists Eric Dinse, Joe Mazzone, John Tyszko and others. Live music will also be performed after 7pm, and the art show is free admission. Learn more about this Chicago art show here.

Bottle & Bottega: A Relaxing Way to Paint the Day Away

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What better to go with that urge of artistic expression of yours than a nice glass of wine? Apparently I’m not the only person who thought they were the perfect pairing, as a little studio called Bottle & Bottega in Evanston provides aspiring artists with the environment that allows them to learn great techniques while offering them a nice elegant beverage on the side. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening and really develops you as an artist. I saw the place on a drive down Davis St. in Evanston and wondered what it was, and with a quick search I found a great party location for ainters.

Truly Hands-On

Bottle & Bottega got its start in Chicago, but has since begun expanding nationally, with 5 locations in the Chicagoland area including La Grange and Glen Ellyn. I’m planning on attending one of their parties myself, but it looks like they really provide hands-on instruction to help you grow artistically. It also seems like a great way to meet new people, have some great conversation, and make friends in the area.

If you have kids, you can still enjoy the studios with them because Bottle & Bottega has children’s parties in addition to adult public, private and corporate parties. You can attend the adult parties if you’re 18, but no wine for you unless you meet the 21+ criteria. The process of signing up for a party is also simple. You simply pick a location, look at the calendar of scheduled events and pick the one that works best for you. Each event has the price listed—which is a reasonable $35 for the most part—and all you have to do is click the register button and sign up.

Want to have a painting party outside the studio with a group of friends or co-workers who share your artistic sensibilities? Well guess what, they cater too! Certain venues in Skokie, Evanston and orthbrook, including the Bar Louie in Skokie, will allow you to have painting lessons and beverage packages catered for special events.

I’ve scheduled a 6-9pm Public Painting Party event for next month, so I’m excited to try this place out for myself. Here’s one of the more Van Gogh-esque (ish) paintings done there, as a nice example of what you can accomplish within a few hours of sipping and painting:

bottle & bottega painting evanston

Welcome to Arts Appeal: The Blog for True Artistes

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As a starving artist (well…not quite starving) I’ve always wanted to share my interests about the world of art, as well as the passions of others endlessly struggling to make it. On my journey to improve my own painting skills and expand my knowledge of artists and techniques, I’ve discovered many experiences that can bring artists together along with some great local Chicago artists who have loads of talent to share with the world.

What I Wish to Accomplish

In this blog I will focus on showcasing the work of artists I’ve found, and reveal some great locations and groups for artists to gather. I was amazed at the amount of inspirational stuff I found just by obsessively searching on Google and taking walks around the Chicagoland area.

I even realized my undying love for Ultrecht paint brushes because of my strenuous search sessions—I swear I’m on the verge of carpal tunnel because of them, it’s ridiculous.

cool art collage

It’s incredible what all is in Chicago to help artists not only promote their beautiful work, but also to help them develop into flourishing mpressionists, realists, or whatever types they fancy themselves to be; artistry is far from a dying hobby.

Hopefully this blog provides artists with a wealth of information they can use, and I’ll talk about some local artists that are so good in many ways that I envy them. Hey, maybe I’ll be able to learn from you!

Unlike a lot of other more pretentious artists, I don’t like to view fellow painters, sculptors or sketch artists as competition, but rather as part of a unique community of which I’m happy to be a part. This blog is meant to be a resource for both its visitors and myself in many ways, helping to improve your confidence and meet others in your area with the same interests.

I Appreciate All the Help I’ve Received

Of course I’m not really tech savvy, being a person with more expertise in paint brushes and color schemes, so I needed some hands in the actual layout and development of the blog itself. I may possess all of the imagery and ideas, but the web design team at in Chicago really had me covered in the communication department.

I wouldn’t be able to bring my passion and discoveries to anybody without those guys. With this website, I hope to be able to communicate with other infinitely interesting artistic personalities.