We took a wrong turn in Pontiac, Illinois and ended up viewing art work worthy of public art in New York, Chicago or Philadelphia.
The three tall metal sculptures called “Seasons of Life” were located in a playground in this small city in Central Illinois. They depict three eras of life: childhood, young adulthood and old age. We wouldn’t have seen them if we hadn’t stayed in Pontiac for three weeks.
We were in Pontiac to work with NOMADS, a Methodist mission group that travels around the country rebuilding churches and camps or doing disaster relief. We were in Pontiac to repaint a senior citizen’s facility.
That’s one of the things I like about our new lifestyle. We travel to new places and stay long enough to get to know a community with all its little quirks.
I doubt there are many places like Pontiac, a city of just 13,000. You reach it either by driving on Interstate 55 or on two-lane roads stretching for miles through corn and soybean fields, which is what we did. Two-lanes give you a real feeling for just how far out there the middle of America is.
The city doesn’t look like much. There’s a Caterpillar plant and the county court house, a couple of restaurants. But this little place supports four museums, all free, plus several house museums. That’s a lot of museums for a small town. There’s even a free trolley to take you around, but really it’s so small you could probably walk it.
Route 66, in all its forms, runs through Pontiac, and the town capitalizes on it big time.
It hosts a Route 66 Museum and Hall of Fame, a Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center and The Bob Waldmire Experience (celebrating a man who traveled Route 66 handing out literature).
The Livingston County War Museum and the Life in the 1940s Exhibit are in the same building. I was drawn to the dozens of newspapers from around the world that showed the run up to Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. And for some odd reason there is a recreation of an old radio station.
The city also hosts a Museum of Gilding Arts, which is the art of pounding gold or silver into into extremely thin sheets that are used for decorating.
The city boasts Murals on Main Street where people have also installed kiddie cars painted to look like Transformers, Lincoln and Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
We walked part of the Lincoln Trail, which goes from the courthouse where the president practiced law as a young attorney to the house were he stayed for two weeks after a snow storm stopped the trains from running and kept him from returning to Springfield, Illinois.
And we walked across one of the three antique swinging bridges across the Vermilion River that used to bring workers from their homes on one side of the city to jobs on the other.
Then on the last day a wrong turn took us to the Seasons of Life Statues, public art worthy of the Met in a playground.
What odd things have you found on your travels?