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museum-webRISMEDIA, April 17, 2009-(MCT)-About this time of year, everyone craves color. Enough of barren trees and the grime left behind after a snowy winter. Spirits are in dire need of uplifting after weeks of grim economic news. Everyone needs beauty, a shot of creativity, an injection of awe.

One place to get an infusion of inspiration is an art museum. Chicagoans, of course, for example, are blessed with the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

But for those scoping out other art treasures in nearby Midwest cities, here are seven that will help lift your spirits.

The “wings” welcome visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a stunning complex on the city’s lakefront that includes the 2001 Quadracci Pavilion by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Officially named Brise Soleil, the wings are a movable sun screen with a 217-foot span, wider than a Boeing 747. Inside, you’ll be warmed by the museum’s collection of paintings by Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keeffe, lovely French Impressionist pieces and whimsical American folk art.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of the 10 oldest general art museums in the country, is set amid 152 acres that include the Oldfield-Lilly House & Gardens. Among the museum’s don’t-miss pieces: one of the earliest known self-portraits by Rembrandt, an oil on wood circa 1629; a three-story fluorescent light installation by Robert Irwin titled “Light and Space III,” designed for the museum’s main 60-foot Pulliam Great Hall atrium; and one of the nation’s largest and most significant Asian collections.

Grand Rapids, Mich.
Cited by Newsweek as one of the world’s six best buildings of 2007, the $75 million Grand Rapids Art Museum is also the world’s first “all-green” art museum. The top three things to see include the building itself; “Blue White” by Ellsworth Kelly, a 25-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide wall sculpture in the museum lobby; and the exhibition “Moby Dick: Frank Stella and Herman Melville,” which includes three monumental woodblocks on loan from the National Gallery of Australia.

While the city is experiencing hard times, the Detroit Institute of Arts is not. Last year the museum completed a $158 million, six-year renovation designed by architect Michael Graves & Associates. Three things not to miss: “Detroit Industry” frescoes by Mexican artist Diego Rivera; African art galleries that include a life-size video of masquerade performances and a shrine to the god Shango; and a virtual dining table in a suite of 18th century European serving pieces.

St. Louis
The St. Louis Art Museum put its $125 million expansion on hold, but the stately museum isn’t missing a beat. Its current exhibition, “Power and Glory: Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty” showcases more than 200 works on loan from three major museums in China and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Three don’t-miss pieces from the permanent collection: “The Country Election” by George Caleb Bingham, “Betty” by Gerhard Richter and “The Milliners” by Edgar Degas. Also, Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.”

Des Moines
Renowned architects Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei and Richard Meier give the Des Moines Art Center an urban cachet. The fine collection inside, highlighted by Francis Bacon’s “Study after Velasquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” Edward Hopper’s “Automat” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s “From the Lake No. 1,” also includes contemporary works by Henri Matisse, Jasper Johns, Mary Cassatt and Sean Scully.

The Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are special. Highlights: Works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg; minimalist work by Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Richard Serra; and Charles Ray’s “Unpainted Sculpture.” Architecture by Herzog & de Meuron is outstanding.

© 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.