Chicago is known as “the city that works,” and this especially true of the local arts scene. The city has a large community of working artists and a demonstrated commitment to arts and culture.
The star of the city is the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest art museum in the nation. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works are the highlights of the museum’s encyclopedic collection. Georges Seurat’s painting La Grande Jatte, famously featured in the John Hughes film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, holds a special place in the public’s consciousness. Other popular works include the oft-parodied American Gothic by Grant Wood. The Museum of Contemporary Art, though smaller in size, is frequently home to important shows by both emerging and established artists. The MCA stage hosts a wide array of dance, music, and performance, and the monthly “First Fridays” events remain wildly popular.
Several of the city’s universities have their own art museums – all are open to the public and many are free. The University of Chicago alone has three museums: the Oriental Institute, the Smart Museum of Art, and The Renaissance Society. Columbia University is home to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the only museum dedicated solely to photography in the Midwest.
Chicago is also famous for its public art collection, which includes over 700 works of art. Iconic pieces include the Picasso in Daley Plaza or Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, affectionately nicknamed “The Bean.” Those looking to explore the art scene would be smart to visit the Chicago Cultural Center, which offers guides to cultural programming and is host to a variety of events and art exhibitions. (Nicole Nelson)