Explore Chicago

Chicago Art A to Z: A Guide to Galleries, Installations and Exhibits

Celebrate Chicago's art scene with an alphabetized look at tours, classes, exhibits and galleries.

October is Chicago Artists Month, a shout-out to the year-round bounty of the city’s art and artists of every shape and style put on by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. There’s so much art to be appreciated, in fact, that we decided to challenge ourselves to come up with our own list, one pick for every letter of the alphabet. The hard part? Paring it down to just 26.

Artifacts and Antiques

What’s old is new again: we love repurposing authentic goods from Primitive and The Golden Triangle to spruce up our places. They have just the right touch to add interest to a room. Primitive: 130 N. Jefferson St., 312.575.9600, www.beprimitive.com; The Golden Triangle: 330 N. Clark St., 312.755.1266, www.goldentriangle.biz


Eighth blackbird, that is: The contemporary classical ensemble nests in the Museum of Contemporary Art, taking up residency in the galleries. Art meets music as the group practices and prepares new compositions live in the museum. 220 E. Chicago Ave., 312.280.2660, www.mcachicago.org

Cloud Gate

"Cloud Gate" at Millennium Park
"Cloud Gate" at Millennium Park (©City of Chicago/Patrick Pyszka)

The beauty in arguably one of the most famous public pieces lies beyond its surface: the mirrored sides reflect Chicago’s renowned architecture, a melding of structure and sculpture. Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., 312.742.1168, www.millenniumpark.org


The impressionist’s collection grows at the Art Institute of Chicago with two new pieces on loan: “Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey” and the sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,” proving Degas was more than inspired by figures in motion. 111 S. Michigan Ave., 312.443.3600, www.artic.edu

Ed Paschke Art Center

Paschke was known for his psychedelic, cartoonish portraits using plenty of neon colors, so it only seems fitting that the center’s La Palette: The Chicago Palette exhibit takes a deep look at the colors contemporary artists use to create their work. 5415 W. Higgins Ave., 312.533.4911, www.edpaschkeartcenter.org

Floriane de Lassée

From Rwanda to Nepal, Lassée’s How Much Can You Carry? collection of photographic portraits displays not only the immense physical weight a person can carry (like a goat and stack of wood!), but also the burdens of each lifestyle. Catherine Edelman Gallery, 300 W. Superior St., 312.266.2350, www.edelmangallery.com


We suggest looking but not touching if you’re the clumsy type at the Lotton Gallery. Patriarch Charles Lotton is considered the “Tiffany of the Twenty-First Century,” with exquisite glass pieces featuring intricate floral designs. 900 North Michigan Shops, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Level 6, 312.664.6203, www.lottongallery.com

Hyde Park Art Center

The oldest alternative art space in the city, the Hyde Park Art Center focuses on creative exploration and interaction between audiences and artists with plenty of contemporary pieces. 5020 S. Cornell Ave., 773.324.5520, www.hydeparkart.org


"Agora" public sculpture in Chicago (©Brad Perkins/Flickr)

Despite the many statues and sculptures throughout the city, one of our favorite outdoor installations is Agora by Magdalena Abakanowicz. The collection of nine-foot-tall headless torsos makes us want to explore. Grant Park, Michigan Avenue at Roosevelt Road.


Some art is made to be worn—including the amazing jewelry pieces featured in the Driehaus Museum’s Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry exhibit. Think plenty of semiprecious stones and intricate craftsmanship. 40 E. Erie St., 312.482.8933, www.driehausmuseum.org


As in, fire it up! The pottery and ceramics are vast at Lillstreet Art Center. There’s even a wedding registry for standout pieces for your special day. 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773.769.4226, www.lillstreet.com


All of these exhibits make us want to get our hands on art. At the Beverly Art Center, we can indulge in our inner Picassos with visual art, ceramics, and digital art and photography classes. 2407 W. 111th St., 773.445.3838, www.beverlyartcenter.org


From the streets to our favorite eats, it seems like murals cover most walls in this city. Check out the one at Mr. Brown’s Lounge, an ode to Jamaica’s love of dancehall music. 81 E. Wacker Pl., 312.334.6760, www.mrbrownslounge.com

Mr. Brown's Lounge mural
Mr. Brown's Lounge mural (Courtesy Mr. Brown's Lounge)

National Museum of Mexican Art

People who don’t live in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood visit the area for its vibrant murals, big-as-your-head burritos, a string of art galleries and this amazing museum that showcases Latino artists from around the world. This month, it spotlights one of Chicago’s own in the exhibit De vuelta: Works by Chicago Imagist Errol Ortiz. Through March 20, 2016. 1852 W. 19th St., 312.738.1503, www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org

National Museum of Mexican Art
National Museum of Mexican Art "African Presence in Mexico" (Courtesy National Museum of Mexican Art)


Birds of a feather flock together, whether hawks, eagles, buzzards or sparrows. And they’re all depicted in stunning detail by renowned naturalist and ornithologist John James Audubon. His iconic drawings, lithographs and paintings are in prints, framed and in coffee table-worthy books at the Joel Oppenheimer Inc. gallery in the Wrigley Building. 410 N. Michigan Ave., 312.642.5300, www.audubonart.com


Glimpsing a monument or a building in passing affects viewers differently than studying an image of it. Such is the case with the photographs in Grace of Intention: Photography, Architecture and the Monument at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College. Oct. 15-Dec. 15. 600 S. Michigan Ave., 312.663.5554, www.mocp.org


A beautiful bygone art, quilting is very much alive among a range of traditional artworks at Illinois Artisans, Chicago, a retail leg of the Illinois State Museum. Tucked into the James R. Thompson Center, the gallery focuses on the handcrafted works of hundreds of local Illinois artists and runs the crafty gamut, from jewelry to woodwork, glass to furniture. 100 W. Randolph St., 312.814.5321, www.museum.state.il.us/artisans


Behind the award-winning, cool-contemporary, yet intimate structure of the Poetry Foundation stands acclaimed local architect John Ronan. As part of the programs celebrating the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Ronan discusses issues of architecture and design and their connection to the world at large in Transcending Pragmatism: Searching for a New Chicago. Free. 2 pm Oct. 4. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., 312.994.4000, www.flwright.org


At first, the sculptures by Jason Hawk might look whimsical and trivial, but the Jackson Junge Gallery exhibit Excerpts From a Fading Bloom delves into the deeper meanings of what Hawk himself describes as “captured moments of allegory and cultural discourse.” See what you can see in these multidimensional works. Through Nov. 1. 1389 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773.227.7900, www.j2gallery.com


Sometimes it’s not enough to view the art. Sometimes we need a little help interpreting the art. That’s where the free weekend tours from Chicago Gallery News come in. Each Saturday, rain or shine, the tour pops into four different galleries to chat exhibits and artists. Meet at the Starbucks at 750 N. Franklin St., 312.649.0064, www.chicagogallerynews.com


How amazing to be an art student in Chicago. Every university here (and we have some of the best) has its own gallery or museum or other presentation space of art—by students, for students or both. Loyola University’s contribution to our art culture is LUMA, Loyola University Museum of Art, situated almost secretly just off the Mag Mile. Visitors are fully rewarded for discovering it amidst the shopping hoopla. Especially this month, when the museum celebrates its 10th year with a retrospective and highlights from past exhibits including works by Edward Gorey, Andy Warhol and Auguste Rodin. Through Oct. 11. 820 N. Michigan Ave., 312.915.7600, www.luc.edu/luma

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)
Loyola University Museum of Art (Courtesy LUMA)

Vale Craft

While several Chicago neighborhoods have blossomed into destinations for art lovers, River North is still one of the densest, encompassing dozens of galleries, including this one. Owned by Peter Vale since 1992, the focus here is on American fine craft and sculpture by local and national artists, including clay birdhouses by Mary Alexis Fox, stained and leaded glass by Larry Zgoda, and wood accent pieces by Alan Carter. 230 W. Superior St., 312.337.3525, www.valecraftgallery.com

Vale Craft Gallery
Vale Craft Gallery, artwork by Doug Delind (Courtesy Vale Craft and the artist)

Wicker Park/Bucktown

Always a hot bed of creative people, places and things, the adjacent communities of Wicker Park and Bucktown brings “busking,” or street performing, to their three CTA Blue Line El stations. Created by Chicago’s inventive Collaboraction Theatre, the performers—a human beatbox, an opera singer and a clown—take topics from passersby and turn them into original art. Fridays, 4:30-6:30 pm at Damen, Western and Division El stations. www.collaboraction.org

Xavier Nuez

Like the letter “N” mentions, Pilsen has loads of art galleries, enough to create its own Chicago Arts District. To get the most art out of your Pilsen pilgrimage, hit it on Oct. 9 or 10 during the 45th annual Pilsen East Artists Open House. Though it’s a self-guided tour, it allows access to 30-plus otherwise-private artists studios and workspaces, including that of the dynamic photographer Xavier Nuez. www.chicagoartsdistrict.org


Knitting isn’t just for Grandma anymore. It’s trendy to create your own wearable works of art. Get your skeins, needles and inspiration at Yarnify! where shelves are stacked with yarns in a rainbow of colors. Pop into open knit/crochet hours on Sunday noon to 5 or, with a yarn purchase, get free advice every Monday, 6:30-8:30 pm (first-come, first-served). 47 W. Polk St., 312.583.YARN (9276), www.loopyyarns.com

Zygman Voss

Zygman Voss Gallery
Zygman Voss Gallery, art by Martina Nehrling (Courtesy Zygman Voss and the artist)

What do you get when you combine 50 years of art gallery experience? One of the top art galleries in River North, run by Ahron Zygman and Nancy Voss, who are happy to share their knowledge of each artist and each piece. The focus of their gallery is 17th to 20th century art, including Rembrandt, Chagall, Whistler and Dalí. 222 W. Superior St., 312.787.3300, www.zygmanvossgallery.com