Art Institute of Chicago: See History Through Art
The cultural side of the "City of the Big Shoulders" has not been fully experienced until you've visited the Art Institute of Chicago. Located in Grant Park on South Michigan Avenue, the Institute stands tall amongst the classic architecture of its neighbors in the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District. At one million square feet, the Institute is the second-largest museum in the United States, offering not only a history of art, but also of the pain and joy of humanity.
Walking up to the Art Institute, you'll be blown away by the Beaux-Arts style building. A work of art in itself, the building was created for the 1893 World's Fair, which announced Chicago as a city worthy of the world's stage. If you enter from the west side, you'll walk between two bronze lion statues. In the event your visit coincides with a local sports team's rare championship appearances, the lions will be dressed in that team's colors. Over on the east entrance, you'll walk under the stone arch of the original Chicago Stock Exchange as you enter the building. The Institute is open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. If you live in the state of Illinois, you can check out the museum for free every first and second Wednesday.
After purchasing your tickets, you'll need to figure out your plan for getting the most out of the Art Institute Museum. It is best known for its large collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, along with an extensive gallery featuring artists from the United States. Works by Claude Monet are represented, as are some lesser-known pieces by Vincent Van Gogh and Mary Cassat. Art lovers will be thrilled to see Grant Wood's American Gothic and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks in the Institute's collection. Both famous works are something to behold when seen in person.
One of the more interesting exhibits is the African-American Art Collection. From sculpture to paintings, these beautiful pieces of work detail the black experience in America. The gallery is set up chronologically, giving you a view into African-American art from the Civil War through the Harlem Renaissance and into the modern era.
Those interested in architecture can take a look at the Ryerson & Byrnham Library. Located on the ground floor of the museum, this section houses several examples of architectural styles from the 18th through the 20th century.
With so much to do and see, finding your way around may be daunting at first. The front desk offers guests mini-tours that are guided through headphones for a small fee. There is also an app that can guide you and give you information on the various pieces as you walk through the museum.
After so much looking around while delving into the history of art, you've probably worked up an appetite. Luckily, the Art Institute offers several dining options. For a quick bite to eat, check out the Museum Café. A great place for the lunch, at this small café you can snack on some chips or purchase a sandwich. Of course, if you're looking for a five-star experience to cap off your day, go to Terza Piano. Headed by Chef Tony Mantuano, this is the place to go for delicious Italian food that is a work of art on its own. Be sure to make reservations in advance to avoid long waits. Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and eating dinner at Terza makes for a great date night.
Booking your Chicago vacation
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