Shawn Decker’s “Prairie”
“Prairie” at the Chicago Cultural Center emulated the sounds of a Midwestern prairie—especially its insects—using hundreds of tiny speakers attached to rods, poking up in a field like tall grass. These speakers generated random clicking rhythms according to a computer program. It was simultaneously meditative and surprising, just like nature itself.
Best of Chicago 2013
On the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center is Project Onward, which houses art studios and a gallery for the work made onsite by the resident artists, with one always on duty for on-the-spot self-portrait commissions (how can you resist?). That Project Onward supports the creative work of artists with mental disabilities makes it all the better. With artworks as low as $10.
Project Onward, 78 East Washington, (312)744-8032, projectonwardchicago.blogspot.com
Best of Chicago 2012
Open Studio Program, Pedway
While the labyrinthine walkways that connect the basements of many Loop buildings are publicly accessible, they seem more like a best-kept secret than an urban convenience. It may be this mystery that attracts so many artists to consider the Pedway as a setting and subject for art projects. The Public Art Program, an arm of the Department of Cultural Affairs, has operated a gallery space in the Pedway beneath the Cultural Center for several years. Organized by curator Nathan Mason, the gallery is a changeable space, at times serving as a fishbowl artist studio and other times a home for site-specific installations.
Beneath the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph
Best of Chicago 2009
Karl Wirsum, “Winsome Works(some),” Chicago Cultural Center
The seminal Chicago artist finally received his due with a lush full-scale retrospective. Wirsum’s bold, graphic paintings, quirky sculptures and puppets of robots, superheroes, villains, snakes and voluptuous women filled the galleries of the Cultural Center with a blaze of color, like a psychedelic freak-show dance party. Opportunities to experience the history of a Chicago art legend shouldn’t be this rare.
Hyde Park Art Center
Best of Chicago 2007
Chicago Cultural Center
In a city rich with cultural treasures, you might think we wouldn’t need a city-operation cultural center, but we do. We really do. Start with the building, and its spectacular interiors, including amazing mosaics and the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome. But move onto its contemporary treasures, from the galleries of rotating art exhibits to the singular Museum of Broadcast Communications. Then take in its programming motherlode, from the Dame Myra Hess concerts held upstairs in the Preston Bradley Hall to the International Dinner and a Movie series. And best of all, most exhibits and programs are free.
78 East Washington (312)744-6630
Best of Chicago 2002