It’s a new year (relatively! It's only February!) and while not everyone does the resolution thing, it’s never a bad idea to spend more time learning. Here in Chicago we have a wealth of resources to open our eyes to things we may never have seen or heard about before. Chicago’s museums offer an opportunity to travel through space and time and see how others live and lived, how things work, and what might be next for the human race. They document the worst of human history and the best, and they offer a rotating series of new exhibits throughout the year to keep the fresh knowledge coming.
In 2024 it’s our mission to bring you more. More art and and more museums so you know where to go to take advantage of the treasure that is Chicago’s museum scene. These are just a few examples of some of the “major” museums exhibits, but the more you explore Chicago, the more you’ll find to learn, from hot dog and pizza museums to button museums and more.
Let’s get down to business:
The Field Museum
Currently The Field Museum has a rather macabre feature exhibit with its Bloodsuckers: Legends to Leeches exhibit, which explores all manner of bloodsucking creatures from leeches to birds, insects and eels.
But the exhibit isn’t just limited to creatures who feast on blood. It also looks at the history of bloodletting in medicine, features a theater that shows clips from all the bloodsuckers we know and love from pop culture as well as life-sized sculptures you can explore.
The Museum of Science and Industry is a perennial favorite for us, and there’s always something new to explore there.
Currently on display is the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition that runs through April 21. It’s the longest running such expedition in the US and features more than 100 Black artists. It’s paired with a Black Creativity: Architecture feature and best of all, the exhibition, which includes mixed media, paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography, is included with the price of admission.
Get tickets for MSI here and don’t forget to check out their free days, which are on Feb 5-8, 11-15, 20-22 and 26-29 as well as April 21 for Illinois residents.
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute holds some of the world’s greatest artistic treasures and takes up a prominent position on Michigan Avenue with a whole lot of real estate for outstanding exhibitions of art by the masters.
This year’s no different with two stunning exhibitions running simultaneously. First, there’s Picasso: Drawing from Life, which runs through April 8 and centers on the artist’s work on paper as well as his life, which intersect in these paper works. Learn about his lovers, artist friends, family members and more as you see some lesser known works of this great.
Also on exhibit is Canova: Sketching in Clay, which looks at the famed Italian sculptor Antonio Canova’s lesser known clay works and explores the artist’s process. Canova was renowned for his marble statues but his clay works are visceral, featuring the artist’s exploration and even revealing traces of his touch as he created them.
Get tickets for the Art Institute of Chicago here or look out for their free days on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays Jan 8- March 22, 2024.
The Dusable Black History Museum and Education Center
As you may be aware, it’s Black History Month, and that means “The Du” as it’s affectionately known, is hopping with activity. There’s a full calendar of events that you can check out on the Dusable Museum’s main page, but beyond that, here’s a few great exhibits, too!
Some important Chicago history is covered in The Art of Our Storytellers: Selections from the Johnson Publishing Company. This exhibit looks at the history of the 820 S Michigan Avenue building, which was home to Johnson Publishing Company, who published EBONY and JET magazines. Not only did this building host the publishing company, it was the first African American owned building and was designed by an African American. The exhibit explores the building, the publications and their history, as well as the art that the company collected, representing a diverse range of African American artists from all over the world.
The Dusable is free for all every Wednesday but is only open Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 4pm.
The Chicago History Museum
When you want to understand something, you need to look at its history, and what better way to get better acquainted with your city than stopping by the Chicago HIstory Museum? There’s something for everyone to learn about Chicago whether you’ve lived here your whole life or are just passing through.
Right now, learn all about the massive Polish population and its influence on Chicago with the Back Home: Polish Chicago exhibit. If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot of Polish folks in and around Chicago—at one time more than lived in Warsaw, Poland! This exhibit talks about the different neighborhoods, the immigrant journey and personal narratives of those who lived in Polish Chicago. This exhibition runs through June 8, 2024.
The Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is always mesmerizing, whether you’re exploring the Wild Reef, learning about plankton, cooing over penguins or touching stingrays. One thing we’ve always loved about the Shedd aside from that is its after dark programming. While lots of museums do this, Shedd frequently makes a great backdrop for appetizers and cocktails while surrounded with the amazing variety and beauty of the ocean.
New for the year is Ritmo del Mar, a night of “cuisine and culture" and will feature salsa, cumbia, merengue and Latin Jazz to get you dancing on your, what do you call it? Feet? Tickets include all aquarium exhibits and entertainment and food and drinks will be available during the soiree.
Tickets for the Shedd can be acquired here, and if you’re looking out for free days, the Shedd will be free to Illinois residents on February 1, 6 - 8, 13 - 15, 20 - 22, 27 -29 during the daytimes as well as March 5,12,19,26, which are Tuesday evening hours from 5-9pm. Advance reservations are highly recommended due to high ticket demand, according to the museum.
The Adler Planetarium
Space is enormous beyond our imagining, but if you’d like to explore beyond the confines of this little blue speck, you can just hop over to the Adler Planetarium and get a face full of space information.
Explore their exhibit on Astronomy in Culture that shows off ancient stargazers' wild and (sometimes) fully functional gadgets to study the stars and if you feel a little too small and want to dial it back a bit, check out the wonderful Chicago’s Night Sky exhibit that will help you learn more about the night sky you can see (when light pollution is a little lessened) and let you take part in real research with the scientists at the Adler identifying constellations in historic maps the Adler has in its collection.
Get tickets to the Adler here or check out some of its free days, which are every Wednesday from 4 to 10pm for Illinois residents with proof of residency.
So there you have it! Go make 2024 the year you take more advantage of some of the wonderful museums all around us! Meanwhile, we’ll bring you even more from even more museums as this year unfolds, so stay tuned!