Art Works Blog

Blue Star Museums on the L

Chi-Town. City of deep dish pizza, windy streets, and home to 17 Blue Star Museums. Whether you’re from the greater Chicago area or are visiting the metropolis at some point this summer, this list is for you — a list of Blue Star Museums that are accessible from an “L” stop. Take some time to visit Chicago’s bustling neighborhoods and embrace its prolific culture with the ease of an “L” ride. (Click on the name of each museum to visit its website.)

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Like the artists they support, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is one of a kind. The museum exclusively collects and presents outsider art, or art outside of the mainstream created by artists who are motivated by their unique personal visions. Opening July 15th and running through January 2017 is Post Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980-2016. This exhibit examines what “Black Folk Art” really is with work from artists like Clementine Hunter, Thornton Dial, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Lonnie Holley. While visiting, make sure to make time to see the Henry Darger Room, which gives a window into Darger’s visionary world through furniture, ephemera, and more collected from the late artist’s home and studio.  To visit the Intuit, take the Blue Line to the Chicago station.

National Museum of Mexican Art

Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art in the heart of Chicago’s Mexican-American community in the Pilsen neighborhood. The museum believes that Mexican art is sin fronteras, or without borders. This summer, their sin fronteras philosophy manifests in three rotating exhibits. One is an exhibit of post-1960 American printmakers of Mexican descent, Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection, which is open through August 14. Sin fronteras also looks like an exhibit of Dan Ramirez’s geometric abstract pieces that is open through October 9 and an exhibit of work by Chicago artist Maria Gaspar, Brown Brilliance Darkness Matter, which is on view until July 31. Visitors can always see the museum’s permanent collection exhibit, Nuestras Historias, with artwork that spans three decades and explores the diverse stories of Mexican identity. To visit the National Museum of Mexican Art, take the Pink Line to the Damen station.

Swedish American Museum

The famous Andersonville Water Tower—which is painted to resemble the Swedish flag—sits on top of the Swedish American Museum, reminding visitors and residents alike of the museum’s mission to celebrate Swedish-American history in Chicago. The museum’s permanent collection documents Swedish immigration to Chicago, with objects and exhibits such as authentic passports and steamship tickets from Swedish immigrants. Located in the museum complex, the interactive Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration gives kids the opportunity to replicate historical tasks in a century–old Swedish farmhouse, such as milking a cow. Through September 18th, the museum features work from the first glassworks in Målerås, Sweden. Also on view through September is a multimedia collaborative exhibition resulting from a creative partnership between opera singer and composer Simon Petersson and visual artist Lana Stephens. Visitors can branch out from exhibits and catch tours of Andersonville and cultural events that are also run through the museum. To visit the Swedish American Museum, take the Red Line to the Berwyn station.

Smart Museum of Art

Part of the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art is home to work by renowned artists, like Utagawa Kunisada, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Mitchell. It also, however, emphasizes a contemporary engagement with art. Running through August 14, Prints and Privacy, was organized by University of Chicago students and examines European printmaking from 1500 to 1900. Meanwhile Jessica Stockholder’s colorful installation Rose’s Inclination has taken over the museum’s lobby until July of next year. In Anticipation of Belonging—open through August 18 —is a collaborative effort with community partners, designed to question what it means “to belong.” Want to get even more involved? Attend one of the Smart’s plein air or printmaking workshops in August. The Smart Museum is about a mile from the Garfield Green Line station—by foot or bus.

Glessner House Museum

The last work by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the 1886 John J. Glessner House is a piece of Chicago’s history as well as an architectural treasure. The house, which is a National Historic Landmark, is built in the aesthetically significant Richardsonian Romanesque style, which was an inspiration to famed architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Decorative treasures on view in this atypical Victorian-era house-turned-museum include a bronze life mask of Abraham Lincoln, a custom-made Steinway piano, Venetian glassware, and ceramics by the era’s master artists. The house is also a jumping-off point for learning more about the Prairie Avenue neighborhood, once one of Chicago’s most sought-after addresses.  To visit the Glessner House Museum, take the Green Line to the Cermak/McCormick Place station.

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is a tribute to the river that makes Chicago the city it is. Explore the famous five-story, Beaux-Arts style Bridgehouse and experience the story of the Chicago River through themed exhibits of photographs, architectural plans, and prints featuring the river’s bridges and wildlife. Try to visit on a bridge lift day to see the Michigan Avenue Bridge’s massive moving gears at work. A climb to the top of the Bridgehouse will reward visitors with a 360-degree view of the city and river. Because of the museum’s location, there are a few L stops close by, but we recommend taking any Loop train to the State/ Lake Station from which it’s a short walk.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 

A global and local hub for contemporary art, the MCA Chicago has a permanent collection featuring artists like Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and Dawoud Bey. This summer, one of the museum’s special exhibits is a survey of the Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall— curated from its permanent collection, and running through September 25. Also on view through August 21 is a multimedia exhibit by British artist Phil Collins, inspired by musical group The Smiths. Witness—an exhibit on view through next February—examines the last 40 years of photography, culminating in an installation by Alfredo Jaar on the life of photojournalist Kevin Carter. Visitors can also enjoy Tuesdays on the Terrace – evenings of free music in the Terrace Garden that highlight artists from Chicago's jazz community. To visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, take the Red Line to the Chicago Station.

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