Spring is finally here. But before we jump into our crazy plans the harsh winter didn’t allow, we should make the effort to squeeze in some time to visit the Art Institute of Chicago because it is not only easy and free to go, but also one of the best art museums in the nation.
To live in the Chicago area and not know one of its greatest cultural assets would be a shame. Each year, around 1.5 million visitors from around the world visit the Art Institute, which holds more than 260,000 works in its permanent collection. So many people make an effort to experience Chicago, why can’t we try harder to know the city that we live in and the works of art it offers?
The Art Institute is not just for art or art history majors, but for everyone in the same way art is for everyone. People are often surprised when I tell them I visit the Art Institute regularly. But after learning my double major is art theory and practice, they respond “Oh, you’re an art major,” as if the Art Institute is limited to only a few. Art may seem distant and irrelevant for many college students, especially non-majors, who struggle to keep up with their academic and social lives.
But art (and visiting and seeing the actual pieces) is crucial to our education and our stay at Northwestern. We have distribution requirements (including art) for a reason: to widen our scope of understanding the world and to be able to appreciate different cultures. In that context, visiting the Art Institute to see artwork in person is perhaps more important than classes that “talk” about culture, because we get to absorb and feel art for ourselves. Maybe art or museums aren’t your “thing.” But there are special exhibitions throughout the year that may be more interesting to individuals — and you can’t say you don’t like something before you even experience it.
Art can make us think about unexpected issues or let us experience something from a new perspective. We can understand what different people from different periods saw, thought or felt. Sometimes art doesn’t make sense, and it becomes not only a great pleasure but also an important learning and thinking process.
Iconic works like Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” — the colorful dotted painting of French people sitting or standing by a body of water, some holding umbrellas — are in the institute. Particularly strong in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting collections, the Art Institute holds myriad works of art — from the Arms, Armor, Medieval and Renaissance collection to the Indian Art of the Americas. From the Prints and Drawings collection to the 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms. With such a diverse range of work, you’re sure to be exposed to something new.
It’s really easy to go to the Art Institute, especially if you plan ahead. Using the “L,” the museum is a block away from Adams and Wabash, where the Purple Line Express stops, and a few blocks away from the Monroe Red Line stop. The Intercampus Shuttle runs all day and goes to the Ward Building, which is around a half-hour walk away, and the Chicago Express shuttle stops near the Art Institute at Columbus and Monroe.
It’s free, it’s easy and the weather is warm. There is no excuse not to go.