(Illustration by Carly Schulman and Grace Luxton.)

Illustration by Carly Schulman and Grace Luxton.

Spring in the City: Explore Chicago this month with new art exhibits

March 6, 2020

The Monthly

It’s March, which means it’s time for Chicago residents to shed their thickest coats, change into their second-thickest coats and make a toast to the end of our collective hibernation. Whether or not the sun comes out, the city this month is abound with cultural happenings, from the iconic St. Patrick’s Day river dyeing to 312 Day, a day of music commemorating the city’s area code. Around the city, museum and gallery exhibitions are celebrating Chicago, each approaching identity and history in unique ways. Don’t miss your chance to hop on the El this month and check them out!

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago

  • What it is: In what the artist calls “a love letter to Chicago,” Nigerian womenswear designer Duro Olowu’s solo exhibition at the MCA is a curatorial feat. The featured pieces, which total to over 300, are united by their home: every work comes from a private or public Chicago collection, many from the MCA’s own permanent collection. Works by prolific American artists like Kerry James Marshall and Barbara Kruger hang beside pieces from artists around the globe, showcasing Olowu’s dedication to eliminating the hierarchies of the Western art world. Despite its large scale, the exhibition feels personal, like walking into a curio cabinet displaying the designer’s private treasures. At the end of the show, see all of the inspirations come together in Olowu’s intricate fashion designs.
  • When to go: A Spring Quarter Saturday when you need essay inspiration. Spend some time in the Marisol restaurant, studying and snacking on the daily doughnut selection.


Chicago Cultural Center
In Flux: Chicago Artists and Immigration

  • What it is: At the Chicago Cultural Center, over 20 contemporary artists of various disciplines come together for “In Flux,” an exploration of the city’s relationship with immigrant labor and a reflection on what it means to live in Chicago as an immigrant. Divided into three sections confronting American geopolitical history, nightmares of emigration and the ideal fresh start, the exhibit engages the viewer in the challenges of immigration. Leave the exhibit feeling more connected to what it means to be a resident of Chicago, and ignited to engage with and appreciate the communities at the city’s foundation.
  • When to go: After an interview, when you’re not ready to head back to campus just yet.. Stick around to check out the Architectural Biennial installations on the second floor.


Art Institute of Chicago
Bauhaus Chicago: Design in the City

  • What it is: From urban planning to jewelry making, the German Bauhaus school aimed to elevate industrial design into fine art. When the Nazi regime shut down the Bauhaus in 1933, prolific designers László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe opened The New Bauhaus in Chicago, now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology. You can see Bauhaus inspiration everywhere, from IIT campus architecture to Mies van der Rohe’s concrete and glass lakeside apartment towers, but this exhibition will take you beyond buildings to diverse applications of the Bauhaus mentality. Following the themes of shelter, light, materials and community, the exhibition shows how widely the Bauhaus movement influenced Chicago’s art and design.
  • When to go: After a sunny Friday morning discussion section (or during it…). Take a Divvy bike down the lakefront path to catch some architectural views on the way.


Design Museum of Chicago
Great Ideas of Humanity: Passing the Torch

  • What it is: In the 1950s, Chicago Bauhaus movement leader Herbert Bayer organized an advertising campaign for the Chicago-based Container Corporation of America. For the project, titled “Great Ideas of Western Man,” Bayer commissioned artists to create printed illustrations of quotes from the greatest minds of Western civilization. The Chicago Design Museum reimagines the campaign, letting the great minds of tomorrow create art around the ethos of designing a better city and society. The exhibition features flags designed by Chicago Public Schools students, each a response to racial and class divides in the city.
  • When to go: When you’re giving a guest the classic tour of Millenium Park and you want to demonstrate that you know any place besides the Bean.


Hofheimer Gallery
Chicago Streets and Ways

  • What it is: March is when the cloudy winter mist finally evaporates, and you realize you’ve never noticed that beautiful building until today because your raincoat hood was blocking the view. See the city from a new perspective at Hofheimer Gallery, where artists Karen Perl and William Dolan display a variety of nostalgic, thoughtful renderings of the city’s sidewalks, buildings and back alleys as dynamic as Chicago itself.
  • When to go: After a Saturday brunch date at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, before catching a matinee (or Saturday morning cartoons) at the Davis Theater.


Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @graceluxton