Formerly known as Chicago’s first public library, the Chicago Cultural Center was converted in 1991 to provide free art, film, literature, music and theatre.
It has become one of most popular tourist attractions in the city. The center has lots of attractions including the Chicago Publishers Gallery and Project Onward Gallery.
“Our collection is all Chicago or Illinois based,” said worker Aimee Worth, when talking about Chicago Publishers Gallery. “We actually just expanded the gallery and added six new sections because of its popularity with visitors.”
Chicago Publishers Gallery was created to showcase the talents of local writers. The collection includes compositions of art, religion, famous journals, children’s books, popular interest, trade and newspapers.
In August 2009, The Online Gallery was launched to help establish an online database for local writers. The Online Gallery contains writings from Chicago-based blogs and sites such as: Chicago Bites, Literago, Jettison Quarterly, Huffington Post Chicago and Windy City Rock. They cover all genres and are continually updated with posts from local publishers.
Although the collections are not for sale in the Chicago Publishers Gallery, the center promotes reading them. Connected to the gallery is Randolph Café, where visitors can enjoy refreshments and food while reading publications and relaxing.
Project Onward was established in 2004 on the first floor of the center. The gallery provides a workplace for adults with mental and developmental disabilities. All artwork is for sale and can be seen in the Project Onward gallery and around the center.
The gallery hosts events such as Portrait Slam!, where Project Onward artists are stationed throughout the Chicago Cultural Center and create live, custom portraits for $20 a piece.
The center also has a shop that sells a range of products from scarves, to jewelry and photography. All products are intended to show Chicago’s rich diversity in the arts. Merchandise purchased through the shop helps support local artists and organizations.
“The detail work in this picture is just amazing,” said visitor Jackie Hawkin about Project Onward artist’s, Andrew Hall, drawing. “The water and woodwork of the pier looks so real.”
Store sales associate Emily Fultz said, “I recently purchased some jewelry and scarves that I wear all the time.”
Among other features of the center, on-site tour guides, Instagreeters, are available to show tourists the city in a one-hour walk throughout the Loop area.
“I love coming here and attending all of these free events,” said Chicago resident James Perkins. “I enjoy the arts and to have this center that provides free exhibits all year round is a definite plus.”
Perkins, 42, said he has been attending events at the center for nine years. He said he utilizes the rich cultural experience that the center provides and has taken interest in genres such as film and music because of showcased events at the center. He attends events and exhibitions that range from poetry readings to documentary viewings.
The center also provides events such as Dance-Along Nutcracker to families and children. Dance-Along Nutcracker is an interactive event in December that encourages children and families to dress up in holiday inspired costumes and dance with professional dancers.
The center’s events and exhibitions are offered in music, theatre, dance, film and art. All upcoming events are categorized and listed and can be found on Explorechicago.org.
“The architecture and detail in this place is really cool,” said visitor Mary Lowell on a recent day. “All of the art exhibits and events are so unique and interesting.”
Located at 78 E. Washington St., the center offers free exhibitions and events. Each of the center’s five floors is dedicated to a different use.
“One of the most distinct features we have at the Cultural Center is the Tiffany dome,” said faculty member Ron Banks. “It was recently restored in 2008 because they wanted to make it more energy efficient and clean.”
The Tiffany dome has been a part of the Chicago Cultural Center since the building opened as a library in 1897.
The domed glass structure stretches approximately 38 feet in diameter across the ceiling and is constructed of glass, concrete and copper. Renovations were undertaken to reduce the use of artificial light in the building and restore its original look.
Before the restoration, approximately 1,700 of the 30,000 glass pieces were cracked or covered in layers of dust. The structure contains more than 243 pieces that were de-constructed and taken to a glass studio for repairs. The project is located in Preston Bradley Hall on the 2nd floor.
The center is open Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.