Grant Park and the Art Institute of Chicago

Grant Park, a 319-acre area of land, has been preserved as a part of Chicago’s Lake Michigan waterfront. Originally named Lake Park in 1847, it was changed to Grant Park in honor of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in 1901. There are numerous walking trails, a paved Lake Shore Trail running the entire length of the Park, 16 softball fields, and 12 tennis courts in the Park. In addition to the annual summer Taste of Chicago event held here, the city also sponsors outdoor concerts in the Petrillo Music Shell. A main attraction in Grant Park is the massive three-level, pink marble Buckingham Fountain, dedicated by Kate Buckingham in honor of her brother in 1927. In 1994 a $2.8 million restoration of the Fountain was paid for out of the trust fund administered by the Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain, a Versailles Garden design by Edward Bennett, features four sea horses symbolizing the four states touching the Lake, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. The 134-jet fountain runs from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., in mid April to mid October. A 20-minute display of water jets takes place every hour on the hour and at dusk the water display is accompanied by lights and music.

The Art Institute of Chicago was one of the few exceptions made to the city’s ordinance against public buildings in the Park. Founded in 1879 as the Academy of Fine Arts, the name was changed to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1882. Today, the Art Institute of Chicago, constructed in 1892, is known for its extensive collections of over 5,000 years of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American art. Paintings by famous masters such as Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Toulouse Lautrec, Seurat, and Van Gogh, as well as American art by Grant Wood and Edward Hopper are on display. In addition, the Art Institute has sculptures from around the world, photography galleries, and exhibits of Pre-Columbian Meso-American ceramic figures. George Harding’s collection of Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons, a statue of Joan of Arc, and miniatures of American and European architecture and furniture styles in the Thorne Rooms are also featured in the Museum. Permanent additions to the Art Institute include a collection of modern 20th century art of Picasso, Matisse, and Magritte, and 50 paintings on loan from the Terra Museum. Numerous special exhibits of contemporary architecture and art are held at different times of the year.

Another interesting feature of the Chicago Art Institute is its association with the Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, who addressed the Parliament of the World’s Religions here in 1893. The street bearing his name runs in front of the Institute and a bronze plaque in his honor is also displayed. The Ryerson and Burnham libraries, a part of the Institute, house outstanding research collections of art and architecture and are open on specific days and hours, with Museum admission or library membership. The School of the Art Institute, a professional college, offering undergraduate and graduate programs for aspiring artists in visual, creative, and graphic design, is considered one of the finest in the country.

An interesting attraction at the Museum is the pair of two bronze lions, created by Edward Kemeys, at the entrance on Michigan Avenue. In the event of Chicago making the playoffs, the lions are often dressed in Chicago sports teams uniforms.

Hours: Monday through Wednesday and Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 to 5:00 p.m.; Thursday and Friday 10:30 to 9:00 p.m. (free hours on Thursday between 5:00 and 9:00 p.m., 5:00 to 8:00 in fall and winter, and free days from Feb 1 — 21). Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.
Admission: $12.00 adults, children, students, and seniors $7.00. Under 12 free.

Photography of permanent collections is permitted, audio guides, tactile art and sculpture, and special features available for the handicapped. Accessible from bus lines and the Metra train, parking garages nearby. A Museum shop, a self-service café, and a full-service restaurant for indoor and outdoor dining are on the premises.

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