top of page

The Earth With Out Art Is EH: Why You Should Visit The Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois

(Image courtesy of Paramount's Picture 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, directed and produced by John Hughes. The image depicts Cameron (Alan Ruck), Sloan (Mia Sara), and Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) at The Art Institute. The image was found

In the history of cinema, filmmaker John Hughes had the ability not only to showcase the beauty of an area but also to capture a cultural zeitgeist. Hughes's films paid homage to the city of Chicago and the 1980s young adult experience. In 1986, Hughes directed, produced, and wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The movie chronicles Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) having the perfect day in Chicago with his girlfriend Sloan (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). In one of the most iconic scenes, the trio ventures to the Art Institute to see Marc Chagall's America Windows, George Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. In this one-minute scene, Hughes introduced me and many others to how art museums could act as a refuge, source of inspiration, and fun place to visit.

(The video link is

Growing up, my family would visit downtown Chicago and the Art Institute almost every summer. Each visit, my brother, sister, and I would reenact Cameron's staring at Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte or the trio walking hand-in-hand with the school children in front of the Auguste Rodin statute. Consequently, the museum became the nexus between pop culture and visual art.

(Image courtesy of Paramount's Picture 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, directed and produced by John Hughes. The image depicts Cameron (Alan Ruck) staring at George Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The image was found on

When I started this blog, I had a mental list of the people, places, and entities I wanted to interview. The Art Institute was on the 5-year plan list. A year and a half after the blog's inception, I had the opportunity to interview the museum. I had the chance to talk with Shannon P., Assistant Director, Public Affairs, to learn more about why you should visit.

(The Art Institute of Chicago. View of Michigan Avenue Entrance. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.Edward Kemeys, Lions. Bronze with Green patina. Gift of Mrs. Henry Field, 1898.1a-b. The Art Institute of Chicago. The lions are the registered trademarks of the Art Institute of Chicago.)

1. Why should someone visit the museum?

The Art Institute is just such a special place for me personally, but I know that it means a tremendous amount to Chicagoans as well, so I think we’re all very fortunate.

(Edward Hopper, American, 1882-1967. Nighthawks, 1942. Oil on canvas. 33 1/8 x 60 in. (84.1 x 152.4 cm) The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection.)

2. How has the museum evolved since its founding?

I think the true change in the museum is evident in the mission: The Art Institute of Chicago shares its singular collections with our city and the world. We collect, care for, and interpret works of art across time, cultures, geographies, and identities, centering the vision of artists and makers.

(Merahi metua no Tehamana (Tehamana Has Many Parents or The Ancestors of Tehamana) by Paul Gauguin circa 1892)

We recognize that all art is made in a particular context, demanding continual, dynamic reconsideration in the present. We are a place of gathering; we foster the exchange of ideas and inspire an expansive,

inclusive understanding of human creativity.

(Improvisation No. 30 (Cannons) by Vasily Kandinsky circa 1913.)

It has grown to define its place within a larger ecosystem that is not only reflective of but also

supportive of the city of Chicago. The important thing is that the museum has been focused on

its evolution as ever-evolving and I’ve seen that firsthand in my five years here.

(Bar Bacchus in Ginza, from the series Pictures of Ginza, First Series by Oda Kazuma circa January 1929)

3. How does the museum honor the life of artists whose works are represented in the museum?

This work is evident in the entire lifecycle of an artwork from acquisition to install in the galleries and even beyond that point. Our teams from curatorial, publishing, conservation, visual design, interpretation, marketing, communications, exhibition design, and countless others work to tell the full story of the artworks in the collection. All of that work looks like academic and scientific research, visitor-focused language, and interactives that live on the website or in the galleries that take the visitor beyond looking.

(Gerhard Richter, German, born 1932. Woman Descending the Staircase (Frau die Treppe herabgehend), 1965. Oil on canvas. 198 x 128 cm (79 x 51 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago, Roy J., and Frances R. Friedman Endowment; Gift of Lannan Foundation.)

4. Speaking of evolution, how has the museum evolved in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think the museum has done the tremendous work of acknowledging what it truly means to be of the city of Chicago and to be responsible to Chicagoans but also to national and global audiences.

(The Art Institute of Chicago. Pritzker Garden. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.)

5. How does the museum engage with different generational stakeholders?

It does so through robust programming that is not only geared towards different generations but also caters to different interests. The Art Exchange has become a place of community and artmaking for our youngest visitors while our robust teen programming allows us to see the museum through a different lens.

(Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760-1849. The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), from the series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei)”, c. 1830 – 1831. Color woodblock print; oban. 25.4 x 37.6 cm (10 x 14 3/4 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection.)

6. What's the relationship between pop culture and the museum from someone who works in communications?

Top of mind is Ferris Bueller's Day Off but most recently RM of BTS spoke in an interview about the Art Institute being pivotal in his growing appreciation of art. The museum continues to be known for its architecture as well as the diverse and expansive collection of artworks in its galleries.

(Grant Wood, American, 1891-1942. American Gothic, 1930. The Art Institute of Chicago. Friends of American Art Collection.)

7. What is the future of the museum?

That’s hard to say, but as I look around at my colleagues I am confident in the work that we all do and will continue to do for the generations of visitors to come.

(Sky above Clouds IV by Georgia O’Keeffe circa 1965.)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog! Please reach out if you have any ideas for content, partnerships, and more!

Let the posts
come to you.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
bottom of page