May 102012

As someone who is proud to call Chicago my birthplace and former home for many years, I’ve always known that the city is one of the world’s finest cultural capitals. But as many times as I’ve passed by the old Chicago Public Library building, I never walked through the doors of what is now the Chicago Cultural Center, an impressive venue for performing arts, lectures, art exhibitions and special events. The Beaux Arts building, constructed between 1893 and 1897, is a grand work inspired by the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 held in Chicago.

Chicago Cultural Center on Washington Street

Chicago Cultural Center

What’s Up at the Chicago Cultural Center

Yesterday, my curiosity got the better of me; perhaps prompted by the intriguing sign about a current free exhibition, “Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection”. The death-themed exhibit consists of over 500 eclectic works of art and cultural artifacts spanning six thousand years from the collection of Chicago resident, Richard Harris. I found the exhibition to be very creative, thought-provoking and even educational, particularly the sections exploring cultural traditions, the inevitability of death and and horrors of war.

Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection

Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection

Sadly, just as I attempted to take my first photo, I was stopped by a security guard and told that photography was not allowed in the gallery.

However, I had plenty of photo opportunities in the rest of the building. I went a little crazy taking shots from various angles and perspectives of the majestic staircase and intricately-designed ceilings, flooring, and walls.

Staircase and Ceiling detail at Chicago Cultural Center

Staircase and Ceiling at Chicago Cultural Center

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall

Dome in GAR Memorial Hall at Chicago Cultural Center

Dome Ceiling in G.A.R. Memorial Hall at Chicago Cultural Center

The stained glass dome in the G.A.R (Grand Army of the Republic) Memorial hall is 40 feet in diameter was originally a skylight, but is now enclosed and backlit. Somehow I missed a second magnificent dome located in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall. It is 38-foot Tiffany glass dome that is said to be the largest Tiffany dome in the world. Now I’m curious to see that on my next trip!

GAR Memorial Hall ceiling and windows

GAR Memorial Hall

Through the windows of GAR Memorial Hall

Windows of G.A.R Memorial Hall

These windows in GAR Memorial Hall look out onto Randolph Street toward lake Michigan and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.

Staircase at Chicago Cultural Center

Staircase at Chicago Cultural Center

Stairs and Ceiling of Chicago Cultural Center

Stairs and Ceiling of Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Staircase at Chicago Cultural Center

Staircase at Chicago Cultural Center: Looking down at people below

The Chicago Cultural Center was established in 1991 as the first municipal cultural venue in the United States to offer free events, performances and exhibitions for the public. It’s located at 78 E. Washington Street, on the corner of Michigan Avenue.

This is my contribution to this weekโ€™s Travel Photo Thursday originated and hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to check out other contributions on her website.


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  42 Responses to “Culture Curious in Chicago”

  1. The building is a work of art! I’m sure the photos of the exh wouldn’t have measured up.

    • I was quite surprised when I walked into the building and saw what a beauty it was. I still would have liked a few pics from the exhibit — some very unusual pieces.

  2. Outstanding architecture. I love those windows.

  3. Wow…what a gorgeous building. I really have to get to Chicago. How I’ve never been is beyond me…

  4. You and Dick Jordan seem to have teamed up this week on the idea of taking shots at different angles and not trying to get the ‘whole thing’ I love the photos of the stairways and ceilings in particular. Most interesting post. . .as always!

  5. These are great photos! I’m headed to Chicago in August, so I’ll definitely have to check this place out!

  6. Love the details, especially the ones on the ceiling! Wish we had more public buildings like that here in the Philippines ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. That ceiling is stunning- looks like a beautiful building!

    • I wish I had known about the second dome ceiling before I went there. I’ll have to check that out next time.

  8. Beautiful details and architecture, Cathy! The exterior of the building looks a bit plain but I love how the interior is such a contrast filled with so many interesting architectural details and color. Wow on that dome ceiling.

    • There was such a focus on interiors then. You’re right that the exterior is rather plain — that’s why I was so struck by the beauty of the interior.

  9. What a beautiful building! I am really wanting to go to Chicago, and this place seems like one I would really enjoy. The exhibit sounds strangely interesting, too!

    • As I know that you are an art lover, I think you’d totally love Chicago. Great galleries & exhibitions like this one going on all the time.

  10. A beautiful building Cathy – and in the interior it seems more European in design than American.

    • Indeed. I think that much of the architecture influenced by the 1893 Columbia Exposition was similarly designed.

  11. What a beautiful building! Chicago is one of my favourite cities – I think we have visited 6 or 7 times and the girls and I are going by ourselves for a few days this August.

    • Chicago is an awesome city. I’m sure you girls will have a great time in August — I love those hot summers in the city!

  12. Such a magnificent building! Too bad you couldn’t get more shots of the exhibit, but understandable ๐Ÿ™‚ LOVE that dome ceiling!

    • The ceiling is beautiful. Wish I had known enough to look for the other Tiffany ceiling there. That’s what I get for not doing any research.

  13. What a beautiful building! Chicago has long been on my travel wishlist…

    • I can’t believe the number of times I walked by that building and didn’t think about going in. Better late than never, I guess.

  14. Great photos – I always love your staircase shots. Isn’t it boring when you’re not allowed to take photos of exhibitions? At least the building itself is interesting enough to entertain a camera-wielding blogger. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks so much, Julia. Before I had my blog, I wouldn’t have even thought about taking photos in an exhibit. Now it seems weird not to take any. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. What a wonderful location. Beautifully shown in this series!

  16. I’ve never been here before ๐Ÿ™‚ Your article and photos sure make me want to go.

  17. This makes me think to really go to that place when I have time and chance.. I just love them photos here.. Great job!

  18. I love Chicago and in particular its food and architecture. Definitely one of my favourite cities in the USA. Can’t wait to go there again.

  19. That’s really cool. There are so many hidden treasures in our cities. Everyone should vow to become resident tourists!

  20. I love finding wonderful gems like this! I especially liked the dome. But did you finish looking at the exhibit?

  21. I have not heard of this exhibit, but it sounds awesome. I am going to have to check it out this week.

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