By Megan Horst-Hatch
If you’re on a budget and want to see some works of art for free, then you’ve come to the right town. From antiques made in ancient Greece to Pablo Picasso’s works from the last century, Chicago has numerous venues and tours with free admission. Free art activities in Chicago aren’t just limited to works already on display; several venues also offer hands-on activities where participants can try their hand at becoming artists. Keep your wallet in your pocket and check out the following free art activities.
Naperville Art League Fine Art Center & Gallery
508 N. Center St.
Naperville, IL 60563
Located near downtown Naperville, Naperville Art League Fine Art Center & Gallery offers an ever-rotating display of artwork by league members through monthly shows. Items on display have included charcoal drawings, animals carved from wood, oil paintings, photography, wire sculptures and jewelry. Currently, the gallery is holding its holiday show where shoppers can purchase art for sale in numerous disciplines including ceramics, paintings and jewelry. Check out the gallery in February for its annual show “Fabulous Fakes” where local artists put new twists on instantly recognizable works of art.
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
From photographs to folk art, the National Museum of Mexican Art has an extensive collection of artwork spanning more than 500 years. The museum, which is located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, has more than 7,000 pieces in its collection. Visitors can view masks and figurines related to Dia de los Muertos, prints and drawings by artists like Vita Castro, Rupert Garcia and Angelina Beloff and the museum’s textiles collection, including those used in traditional folk dances and weavings. Free public guided tours of the museum will be available on December 15. For tour times, consult the museum’s website.
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection is priceless and seeing it for free is one of the best deals in town. From Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jette” to Edward Hopper’s classic “Nighthawks,” the Art Institute offers an extensive collection of art including paintings, sculptures, pottery, furniture and paperweights. While the Art Institute normally charges admission, free admission is available to Illinois residents on the first and second Wednesdays of every month. Upcoming free dates are December 5 and 12. The Art Institute also offers free activities inside the museum like lectures and tours. In addition, families might want to check out the drop-in programs at the Ryan Education Center where participants can make collages and sculptures while learning art techniques.
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77 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Think you know Chicago? Think again. InstaGreeter offers free guided tours of iconic Chicago neighborhoods that focus on each area’s history and architecture. Led by a team of volunteers, InstaGreeter’s year-round tours of the Loop depart from the Chicago Cultural Center every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For specific hours, consult the website. Best of all, reservations are not required, making it a perfect spur-of-the-moment activity if you are entertaining out-of-town guests or are a long-time citizen who wants to learn more about the city. Instagreeter also offers tours from May through September in other locations in Chicago including Hyde Park, Millennium Park, Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Boystown, Pilsen and Old Town.
Hyde Park Art Center
5020 S. Cornell Ave.
Chicago, IL 60615
If you want to see an extensive collection of modern art by local artists, check out the Hyde Park Art Center. Located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, the Center’s mission is to provide local artists with a venue to display their works while also educating the public about art. One of the shows currently on display at the center is “Two Histories of the World,“ which features the works of five artists who used found materials and transformed them into works of art. The center also hosts Second Sundays, a monthly event where families can drop in on the second Sunday of the month and do hands-on activities with stamps, painting or architecture. The next Second Sunday is planned for December 9.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.