(credit: chicagoculturalcenter.org)

Monday – Thursday, 8am – 7pm
Friday, 8am – 6 pm
Saturday, 9am – 6pm
Sunday, 10am – 6pm
Admission: free

(credit: chicagoculturalcenter.org)

At the corner of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue, across from Millennium Park, stands the 115-year-old former central library building that now serves as Chicago’s cultural epicenter. The Chicago Cultural Center is a local treasure, beckoning passers-by to stop in and experience the bouquet of cultural bounty flourishing within its impressively-crafted walls. Whether you’re looking for a cheap date destination, a classic wedding venue, Chicago-related gifts, a free concert or just a pleasant place to take a downtown break, the CCC can be all these things and more.

Anyone with five minutes to spare can step inside the Cultural Center, ascend a couple flights of stairs, and stroll into a large, potentially unoccupied and fantastically beautiful space overlooking the scurrying masses outside. Chances are good that exploring visitors will soon find themselves in Preston Bradley Hall, standing underneath the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome. But there is plenty more to the Cultural Center than sanctuary and the warm embrace of neoclassical architecture. There is, of course, culture, and lots of it.

(credit: chicagoculturalcenter.org)

Each year, around 800 programs and exhibitions are presented, encompassing a wide spectrum of arts. On any given day, a classical concert, theatrical production, film screening or multiple art exhibitions may be happening. Much of the programming is regularly scheduled. On Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. classical music aficionados get a free lunchtime concert from the Dame Myra Hess series. The Sunday Salon Series at 3:00 every Sunday through May also showcases a wide variety of classical music. If jazz is more to your liking, the Jazz Links Jam Sessions take place every second Wednesday of each month from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the first-floor Randolph Café.

On the art front, the main current exhibit is “Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection,” on display through July 8. This creepy/awesome exhibition showcases over five hundred artworks and artifacts owned by Chicagoan Richard Harris exploring the topic of death. Also currently on exhibit is “The Wrocław School of Printmaking,” an extensive show print-based works, through April 30. “Write Now: Artists and Letterforms,” featuring a variety of mediums utilizing letters and text, is on display through April 29.

Project Onward (credit: projectonward.org)

One of the things that makes the CCC particularly special is Project Onward (projectonward.org), located on the first floor. The gallery and studio provide a therapeutic setting where artists with mental and developmental disabilities are given work areas, materials, guidance and exhibition space to create and display their art. Visitors may stop in, purchase work, meet the artists, and, often, sit for a portrait. Now through March 7, check out the exhibition “Forever 27: Music Superstars Gone to an Early Grave” commemorating the lives of popular musicians who passed away at the young age of 27.

For film buffs, free Saturday matinees are offered around once a month. Current ad upcoming theatrical offerings include “The Vet Art Project Performance Series,” a March 21 performance featuring short works-in-progress by veterans, and “Las Hermanas Padilla by Tony Meneses, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Storefront Theater at 66 E. Randolph St.

Greg Wahl can often be found wandering aimlessly through the halls of the aforementioned building.