Archive for the category “Tours and Museums”

Spring Flower Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory

WHAT: Spring Flower Show
WHERE: Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N. Stockton Dr.)
WHEN: Daily 9am-5pm (Jan 26-May 12, 2013)
WHO: Lincoln Park Conservatory




We’ve been missing the blooms and colors of spring this April with this horrid weather we’ve been having, so we took trip over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory for their free annual Spring Flower Show. This year’s flower show features azaleas, which once upon a time bloomed at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. But that’s not all of course, as you’ll see a variety of other spring blooming plants, spring flowering annuals and spring flowering perennials.



Adam: Conservatories are fascinating structures: the immediate change from cold barren weather to a lush rainforest is instantly appealing, all the more so because spring is so late this year. Wandering through the luxuriant foliage, spotting flowers here and there, it feels a bit like you’re in a scene from Jurassic Park, just waiting for the Velociraptors to strike. In fact, any Chicagoan knows that there are mini dinosaurs hidden in the fern room (and a wooly mammoth who would be far too hot), which are always a delightful little reminder of childhood – try and find them all on the left hand side of the fern room near the pond.



The flower show itself is scattered throughout the different rooms, and not clearly labelled, but the bursts of color lead you directly to the blooms. Peonies cluster is beautiful garlands, while heliconia invitingly gape their mouths, wishing that a hummingbird would pass by and take a sip. The red clerodendrum seem to hang from their stems, appropriately enough at hand height, being used medicinally in India to treat diabetes and high blood pressure. Perhaps the most striking plant on display was the red-pink calliandra. It’s easy to spot this one: hanging from a large tree, they look like mini pom-poms.



Alicia: All your senses are engaged at this annual flower show, providing a much needed pick me up from this past winter and the cold and grey beginning of spring. If the visual and olfactory sensory stimulation isn’t enough for you though, not to worry! Head over to the Fern Room for an auditory experience of Orniphonia 2 by Chicago composer Bob Snyder, running till May 31st.



Orniphonia 2 is part of Florasonic, a series of sound installation presented by Experimental Sound Studio in collaboration with the Chicago Park District. Unfortunately, Orniphonia 2 happens to remind me of the gosh-darned bird-sound installation in the women’s restroom at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago which was up for far too long, so my experience of this installation was a little marred. Snyder’s soundscape may sound like real bird sounds, but in actuality he creates it electronically using analog synthesis. Circuits generate patterns consisting of cycles within cycles of sounds that interact and change, mimicking the rhythmic behavior of the biological life one would associate with the surrounding environment.

As for the plant life, I suggest you check out the flower of the Kru Banana, a native to New Guinea and rarely found in private collections in the United States. Super colorful, and definitely unique. Their hyacinths are also particularly vibrant and quite spectacular.



Final Thoughts: With barren trees and cold temperatures, Chicago is in much need of some loving from good ol’ Mother Nature, and what better way to enjoy the colors and blooms of spring than in a secret garden complete with the colors of the rainbow, streams and fountains, and some relaxing sounds of the outdoors. But indoors, of course.

P.S. For those of you who want to learn more about the iconic part of Chicago history that was the World’s Fair, we recommend The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, which has fantastic visuals and amazing materials from the time. For the more horticulturally inclined, you can now order the seedlings featured in the show online, including azaleas, heliconia, clerodendrum, calliandra, and hyacinth. Before you know it, you’ll have your very own conservatory!

Smoking Kids

WHAT: “Smoking Kids” (Photographic Exhibit)
WHEN: March 8 – May 4, 2013
WHERE: 300 W. Superior St.
HOST: Catherine Edelman Gallery




Last week, Storefront City stopped by the opening for Belgian photographer Frieke Janssens’s photographic exhibit “Smoking Kids” at the Catherine Edelman Gallery on the Near North Side. Founded in 1987, the gallery highlights a variety of contemporary photographic techniques and artists both new and old.

"The Chimney" by Frieke Janssens

“The Chimney”
(Frieke Janssens)

As the title suggests, this particular exhibition at the Catherine Edelman Gallery focuses on 15 photo-manipulated portrayals of children (ages four to nine) smoking, complete with advertisement-worthy period outfits and hairstyles from a variety of decades. Janssens was apparently inspired to create the photos after viewing a viral Youtube video of a chain-smoking Indonesian infant. Disturbing, and yet a fascinating cultural study.

"Pipe with Contempt" by Frieke Janssens

“Pipe with Contempt”
(Frieke Janssens)

Adam: I find Janssens’s manipulated images amazing, captivating and actually highly appealing (you’ve just got to love controversy). Allowing us to look at smoking in an entirely different manner and context, I couldn’t help but think of the way children were really miniaturized adults, making me question the social controls placed upon them, how they are beneficial, and how adults constantly undermine their own efforts of protection.

"To the End" by Frieke Janssens

“To the End”
(Frieke Janssens)

Beautifully executed photography that is composed digitally, no children were harmed in the making of these pictures. The pure lines and the blurring of adulthood and the innocence of the child surprisingly do not generate a repugnance, but a strange, literary aesthetic that captures the whole soul of a person.

Stunning and wonderful, Janssens’s work is to be highly recommended and, if you have $3000 to spare, you can pick up your very own Smoking Child portrait.

"Belga Girl" by Frieke Janssens

“Belga Girl”
(Frieke Janssens)

Alicia: Situated in the bottom level of 300 W. Superior St., the Catherine Edelman Gallery certainly packs a punch with multiple photographic exhibitions on display, and I am so thrilled to have been initiated through their doors by Janssens’s work.

I found my reactions to this exhibition somewhat surprising. In addition to being photographed beautifully, the smoking children are unsettlingly provocative and surreal, and really highlight the issue of the appeal of smoking both culturally and historically.

"Classic Red" by Frieke Janssens

“Classic Red”
(Frieke Janssens)

I absolutely love Janssens’s reference to the golden age of cigarette culture and its ever-present role in a variety of cultures, but I must be honest that my real interest in this exhibition lies more so in its period-ranging aesthetics and the techniques used in setting up the portraits. For example, it was riveting to discover that the cigarettes were made of cheese and that the ‘tobacco’ smoke was generated instead by burning candles and incense!

"Ringlings" by Frieke Janssens

(Frieke Janssens)

My favorite? Definitely “Ringlings.” But all the kids are superstars in these images.

Final Thoughts: This exhibit is definitely worth a trip to the CEG, and while you’re in the building we suggest you roam around and visit some of the other tenant galleries. A really fun space!

Alibi Fine Art

WHAT: Alibi Fine Art (Art Gallery)
WHERE: 1966 W. Montrose Ave.

OUR RATING: Do It! (If you’re near)



Storefront City traveled to North Center to attend the opening reception of Burkhart’s Underground, a gallery showing by Fred Burkhart at the Alibi Fine Art Gallery. Alibi Fine Art is a free contemporary gallery in Chicago intended to support new, mid-career and overlooked artists. While Alibi’s exhibition choices tend to focus on photography, they sometimes also represent other media. The Burkhart opening was our first foray into their space.

Alibi has a great location on Montrose, but as with many privately owned galleries in town, it is super tiny, and can only comfortably fit up to about two dozen people. This made the Burkhart opening claustrophobic, as the attendance was much higher, but nonetheless very exciting!

"Old Red Eye" (

“Old Red Eye” (

Fred Burkhart doesn’t fit the “new” or “mid-career” categories, but rather that of “overlooked”, as he has been part of the art scene in the city for almost three decades. Burkharts Underground, which will be up at Alibi until March 23, highlights Burkhart’s black and white photography documenting a vast array of subjects. From the Klu Klux Klan to the Gay Pride Movement, diverse and polarising topics that pulse through the modern American discourse are the focus of his work, which captures moments, rather than stories, allowing the viewer to appreciate the humanity that lies beneath his subjects.



Mr. Burkhart’s work has never been displayed in a solo gallery show before, which is tragic given the important nature of his photographs. Even more tragic is the photographer’s recent diagnosis of terminal cancer, making this possibly his last exhibition. However, his work lives afresh at Alibi and will certainly allow him to be remembered as an artist and social commentator in the years to come.

This exhibition is not recommended for children.

First Fridays at the MCA: December’s ‘White Out’

WHAT: First Fridays at the MCA: December’s ‘White Out’
WHEN: First Friday of every month
WHERE: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (22 E. Chicago Ave)
HOST: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

OUR RATING: Chance/Skip It!

Guests were encouraged to wear white at this month’s “White Out” First Fridays at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. For those of you who may not be familiar with this program, First Fridays is hosted by the museum on the first Friday of each month for anyone 21+. It’s meant to be a social-networking and cultural event and tickets ($14 advance, $18 at the door) include admission into the museum (and all of its galleries), live entertainment, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and usually some games or crafts. There is also a cash bar for those who wish to imbibe.

Having some fun (courtesy of

Having some fun (courtesy of

This month’s event featured DJ Kid Color, MammothBooth photo and Swirlz Cupcakes. Guests were invited to make garlands at their holiday decor creation station and to search for white works of art for a chance to win prizes. There were also a few ‘white’ hors d’oeuvres passed around, including goat cheese and pomegranate seeds on small bites of toast, and chicken salad bites.

We have gone to quite a few of these events in past months, but it seems just as the economy has worsened, so have the offerings at First Fridays. There used to be a few tables of fresh veggies and dips, and other tables of hot and savory goodies and desserts, but this year there were two (or three?) not-so-hot appetizers and a table full of dry macaroons and brownies.

Alicia's sad cupcake

Alicia’s sad cupcake

Adam's sad cupcake

Adam’s sad cupcake

We hoped Swirlz Cupcakes would salvage the night. Instead, they offered three mini cupcakes that were all dry and totally boring. Alicia think’s she was supposed to have the vanilla twixie (vanilla cake, chocolate covered shortbread, salted caramel buttercream, caramel).  Not as exciting as it sounded. The other two were even less memorable.

One slight upside to the event was MammothBooth!, a photobooth of sorts where you take your own photos with a tiny remote and watch as the photos pop onto a screen in front of you. We took a few against a dizzy-ing black and white fun background. Pretty cool actually.

Kara Walker's "Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored", 1997Watercolor and paper on paper

Kara Walker’s “Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored”, 1997
Watercolor and paper on paper

Then there’s the museum itself, which as usual has a few exhibitions going on. Our favorite was probably the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: Bivouac exhibition, which brings strange and technical manufacturing structures to your everyday furniture and designs. A memorable piece was Clouds, pressed pieces of felt that were attached together to make multifaceted colorful walls.  Alicia was also a big fan of Kara Walker’s cut paper installation on the second floor, which measures 13 by 150 feet!

If you want to go to the museum anyways and have to pay an admission fee, go on First Fridays instead and mix some food, music and socializing into your night. Otherwise, this event is probably not worth the ticket price nor your use of a Friday night.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home Family Christmas Tour

WHAT: Family Fun Days featuring Victorian Christmas Tours
WHEN: Saturday, December 8 & 15, 9-11 am
WHERE: Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park
HOST: Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust


If you are looking for something to do a little further afield this winter, why not stop into the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park for free tours by kids and hot chocolate. Although aimed at families with kids, Family Fun Days are appropriate for all ages and give you a unique perspective on this gem of Chicago history.

We arrived early on Saturday morning at the house located in Oak Park, just west of the city. At first, we were worried about parking, but it seemed that street parking was available, so we pulled up and started our tour.

The tour was given by junior interpreters, which might have been a problem, were it not for their general eloquence and affable moods. The tours focus on the Wright family’s celebration of Christmas, but more importantly allow you to experience the whole house for free (it usually costs $15 for adults). The charming Shingle-style home truly draws you in with its nooks of rooms opening up into unexpected music rooms, hidden galleries and gorgeously constructed furniture.

This tour is special also because afterwards you are privy to Wright’s studio, where drafting materials are laid out, giving you a sense of a man who never stopped creating. Also in this area, children can learn more through playing with replicas of the very blocks Wright used as a child to construct his early masterworks.

Finally, no wintertime tour would be complete without the deliciously creamy (and free!) hot chocolate and coffee offered in the courtyard by a decidedly cold, yet jovial, pair. Visit if you can. Great for kids, couples and the architectural buff.

P.S. Thank the kids in each part of the house and be a good listener. But don’t stare them down as they talk – actually look around at what they’re speaking about. It takes a lot of spunk to memorize a script and spend your Saturday mornings talking to a bunch of strangers, so these kids are pretty awesome.

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