Chicago Cultural Center

78 East Washington Street
312-744-3316

The landmark building known as the Chicago Cultural Center serves as the city's official reception venue where the Mayor has welcomed Presidents and royalty, diplomats and community leaders. This is the "People's Palace," where Chicago's diverse communities gather. This remarkable structure was completed in 1897 as the city's main library. Constructed to be "an enduring monument worthy of a great and public spirited city" -- in the words of the founding library board -- the "People's Palace" is a testament to the foresight of Chicago's turn of the (20th) century cultural leadership.

The nation's first free municipal cultural center, the Chicago Cultural Center is one of the city's ten most popular attractions and is considered one of the most comprehensive arts showcases in the United States. Each year, the Chicago Cultural Center features more than 1,000 programs and exhibitions covering a wide range of the performing, visual and literary arts. Programming is aimed at increasing public awareness of the arts, and school tours and learning guides are provided to enhance the public's appreciation of the landmark building and enjoyment of its diverse programs and exhibitions.

Programs feature classical, jazz, world, folk, pop, and vocal music concerts, new and classic plays and readings, modern dance performances, art discussions, film screenings, lectures, cultural celebrations, and participatory events for all ages. Regularly scheduled programs include weekday "LunchBreak" concerts and gallery talks, and weekly "Sunday Salon Series" afternoon concerts, among others. Regular building tours are scheduled at 1:15 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Groups are scheduled at other times by arrangement.

Exhibitions present a wide range of traditional and new media: painting, sculpture, photography, graphics, crafts, architecture, and design. A variety of contemporary, historical, and cultural offerings include international traveling exhibitions as well as one-person shows by local artists. Several major exhibitions are organized annually by staff of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs or guest curators. Related lectures, panel discussions, films, symposia, and gallery talks are frequently scheduled. Special programs and tours for students are presented.

The Chicago Cultural Center houses eight exhibition spaces, two concert halls, two theaters, a cabaret performing space, a dance studio, a senior center, a café, a shop, and a visitor information center.


Designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the building was dedicated in 1897 as the first permanent home of the Chicago Public Library. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972, and was designated a Chicago Landmark on November 15, 1976. Its beaux-arts style was influenced by the buildings of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and its architecture features both Greek and Roman styles. The building's interior features rooms modeled on the Doge's Palace in Venice, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Acropolis in Athens. The building is most notable for two spectacular stained-glass domes as well as lush ornamentation that includes rare marbles inlaid with sparkling mosaics and intricate, coffered ceilings.


Reviews

Cecelia Burokas

Rating:
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Well-curated art exhibits all the time. Lots of theater, dance and musical events. Two beautiful glass domes, intricate mosaics. An architectural landmark with beautiful walls, floors, ceilings at every turn. Best of all, exhibits and most events are FREE! This is really a city treasure, not to be missed. My favorite place for a break when I'm in the loop.

Joseluis Avalos

Rating:
Monday, April 24, 2017

One of Chicago's best kept gems! You can view art, listen to music, partake in poetry and lectures. And it's all FREE! Once the city's public library, it is now the city's best place to be engulfed with public arts. One the first floor you can find a great seating area where people watching is a must.

Adrian van Breda

Rating:
Friday, April 21, 2017

Stunning building that you can walk for quite a long time. The concert room is just stunning, with its exquisite mosaics and Tiffany dome ceiling. Free entry. Really worth spending a half hour or so here.

Andrew Gregor

Rating:
Friday, Jan. 20, 2017

The Chicago Cultural Center is a beautiful building in the heart of Chicago. It's great to come here just to check out the architecture and details of the building. There are also art displays and other fun stuff. The best part is that it's free! If you are visiting the area, stop here to warm up and explore this amazing space.

Kelly Ferrari

Rating:
Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017

One of my favorite buildings in Chicago. Was originally a public library, built in the 19th century. The tile work is gorgeous and you have to check out the world's largest Tiffany glass dome. There is always a free exhibit to check out (after exploring the building itself). Staff is always friendly and helpful. Also, free public restrooms for when you are spending the day walking around the city.


Upcoming Events at Chicago Cultural Center

Juicebox Concert - Future Hits

Friday, May 5, 2017 at 11:00am
Chicago Cultural Center
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Juicebox Concert - Future Hits

Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 11:00am
Garfield Park Conservatory
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Juicebox Concert - Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band

Friday, May 19, 2017 at 11:00am
Chicago Cultural Center
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Juicebox Concert - Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band

Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 11:00am
Garfield Park Conservatory
Read More »