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

James Borkman

Rating:
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Completed in 1897, half of the building is the old Chicago Public Library (now cultural center and offices) - the other half is a former headquarters of the Grand Army of the Republic (now cultural center and offices). Both have impressive stained glass domes (the Library side is the largest Tiffany Stained Glass Dome in the world!) and stunning marble and mosaic tile throughout. Everything here is free, and open to the public. This is truly a must see for anyone in Chicago.

Blaine Bershad

Rating:
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A great resource for the city and wonderful exposure to a time when public buildings were made with deep pocketed love and significant attention to detail. Astounding use of curved stone wall panels and railings in the stairs! Mosaics abound! Wonderful, exploratory art. And those glass skylights!!!!!

Corey Kennelly

Rating:
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beautiful architecture inside this former public library with several large domes (go up a couple floors). There are often events in here that are free to the public. A good place to people watch from. Additionally, there are public bathrooms that are free!

Chicago Slim

Rating:
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Explore Chicago's rich cultural heritage in this 3 floor, historic building featuring 2 beautiful glass domes and amazing rotating art exhibits. Free admission and close proximity to all things Chicago makes this an easy 'yes!' when looking for something to do.

Latoyakey Sanders

Rating:
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Up stairs will be where a concert. Walk around. Posted pictures on the walls. A place to sit at downstairs where you can eat or talk while you are ditting there. There is a bookstore. There's a restroom there.