If you’re an art lover on a budget, Chicago is the perfect town for you. The best free art galleries in the city, much less the world, are all readily accessible. Some of the city’s best museums and galleries charge no admission at all, and some even throw in free guided tours and host lectures.
Free art activities in Chicago aren’t just limited to works on display; many free art galleries also host hands-on activities where participants can create their own art while learning from professionals.
Here is a list of some of the best free art galleries, museums & experiences in Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago – One of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, and the crown jewel of Chicago’s art scene, Illinois residents get free admission to this world class institution on the first and second Wednesdays of every month. The museum offers free lectures and tours and the Ryan Education Center lets families make collages and sculptures while learning basic and advanced art techniques.
Hyde Park Art Center – The oldest alternative visual arts center in the city, the Hyde Park Art center is the most extensive collection of modern art produced by local artists, on display free of charge. In addition to artist talks and studio classes, on the second Sunday of each month, the center hosts an event where families can drop in and do hands-on activities with stamps, painting or architecture.
Instagreeter – InstaGreeter turns the city of Chicago into a free, open-air museum. Volunteers lead you on a guided tour of the history and architecture of iconic Chicago neighborhoods. The year-round tours leave from the Chicago Cultural Center every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. No reservations are required, making it a perfect last-minute activity to entertain visitors or to test your city knowledge against other long-time Chicagoans.
Chicago Cultural Center – Sitting on the location of Chicago’s original public library, the Chicago Cultural Center hosts free art exhibits, featuring works by local creators and international talent. Come see the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome or attend a free concert in the building’s Preston Bradley Hall.
Renaissance Society – Located on the University of Chicago’s campus, the Renaissance Society is not your traditional Renaissance gallery. The white walls and high ceiling create a hyper-resonant environment that’s perfect for the funky, avant-garde works inside.
Museum of Contemporary Photography – Since 1976, the Museum of Contemporary Photography has collaborated with artists and photographers to present exhibitions of analog and digital images and presented their work free of charge to the public.
Comfort Station – Previously a place where trolley riders stopped to rest, Comfort Station, since 2010 has been a treasured community art space that regularly hosts art exhibitions, live music and film screenings while providing a public meeting place for art appreciators of all ages.