After a year of remote schooling, glowing screens, and few opportunities to get outdoors, many Chicago students and their families are finally regaining some semblance of normalcy this summer. This means a return to beloved pastimes, like days at the beach, visits with family, and the opportunity to see and create art in person.
We can’t wait to get out there, and we want you right there with us! That’s why we’ve put together this list of art activities for kids and families in Chicago. Stay entertained and creative all summer long with these sights, sounds, and events for kids and adults alike!
Installation art is a field of limitless possibility, and summertime is ripe for outdoor works that are grand in scale and use the nature surrounding them as a medium. Morton Arboretum, located in the west suburbs, hosts a rotating lineup of adventurous, larger-than-life sculpture. Their newest exhibit, Human+Nature, has had its opening delayed by pandemic-related shipping issues, but is set to open soon and sure to be stunning. Created by South African artist Daniel Popper, these sculptures will tower multiple stories into the arboretum’s canopy, and encourage exploration and interaction.
Slightly further afield – about an hour’s drive south from downtown Chicago – is Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, a sprawling collection of outdoor artworks situated on thirty acres of prairie on the Governors State University campus. Famous for its Paul Bunyan sculpture, this is a beautiful hike with an eclectic collection for art lovers of all ages.
If your kids miss the tactility of art class – or if you need a grown-up break during the summer months – you might want to check out some of the many kids’ classes and camps offered throughout the city. Ravenwood’s Lillstreet Art Center offers their Kidstreet Classes & Camps from June through August on such diverse subjects as graphic novels, sewing, and metalsmithing. Their programming is accessible to all ages, with classes offered for children from 3 to 16.
After School Matters is geared specifically toward teens, who can participate in apprenticeships, even earning stipends for completion. ASM’s scope is wide and forward-thinking, offering creative training in arts ranging from cooking to performance to painting. More than that, this program is focused on teaching teenage students skills in organization, task management, and communication to aid their journeys through college and adulthood.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago will offer online camps this summer as well, and the National Museum of Mexican Art hosts a bilingual arts camp for children aged 7 to 12.
In addition to offering summer classes and camps, Chicago museums are always great places to spend an afternoon, no matter your age. The Art Institute of Chicago is free to Chicago residents under 18, and any child under 14. The Museum of Contemporary Art is free to anyone under 18, and all Illinois residents can attend free on Tuesdays. For accessible admission to a dozen major Chicago museums, zoos, and more, check out Chicago Public Library’s Kids Museum Passport program.
Off the beaten path of the Loop and Lakeshore Drive, Chicago also offers smaller, quirky museums to curious urban explorers. WNDR Museum, nestled into an unassuming block in Ukrainian Village, invites visitors into an immersive, new media space that encourages play, dance, and, well, wonder. Meanwhile, on the South Side, Zap Props offers tours of their enormous warehouse of TV and movie props, replete with photo ops and familiar items from numerous Hollywood productions. While WNDR is suitable for all ages, Zap is a PG-13 experience.
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