While most art aficionados venture beyond Hyde Park to explore the city's world-renowned art venues, the University of Chicago community boasts a unique collection of museums, galleries, and art festivals right here on campus that are sure to inspire everyone from archaeology geeks to devotees of contemporary architecture.
Situated across from Ratner gym, the University's Smart Museum of Art (5550 South Greenwood Avenue, (773) 702-0200, smartmuseum.uchicago.edu) houses a permanent collection of over 10,000 objects and artifacts spanning five millennia. The Smart Museum runs several special exhibits each year, and it's not too late to catch its exhibition on idols from the classical and Judeo-Christian traditions (Idol Anxiety). The museum recently concluded two exhibitions featuring photography and painting inspired by urban life and the modern cityscape (Seeing the City: Sloan's New York and Street Level: Modern Photography from the Smart Museum Collection). Upcoming exhibitions promise to be equally groundbreaking and innovative, exploring topics ranging from contemporary Chinese art to 20th-century etching. Admission to both the general and special exhibitions is always free.
The University's Oriental Institute (1155 East 58th Street, (773) 702-9520, oi.uchicago.edu/museum) maintains a museum dedicated to the study of the art, archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations. Included among the Oriental Institute Museum's permanent collections are artifacts found during University-led excavations in ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia. The Institute's current special exhibit considers questions arising from the 2003 looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad (Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past). While admission is free, the Oriental Institute requests suggests a donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children under 12.
Don't be fooled—the Renaissance Society has nothing to do with Jacobean revenge plays or early modern studies. From its fourth floor abode in Cobb Hall, the Renaissance Society
(5811 South Ellis Avenue, Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418, (773) 702-8670,
renaissancesociety.org) offers the Hyde Park community a wealth of resources, publications, and exhibits exploring contemporary art and culture. Founded in 1915, the Society played a key role in bringing Midwestern audiences many never-before-seen works of Picasso, Brancusi, Mondrian, Noguchi, Miró, Moholy-Nagy, and Arp during the 1920s and '30s. Nowadays, the Renaissance society sponsors concerts, performances, film and video screenings, and poetry and fiction readings by prominent contemporary artists and writers. This summer, the Society's special exhibit Black Is, Black Ain't explored the rhetoric of race and the production of "blackness." All Society exhibitions are free.
For ten days during each spring, the University campus becomes a canvas for showcasing the visual and creative talents of burgeoning artists. The student-run Festival of the Arts (FOTA)
(fota.uchicago.edu) is a venue for University students, staff, and faculty to share their paintings, installations, films, plays, fashion design, music, and dance projects with the campus community. In spring quarter, the main quadrangles, Hallowed Grounds coffee shop, and the Cobb Hall Renaissance Society are great places to check out independent FOTA projects.
For those who live further from campus, the Hyde Park Art Center
(5020 South Cornell Avenue,
(773) 324-5520, hydeparkart.org) offers outstanding visual art exhibits and educational programs for the South Side community. The oldest alternative arts space in Chicago, the Center boasts an impressive range of adult and youth art courses in addition to hosting summer Creativity Camps that combine the visual arts and theater. The Center's current exhibition Queer Interiors and Phthalo Blue—a reflection on the intersection of homoeroticism, architecture, and color—features wall paintings by Chicago artist David Lozano. Admission to the Center is free.