Art in Chicago

by Chris Duesing

I am in the process of building out this page, please bear with me!


Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, located downtown along the eastern edge of Grant Park, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Founded in 1879, it has since grown to become one of the world’s great art museums, housing a collection of art works that spans centuries and the globe. Visited by 1.5 million people annually, its permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art is accompanied by more than 30 special exhibitions each year. Several expansions over the years has grown the museum’s footprint to nearly one million square feet, making it the second-largest art museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Art Institute is associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a leading art school, making it one of the few remaining unified arts institutions in the United States.

The Block Museum of Art

Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art is located in Evanston, which borders the city on the north. It describes itself as “a dynamic, imaginative, and innovative teaching and learning resource for Northwestern and its surrounding communities, featuring a global exhibition program that crosses time periods and cultures and serves as a springboard for thought-provoking discussions relevant to our lives today.” The space reopen(s/ed) to the public on September 22nd 2021.

Art Galleries

Art Schools

Art High Schools

I think it is pretty cool to live in a city that has not only one, but two arts high schools!

The Chicago High School for the Arts

The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts®), located at 2714 West Augusta Boulevard, says it exists to develop the next generation of diverse, artistically promising scholar-artists through intensive pre-professional training in the arts, combined with a comprehensive college preparatory curriculum. They hope that ChiArts’ diverse scholar-artists will thrive as creators, thinkers, and community members, and their participation in the arts and culture will deeply enrich their lives and society at large.

The academic curriculum provides students with a rigorous college preparatory education. ChiArts utilizes a research-based multi-year curriculum in each discipline ensuring instructional sequencing across grade levels and alignment with Illinois State Standards and College Readiness Standards. They also have specialty programs in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.

The Chicago Academy for the Arts

The Chicago Academy for the Arts says that it is a high school where artists master the skills necessary for academic success, critical thought, and creative expression. It was Designated a National School of Distinction by the John F. Kennedy Center. The Academy offers students the opportunity to engage in a unique co-curricular program: rigorous, college-preparatory academic classes and professional-level arts training in the context of an unparalleled school culture. The Academy’s school day consists of six 45-minute academic periods followed by a three-plus hour immersion in a student’s chosen arts department: Dance, Media Arts (filmmaking, animation, creative writing), Music, Musical Theatre, Theatre, and Visual Arts.

The Chicago Academy for the Arts is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization accredited and recognized by the following organizations: Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS), Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Arts Schools Network (ASN), and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).

Art Colleges

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

In 1866, a group of 35 artists founded the Chicago Academy of Design in a studio on Dearborn Street, with the intent to run a free school with its own art gallery. When the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the building in 1871 the Academy was thrown into debt. In 1879 the artists left to found a new organization, named the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. When the Chicago Academy of Design went bankrupt the same year, the new Chicago Academy of Fine Arts bought its assets at auction. In 1882, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts changed its name to the current Art Institute of Chicago. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is a private university still closely associated with the museum.

SAIC has been accredited since 1936 by the regional Higher Learning Commission. throughout its existence the school has been highly acclaimed, recently in a survey conducted by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, SAIC was named the “most influential art school” by art critics at general interest news publications from across the United States. In 2017 U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings ranked SAIC the fourth best overall graduate program for fine arts in the U.S. tying with the Rhode Island school of Design. In January 2013, The Global Language Monitor ranked SAIC as the #5 college in the U.S., the highest ever for an art or design school in a general college ranking. In 2020 and 2021 U.S. News and World Report ranked SAIC as the second best overall graduate program for fine arts in the U.S. tied with Yale University. In 2021, the university was ranked the seventh globally according to the QS World University Rankings by the subject Art and Design.

(Did I mention I was recently accepted in to their BFA Studio degree program? I am pretty chuffed!)

Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago, not to be confused with Columbia College in Columbia Missouri OR Columbia University in New York, is a private, nonprofit arts college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business. Where SAIC is a bit more focused on the studio art and institutional arts world, Columbia is a bit more grounded in the practical. Both schools offer fine arts, fashion, graphic design and art history but Columbia degree programs also include music, dance, film and television, game design, journalism, marketing, programming and more.

Columbia College Chicago’s ranking in the 2021 edition of Best Colleges is Regional Universities Midwest was #103. Its tuition and fees are $28,318. Columbia is a great school, I have several friends who went there and were able to transition in to the working world fairly smoothly.

The American Academy of Art College

The American Academy of Art College is a private college offering Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs. The curriculum is based on developing strong foundational skills and knowledge from which students can improve their abilities as they complete challenging projects of progressive difficulty. The Academy offers six Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs in 3-D Modeling/Animation, Art Direction, Graphic Design, Illustration, Painting with specializations in Oil Painting or Watercolor Painting, and Photography.

I am not super familiar with the school honestly, but it appears to take a bit of a middle ground between SAIC and Columbia. The program is very art heavy, focusing on hard skills, with a seemingly linear progression. Columbia appears to be a bit more career focused, though AAAC does appear to be preparing students for the job market as well. It is a very different approach than SAIC’s conceptual, exploratory and medium last approach. They definitely have some impressive alumni listed on the website.

The school is listed as “unranked” by USNews, and has an annual tuition of $35,270. Niche says American Academy of Art is a small institution with an enrollment of 159 undergraduate students and an acceptance rate of 100%.

Art Classes

Ravenswood Atelier

The Ravenswood Atelier is a small (tiny!) program for very serious, classic drawing, painting and sculpting education. The Atelier model is a very structured approach that begins with drawing from master’s images, then from plaster casts (hands, arms, busts), and finally from live models. Programs like this can take years to progress through. It will certainly not prepare you for any job, but if you want to be able to recreate a human in graphite or oil paint with perfect proportions and incredible likeness, then this is the kind of program for you. Think photo realism without the photo.

Much like their curriculum, their website looks like it was created in the Renaissance (zing!). I am not sure what they are doing in terms of Covid, but I believe they were closed for much of the pandemic. Their Facebook page is probably a bit more up to date than the website.

Palette And Chisel Avademy of Fine Arts

Palette And Chisel has classes teaching life drawing, oil painting, watercolor and sculpture.

Art Supply Stores

Dick Blick

The Dick Blick Loop Location sits at 42 S State Street in a two level storefront, a couple blocks east of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They carry a wide variety of art supplies. Of course it is a national chain in a downtown location that sells goods that are not mass produced in the same quantites as say big screen tvs, so needless to say you can drop some serious money there if you aren’t careful. The store partners with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Columbia College Chicago, the American Academy of Art, and the Chicago Loop Alliance.

Artist & Craftsman Supply Chicago

Artist & Craftsman Supply Chicago is a chain store with a handful of locations around the country. The Chicago location at 828 S Wabash is unfortunately now listed as “Permanently Closed”.

Sculpture and other Public Art

There is a lot of art out in the open for the public to enjoy for free in Chicago, so I have dedicated a separate page for public art in Chicago.


Between specialty museums, galleries, camera stores, print labs and more I decided to dedicate a page to just photography in Chicago.

Further Reading
Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.