Chicago’s gallery district in River North is one of the largest concentration of art galleries in the country outside of Manhattan. It’s a wonderful part of the city, and an unexpectedly great place to spend the day with the kids. As you wander down the tree-shaded streets in this area, you can view an incredible variety of art from both emerging and well established artists. Recently we brought Middle (7) with us for the day. We were a bit apprehensive about bringing him as we weren’t sure he would be all that interested in the art, but boy were we wrong. He loved it. Here’s how we did it and kept him engaged.
One of the main arteries for the gallery district is Superior and Wells which is a great starting point. Start out by walking west down Superior and keep going until Orleans. Superior is really densely populated with galleries and we pretty much visited all of them. Some of particular note are Catherine Edelman (300 West Superior) which has beautiful photography collections, Ann Nathan Gallery (212 West Superior) which had vibrant and edgy paintings and sculptures and David Weinberg Photography (300 West Superior, 2nd floor) . When you reach Orleans, walk north one block and turn onto Chicago going East. Franklin, between Chicago and Superior is another densely populated street with many interesting galleries that you’ll want to stop in. To make it fun for Middle and to make sure that he was actually paying attention to what he was seeing, we came up with four games that we could play with him throughout our tour:
How to play: One player selects a painting, photograph or piece of art in the gallery and says, “I Spy a xxx “. The blank is an object in one of the works of art. Then the other players make guesses as to which piece it is. For example if there is a shell in a photograph, the “spyer” will say, ” I spy a shell” and the others have to walk around the gallery and find the work that has a shell in it. This worked especially well with Middle and it caused him to really focus on the different works of art for an uncharacteristically long time.
10 Questions: This is a variation on the traditional 20 Questions.
How to play: One person chooses a work of art in the gallery but does not tell the other players which one it is. Then the others take turn asking yes/no questions to try and determine which piece of art they had selected. Whoever guesses correctly first, gets to choose the next piece in the next room/gallery .
Which one would you have:
Each person has to pick one piece of art that they would buy for their house and to say exactly where they would showcase it. This caused lots of laughter because of course Middle was selecting some crazy big pieces of sculpture of (ahem) questionable appropriateness.
For this game, I walked into a gallery about 5 minutes before Middle and Husband came in. I looked around and identified 5 objects within paintings/photographs that they needed to find. Once they came in, I told them the 5 objects and they walked around and tried to find them. Middle was very proud that he found all 5 first and beat his dad!
And, along the way, when hunger sets in there are a couple of choices for food. If just a coffee and a small snack will do there is a Starbucks on the corner of Chicago and Franklin. Fabcakes (714 N Wells), a charming European cafe with good coffees, sweets and small sandwiches is not far or you can treat the kids to a fun, casual lunch at everybody’s favorite Ed Debevic’s, a 50’s style diner with some unique servers.
All in all, bringing your kids to the Galleries inRiver North is a fun family excursion and a great way to introduce them to art.
Note: The Galleries are closed on Sundays (we once made that mistake). Additionally, some of the galleries are on the second floor (yes, make sure you look up, so you don’t miss anything) so you may want to consider leaving your stroller in the car.