Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Avenue) celebrates its 125th anniversary this year with two new public exhibits, a self-guided walking tour of significant sites, and special programming that highlights the artists and companies that have made the building an artist haven since its founding in October 1898.
The Fine Arts Building is a home for art in all forms: from pioneers like Poetry magazine’s founding publisher Harriet Monroe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, sculptor Lorado Taft and the Chicago Little Theatre, to the ongoing legacies of painters, musicians, booksellers, puppeteers, dancers, photographers and craftspeople who inhabit the building today, the Fine Arts Building is buzzing with more than a century of Chicago creativity and innovation. A Chicago Landmark since 1978, the building features original manually-operated elevators, Art Nouveau murals from the late 19th century, the recently renovated Studebaker Theater and Carriage Hall, a new multidisciplinary theatrical event space currently under construction.
“For more than a century, the Fine Arts Building has been an artist haven and a hub for creative and intellectual innovation,” says Managing Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “As Chicago’s first building dedicated to all forms of artistic practice, this building was home to not only a diverse array of artists’ studios, music schools and galleries, but also the women’s suffrage movement and the center of the Arts and Crafts movement in the Midwest. This remains true today. As you walk through the halls of the Fine Arts Building, the buzz of creativity and multidisciplinary artistry is inescapable. The halls literally reverberate with music. Celebrating our 125th anniversary this year, we’re honored and excited to highlight the storied history of this building, taking the legacy of the artists and craftspeople who came before and reinvigorating the Fine Arts Building as a home for the next generation of Chicago’s artists and innovators.”
“We’ve spent the last 7+ years renovating the Fine Arts Building and bringing it back to a more vibrant life, and are excited to welcome more people and community to this cherished historic home for the arts,” says Erica Berger of Berger Realty Group, proprietor of the building.
As part of the 125th anniversary celebration, two free historic exhibits have opened on the Fine Arts Building’s 5th Floor.
Art Alone Endures explores how the founding of the Fine Arts Building in 1898 changed Chicago’s arts community forever and served as a gathering place for prominent artists and social clubs in the early 20th century. This exhibit tells stories of the artists, musicians, craftspeople and influential societies, like the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, that transformed the Studebaker Company’s carriage assembly and showroom into Chicago’s artistic and intellectual home.
A centerpiece of this exhibit is a 1/2″ scale model of the Fine Arts Building, with model design and fabrication by Eleanor Kahn and lighting design by Eric Watkins. A visual representation of the stories along the gallery walls, the model imagines moments in the building’s history between its founding and the 1920s, including an image from a Chicago Little Theatre production and Browne’s Bookstore, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Fine Arts Building’s Studebaker Theater has been a major center of the performing arts for 125 years – but that isn’t the whole story. The Staging Ground exhibit explores how theater artists in this historic building shaped the trajectory of performance across Chicago and beyond. Learn about innovative artists, including the Chicago Little Theatre and Anna Morgan’s Acting Studios, who turned the Fine Arts Building into a center of experimental theater and laid the groundwork for Chicago’s contemporary storefront theater movement.
These exhibits are free and open to the public during regular building hours: Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Visit fineartsbuilding.com to learn more.
The Fine Arts Building has created a self-guided walking tour of significant historical sites and artist studios on each of its ten floors, with informational wall plaques providing more detail at each location about famous figures and institutions, including: Frank Lloyd Wright, the Chicago Women’s Club, Lorado Taft, Sherwood Music School and Studebaker Theatre Company. The tour also stops by the 2nd Floor Art Gallery, scenic outdoor Venetian Court on the 4th Floor, new historic exhibits on the 5th Floor, and Art Nouveau murals from the late 19th century on the 10th Floor.The Fine Arts Building is open for self-guided walking tours daily during regular building hours. For a map of historic sites, visit fineartsbuilding.com/map.