While many Americans harbor a belief that the centers of art and culture reside on our East or West Coasts, the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between. The city of Chicago has arguably contributed as much or more to the culture of America as has Los Angeles or New York City. The easiest way to confirm such fact is to simply listen. Throughout the nation and around the world the ideal version of spoken American English is the American Midwestern version. You will not hear Eastern, Southern or Western accents coming from national news commentators or expressed on national or international mediums. Language is an integral and major part of any culture. And when it comes to our American culture, the language inherent within, is pure Midwestern.
When it comes to art, Chicago, the city at the heart of America’s Midwest, has the right to again claim a leadership role in America. Long before anyone heard of Hollywood, the city was the hub of the motion picture industry hosting more production companies than any other place in the world. But even more importantly, Chicago has and continues to play a central role in defining what is American art and nurturing talented men and women to express ideas within ever expanding artistic media outlets.
To underscore the importance of the city of Chicago to American art, one needs only to visit and learn from one of its greatest institutions, the Art Institute of Chicago. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the Institute to view some of the 300,000 works of art stored or on display within its galleries. In addition to the art on display, the nearly 1 million square-foot structure houses one of the finest research libraries devoted to art and architecture in the nation, and a state-of-the-art restoration and conservation facility. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago resides on the southeast section of the four city blocks that make up the Art Institute property. While the school is officially a separate entity and employs its own operations staff, it acquires its steam and chilled water from the Art Institute’s physical plant.
More than 500 employees work at the Art Institute and of that number, just 14 are there to ensure that the artwork within the structure, as well as the employees and visitors who work or visit there, are comfortable and safe. It is a critical undertaking, where even a temporary failure in humidification or temperature could cause irreparable damage to something entirely unique and totally irreplaceable.
The origin of the Art Institute is as fascinating as the artwork within. Founded by a group of 35 artists in 1866, under the name of the “Chicago Academy of Design,” the first residence for the Institute was a studio located on the city’s Dearborn Street. The idea behind the founding was to model the academy after European art academies where students would be instructed in the arts, and an environment conducive to artistic expression would be provided. Two years after its founding, the first art classes began, and students were charged $10 per month to attend daily classes.1 2 next >>
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