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Chicago Cultural Center

78 East Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602


The landmark building known as the Chicago Cultural Center serves as the city's official reception venue where the Mayor has welcomed Presidents and royalty, diplomats and community leaders. This is the "People's Palace," where Chicago's diverse communities gather. This remarkable structure was completed in 1897 as the city's main library. Constructed to be "an enduring monument worthy of a great and public spirited city" -- in the words of the founding library board -- the "People's Palace" is a testament to the foresight of Chicago's turn of the (20th) century cultural leadership.

The nation's first free municipal cultural center, the Chicago Cultural Center is one of the city's ten most popular attractions and is considered one of the most comprehensive arts showcases in the United States. Each year, the Chicago Cultural Center features more than 1,000 programs and exhibitions covering a wide range of the performing, visual and literary arts. Programming is aimed at increasing public awareness of the arts, and school tours and learning guides are provided to enhance the public's appreciation of the landmark building and enjoyment of its diverse programs and exhibitions.

Programs feature classical, jazz, world, folk, pop, and vocal music concerts, new and classic plays and readings, modern dance performances, art discussions, film screenings, lectures, cultural celebrations, and participatory events for all ages. Regularly scheduled programs include weekday "LunchBreak" concerts and gallery talks, and weekly "Sunday Salon Series" afternoon concerts, among others. Regular building tours are scheduled at 1:15 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Groups are scheduled at other times by arrangement.

Exhibitions present a wide range of traditional and new media: painting, sculpture, photography, graphics, crafts, architecture, and design. A variety of contemporary, historical, and cultural offerings include international traveling exhibitions as well as one-person shows by local artists. Several major exhibitions are organized annually by staff of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs or guest curators. Related lectures, panel discussions, films, symposia, and gallery talks are frequently scheduled. Special programs and tours for students are presented.

The Chicago Cultural Center houses eight exhibition spaces, two concert halls, two theaters, a cabaret performing space, a dance studio, a senior center, a café, a shop, and a visitor information center.

Designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the building was dedicated in 1897 as the first permanent home of the Chicago Public Library. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972, and was designated a Chicago Landmark on November 15, 1976. Its beaux-arts style was influenced by the buildings of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and its architecture features both Greek and Roman styles. The building's interior features rooms modeled on the Doge's Palace in Venice, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Acropolis in Athens. The building is most notable for two spectacular stained-glass domes as well as lush ornamentation that includes rare marbles inlaid with sparkling mosaics and intricate, coffered ceilings.

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