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At Chicago Cultural Center: Exhibits spotlight Chicago art and architecture

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Art exhibits that reveal fascinating insights about the city have either already opened as the Chicago Cultural Center or will do so soon.

They are a chance to learn the origins of Gwendlyn Brooks “In the Mecca” poem and songwriter-instrumentalist Jimmy Blythe’s “Mecca Flat Blues” and see a lesser known side of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Also, visitors may know that the Chicago Cultural Center has the world’s largest Tiffany dome and the spectacular Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and rotunda dome on the Randolph Street side. However, an exhibit includes other hidden gems of the Chicago Cultural Center which was originally built in 1892 as the Chicago Public Library and a dedicated space to Civil War soldiers who fought for the North.

Already on exhibit are photographs of early Wright works when he used historical architectural features and went with the initial “L” instead of Lloyd. The installation includes some items from “Wright’s Roots” shown in the 2012 Expo 72. Look for “Wright” along the first floor’s Landmark Chicago Gallery.

Opening Feb. 1, photographer Jan Tichy’s “aroundcenter” explores the Chicago Cultural Center’s building and history through nine installations ranging from sculpture to videos and photos. Look for his neon sculpture inside the Randolph Street entrance and in the Chicago Rooms and throughout the Chicago Cultural Center.

Check out “History of Painting” and “Vault” on the Washington Street side’s fifth floor to see windows covered by thousands of color slides and video taken inside a Dept. of cultural Affairs and Special Events vault.

“Mecca Flat Blues” takes over the fourth floor’s Sidney R. Yates Gallery beginning Feb. 15. Since torn down, Mecca Flats at State and 34th Streets, started out as an apartments frequented during the 1893 World’s Fair. It later became was a residence popular with middle-class professionals and Pullman Porters.

Easily visible behavior in its interior court led to Blythe’s writing “Mecca Flat Blues.” Brooks used the building in a poem after working for a Mecca resident.

Go see “Thirty-Five Years of Public Art” to find out which works you already know and which ones you want to get to know. Opening Feb. 15 in the Exhibit Hall on the fourth floor, the show celebrates downtown and neighborhood installations.

Sparked by the Picasso donation in 1967 and continued with a 1978 ordinance that called for 1.33 percent of a construction budget to go for artwork, public art can be found at more than 160 locations.

The Chicago Cultural Center’s show pulls together works and models from other city buildings and public spaces such as Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and a Kerry James Marshall library mural.

Stop in at the Chicago Cultural Center when downtown near Michigan Avenue and Randolph or Washington Streets. But to see all of the new exhibits during one opening reception, go to the Winter Open House Feb. 21. The receptions are in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery and Exhibit Hall.

Details: The exhibitions are presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Hours are Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Fri.-Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The Chicago Cultural Center is at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602. For more information, call 312-744-3316 and visit Chicago Cultural Center.


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