Chicago designates Water Tower area as arts district

 

Commissioner Mark Kelly is among Chicago dignaeries and arts organization representatives that launched the Water Tower Arts District March 12, 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago)
Commissioner Mark Kelly is among Chicago dignaeries and arts organization representatives that launched the Water Tower Arts District March 12, 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago)

 

Do you know Chicago’s WTA District?

Visitors and Chicago area residents are arguably familiar with the city’s Theatre District of show venues in the Loop and the Museum Campus next to Soldier Field.

Now add the Water Tower Arts District to Chicago’s cultural district scene.

Now, the city has officially designated an area both sides of North Michigan Avenue that stretches approximately from Streeterville to the Gold Coast as the WTAD.East of LaSalle Street from Illinois Street to North Avenue .

Launched at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago by Commissioner Mark Kelly of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events on March 12, 2019, the new district includes these 15 cultural organizations: (1) The Arts Club of Chicago, (2) Broadway in Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, (3) City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower, (4) Graham Foundation, (5) International Museum of Surgical Science, (6) Lookingglass Theatre Company, (7) Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), (8) Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), (9) the Newberry Library, (10) Poetry Foundation, (11) Porchlight Music Theatre, (12) Richard Gray Gallery, (13) the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, (14) the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and (15) the Society of Architectural Historians.

Water Tower Arts District map with 15 arts institutions (Photo courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art)
Water Tower Arts District map with 15 arts institutions
(Photo courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art)

Anyone old enough to recall “Bug House Square,” the once popular tag for Washington Square Park south of Newbery Library where people would debate social issues, will understand Kelly’s reference during the launch to the area as Bohemian.

Plus, he and Chicago historian Pamela Bannos noted that the area around the Water Tower, was once known as “Towertown,”  a Bohemian arts stronghold, so the new designation was really a return to its roots.

“This tightly knit group of arts organizations raises the same spirit of camaraderie and collaboration as they reclaim the District and invite visitors to experience a diverse array of cultural activities…,” Kelly said.

Lookingglass Theatre Company resides in the historic Chicago Water Works across from its sister, the historic Water Tower. (J Jacobs Photo)
Lookingglass Theatre Company resides in the historic Chicago Water Works across from its sister, the historic Water Tower. (J Jacobs Photo)

Lookingglass Executive Director Rachel Fink likes that the arts organizations are joining together to attract attention. “It felt a little isolated over here…,” said Fink. “The Mag Mile  has a different focus.”

The process of gathering together, which she recalled started about five months ago, has also introduced her to other arts organizations in the neighborhood.

“I like meeting our neighbors. It’s been an incredible opportunity for me” she said. “Now I know more the Driehaus Museum and I learned about the interesting (International) Museum of Surgical Science.”

She added, “It helps to do things as a community. Now we’re celebrating and  brainstorming together.

For more information and descriptions of the 15 organizations and activities, visit the website Watertowerarts.  The site and the graphic designation were created by Chicago designers Michael Savona, and Tobey Albright plus Mollie Edgar from Hour. Photographs of the institutions were done by Chicago artist Assaf Evron.

Jodie Jacobs

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