Three experiences to try while waiting for Chicago to reopen

Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)
Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)

Some of us miss seeing a stage performance in person. Some miss going to the Lyric for a grand opera. Other folks miss visiting Chicago’s world class museums. The following opportunities hit these three targets while sitting at home.


Citadel Theatre has a unique experience scheduled for 6 p.m. May 21. Viewers register for what is called “The Defamation Experience.” It begins with a 70 minute film that is a one-act courtroom drama. Then there is the Deliberation. You and your fellow jury members deliberate the case on Zoom to decide the outcome.

After the deliberation and verdict, expert facilitators lead a brief post-show discussion.

Registration is free. A zoom meeting link is provided upon registration.


Hear and watch an opera segment, lecture or tour the Lyric Opera of Chicago building. The Lyric has a weekly newsletter available on its blog. Here is one aria, many audiences will find familiar.

“La donna è mobile” (“Woman is fickle”) is from the fall of 2017 performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto featuring Matthew Polenzani as The Duke. It comes in the third act where Maddalena (Zanda Švēde) flirts with the Duke.

For more Lyric gems visit LyricOpera/lately.


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been taking field trips to the city’s exceptional institutions so that the rest of us staying home can visit these places virtually.

Each field trip shows up on line on Wednesdays and then on PBS’ WTTW on Friday and replayed the following Monday.

This week she visits the National Museum of Mexican Art. To join her go to hitplayChicago. Founded in 1987, the museum is a very special cultural destination in the Pilsen neighborhood.

To see the last two field trips scroll down to the Shedd and the Field Museum.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Dazzling voices seduced lyric audiences



Stay Home Hit Play takes a Field Museum field trip


Puttng together Maximo at the Field. (J Jacobs photo)
Puttng together Maximo at the Field. (J Jacobs photo)


With Chicago’s terrific destinations closed to foot traffic, families and anyone curious about what goes on at some of the city’s popular museums can take a virtual field trip thanks to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and HitPlay.

This week’s visit is to Sue, the T Rex, and other residents of the Field Museum. More on that later.

First stop was the Shedd Aquarium. The video, which went live a week ago Wednesday online and last Friday on WTTW (repeated Monday, May 4 on WTTW), started with a chuckle as viewers followed Wellington and his penguin friends into the aquarium.

Viewers then visit the Wild Reef, watch how zebra sharks line up at an unusual sort of feeding station where they touch their noses to a buoy to get their food. Then visitors see Wellington and meet a rescued green sea turtle at the Caribbean Reef.

You can see the Shedd Field Trip by clicking  Shedd/YouTube/Watch.

On May 6, the video took visitors to  the  Field Museum. Scroll down on the HitPlay website to the Field Museum video to visit dinosaurs, a new exhibit on the Apsáalooke people, and become better acquainted with the institution’s collection  of beetles and butterflies.

The video will be on WTTW Friday, May 8 and again on Monday, May 11, 2020.

Families who want to make something to go with the video can send it through social media with the hashtag #StayHomeHitPlay.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Video series visits Shedd and other Chicago institutions



Fun video series visits Shedd and other Chicago institutions


All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.
All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

Maybe you have enjoyed Wellington the Shedd’s penguin’s exploration around the aquarium on Facebook or seen IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s PSA with Wellington and penguin friends on You Tube.

Now, there is a great way to revisit the Shedd with Wellington but this time with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. A video done in partnership with Citadel and Chicago cultural institutions will premiere April 29, 2020 as the first in a weekly series called StayHome.HitPlayChicago.

After premiering online on Wednesdays, the videos in the series will be aired 5:30 p.m. Fridays on WTTW and at 12:30 p.m. Mondays on WTTW Prime.

They are a fun way to go back to places you might have visited and others you may want to see when museums, zoos and other Chicago destinations reopen to the public. They are similar to field trips and will include a component for youth.

In the inaugural segment Mayor Lightfoot stops at Shedd Aquarium to visit the penguins, feed the sharks and say hello to Nickel the rescued sea turtle. 

For a preview of the first segment in the series visit youtube/watch.

“Shedd Aquarium is proud to bring people eye to eye with animals and their remarkable underwater biology and aquatic biodiversity through this new opportunity,” said Shedd President and CEO Bridget Coughlin. “We can’t wait to reopen our doors and welcome everyhone back to Shedd. In the meantime, we are thrilled to kick off this at-home series and continue to welcome and connect with people virtually.”

The series takes viewers behind the scenes to such places as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, DuSable Museum of African American History, the Art Institute of Chicago and Lincoln Park Zoo.

“The exciting launch of “Stay Home, Hit Play” allows our city’s cultural gems to come to live, ensuring our students are able to stay connected and engaged with our world-class museums and institutions amidst the unprecedented restrictions of COVID-19,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

We are especially appreciative of the partnership of our parents, students, museum leaders and staff, WWTW, as well as Citadel whose support was instrumental for the creation of this series. As challenging as this moment has been, we will get through it together, and I look forward to joining all of Chicago in re-experiencing these inspiring sites when this crisis ends,” she said.

Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin said he was excited to “discover and rediscover” some favorite places in a new way. “These institutions embody what makes Chicago special. They invitge us to learn, imagine and dream togehter, and we hope “Stay Home, Hit Play,” will inspire children and parents this spring,” Griffin said. 

Jodie Jacobs


Visit three famed Art Institute paintings on a guided tour


Visit favorite works and maybe one you don't know at the Art Institute of Chicago. (J Jacobs photo)
Visit favorite works and maybe one you don’t know at the Art Institute of Chicago. (J Jacobs photo)

If you visit the Art Institute of Chicago do you go to a favorite artist’s gallery or a favorite painting? For lots of visitors it is Georges Seurat’s 1884″A Sunday On La Grande Jatte.” Stephen Sondheim even wrote a musical about it called “Sunday in the Park With George.”

Since the Art Institute has temporarily shut its doors to physical visits it has started the Essentials Tour Series so you can visit some of its works online in videos with the museum’s curators. Seurat’s famous painting is among them.

When looking at each of the three examples mentioned here consider the use of movement or its lack, colors and what stories are told. Archibold John Motley, Jr. whose “Nightlife” is in the series has said that a painting should tell a story. So what stories do you see?

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

Delve into the painting and Seurat’s pointillism style with Gloria Groom, curator and chair of European Painting and Sculpture. Close up, you see dots of color. Further back the dots form figures. The painting broke new ground in the use of complementary colors. The work has also generated stories about the figures depicted.


Move from the camera-shot style poses of Seurat’s painting to the action-packed, jazzy movements in Archibald John Motley Jr.’s 1943 “Nightlife.” It depicts a Bronzeville jazz club on Chicago’s South Side. So much is going on that it would be easy to miss the liquid spilling from a harried waiter’s tray. As with Seurat’s paintings you would likely recognize Motley’s style if you saw his other works without being told the artist’s name. In this video, former AIC Curator of American Art Judith Barter goes talks about the subject and the colors used.


When seeing the “Nightlife” video you learn from Barter that Motley may have been inspired to do a night scene after viewing Edward Hopper’s intriguing “Nighthawks.” However, Hopper’s late night scenario appears miles apart from Motley’s Chicago jazz scene unless it is considered as what might be going on in diners somewhere in the country. In this case, it’s possibly in Philadelphia give the Phillie cigar sign above the diner.  Here, the viewer is outside the scene looking in. Barter discusses the color choices and the lack of a noticeable entryway.

Jodie Jacobs


Penguin fun at the Shedd


A plush baby penguin is just one of the delightful items found on line in the Shedd Aquarium store. Shedd photo
A plush baby penguin is just one of the delightful items found on line in the Shedd Aquarium store. Shedd photo

Wellington the Penguin takes  governor for a stroll

Who would have expected Ilinois’ Governor Pritzker to waddle through the Shedd Aquarium with Wellington its famous wandering penguin. But “All In,” the gov’s PSA message looks and sounds great when coupled with the Shedd’s famed penguins.

“Shedd Aquarium is proud to partner with the state of Illinois to support and promote the unifying message of ‘All in Illinois’,” said President and CEO Bridget C. Coughlin.

“We sincerely hope the incredible connection and joy the aquatic world brings to millions of guests each year will also help to amplify this important message to millions more during this unprecedented time when we all must do our part to stay healthy and safe,” Coughlin said.


Penguins nesting

If you love to watch penguins move take a look at the Shedd video of staff providing penguins with needed nesting materials.

Jodie Jacobs


Three places to visit while staying at home


When you need a break from working at home, catching up with spring cleaning because you’re at home, or dashing to the grocery store for comfort food, go to a portal to one of Chicago’s arts organization.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Marriott Theatre and Second City are among those places reaching out with fascinating info, lively videos and home classes.


El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577–79. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague. (Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)
El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577–79. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague. (Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)


Art Institute of Chicago

Whether you made it to the famed museum before its temporary c-virus closure or not, you still can see and get inside information on some special art works.

Visit Inside Features to learn the backstory on El Greco’s “The Assumption of the Virgin” which is the current exhibition.

Also while at Inside Features go to the West African headdress  to see it from another angle.

Also, check out an ancient Grecian vase that became known as Chicago Painter’s vase.

Before leaving the site learn about conserving a carousel from the Golden Age of Carousels and the story behind an antislavery medallion.


Marriott Theatre

The cast of  “Kiss Me, Kate, Marriott Theatre’s next show in Lincolnshire, has taped interviews and videos. Visit this youtube channel to see and hear from the artists but also go to the videos on the site that have segments from such recent shows as”Grease.”


Second City Training Center 

Maybe you know that past students of The Second City Training Center include Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. But even if you don’t aspire to the national comedy limelight, a Second City class would liven up the stay at home experience.

Starting today, March 23, 2020, the Training Center has online classes at different price points and lengths.

“As social distancing separates us physically, we’ve had to improvise the ways we hang out and remain connected. The Second City Training Center immediately rose to the challenge in pioneering new ways, andsays Second City Hollywood Artistic Director Joshua Funk.

Joshua Funk, Second City’s Hollywood Artistic Director, announced that the entire curriculum has been adapted for online compatibility. “Turns out, improv works online! If we all need to hunker down for a while, it’s essential that we are still able to spend time together and laugh,” Funk said.

The faculty in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood and over 100 students beta tested the new classes over the last week, according to Abby Wagner, Training Center Vice President. “They’ve proven to be both educational and a true lifeline of communication in these strange and isolating times,” Wagner said.

Classes require Internet and web camera access. Pajamas are optional. Classes ranges from one-time drop-in to 4 weeks and 8 weeks and are for all ages. For more information visit Second City From Your Couch.

Jodie Jacobs

World class Chicago arts and museum venues temporarily close


El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577–79. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague. (Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)
El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577–79. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague. (Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)


Looks like the internet, TV and bookstores such as Barnes & Noble are going to be the go-to places for A & E, at least through March.

The latest closures to come into the Chicago Theater and Arts on-line desk are the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and some museums. Please carefully check possible reopening and rescheduling dates and ticket options.

Art Institute of Chicago

The museum will be shuttered from today, March 14, through March 28 but events such as tours, performances and lectures will be on hiatus through April 10, according to a just released statement.

It added that the closure will allow the museum to develop “rigorous health and safety standards and protocols.” Purchased tickets can be refunded to the card used within 10 business days.

Fortunately, AIC’s current exhibition, “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance” goes through June 21, 2020 so there is still time to see the famed artist’s most notable works and also learn he was skilled at more than religious paintings.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Beginning March 12, all Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association concerts at Symphony Center and pre- and post-concert special events were canceled through at least the next 30 days . The CSOA’s statement said ticket holders to canceled concerts could exchange them for other concerts or request a refund. For more information call (312) 294-3000 or visit CSO org/alert.


Museum Closure Updates

Citing both IL Governor J.B. Pritzker’s mandate to close gatherings involving 1,000 people or more and their own desire to safeguard their patrons and staff, several museums have closed for the rest of March. However, their re-opening varies by museum so best plan is to check their websites.


Shedd Aquarium

Normally jammed with students on Spring Break, the Shedd, arguably Chicago’s top (non-art) museum attraction, is closed through March 29. Their statement reads: “Our dedicated caretakers and veterinarians will continue to provide the highest standards of professional care and welfare for our animals on site. And, until we can welcome you back, we invite you to stay connected to them behind the scenes via Shedd’s Facebook and Instagram, as well as explore, experience and learn more about the aquatic animal world through our other digital resources.

For information on refunds and rescheduling of previously purchased tickets, group and experience reservations, programs and events and more, please email or call us at( 312) 939-2438.


Please also visit Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Science and Industry about their closures.

Jodie Jacobs


Taking a second look at art

Mannequins in Duro Olowu clothes gaze at art in new MCA Chicago exhibition. (J Jacobs photo)
Mannequins in Duro Olowu clothes gaze at art in new MCA Chicago exhibition. (J Jacobs photo)

If you have ever debated or thought about the question of what is art you will find some interesting answers in a new exhibit at the Museum of contemporary Art. Titled “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” it is not a photography exhibit of city places.

Organized for the MCA by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator, with Curatorial Assistant Jack Schneider, the exhibit is curated by Nigerian-born British designer known for his women’s fashions. The exhibit presents Olowu’s ideas of how art, the world around artists, museums and the people who attend exhibits interact with each other.

It could be called “Second Look” which happens to be the title of one of the show’s explanation boards. Olowu wants visitors to remember a show, “not necessarily for names of particular artists.” Instead, he hopes guests will consider the broader concept of what” art and museums mean.”

Think about how portraits have changed over time when viewing a new exhibit at MCA Chicago.. (J Jacob s photo)
Think about how portraits have changed over time when viewing a new exhibit at MCA Chicago.. (J Jacob s photo)

Using objects primarily from the MCA, and from other Chicago’s public and private art collections, he groups the works to make statements of patterns and ideas.

One room, called “Look at Me” consists of portraits in paintings and other art forms. Olowu notes that the room is filled with different faces, body types, races and genders of what he calls “real life.” And that once a visitor steps into the room that person becomes part of the crowd.

Part of how he hopes visitors will understand is that portraiture varies over time according to different ideals of beauty, shape and pattern.

Kerry James Marshall, Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009. (J Jacobs photo)
Kerry James Marshall, Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009. (J Jacobs photo)

To put all that into perspective, the last room has mannequins dressed in Olowu designs looking at art.

On a more personal level, I was glad to find two of my favorite artists (and yes I do look at the artist’s name) included: Kerry James Marshall, represented in Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009, and Roger Brown, represented by “Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974.

But I’m also glad Olowu included folk art such as H. C. Westermann’s 1958 “Memorial to the idea of man if he was an idea” made of pine, bottle caps, cast tin toys, glass, metal, brass, ebony and enamel.

“Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974. (J Jacobs photo)
Roger Brown, represented by “Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974. (J Jacobs photo)

DETAILS: “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” is at the Museum of Contemporary Art,  220 E Chicago Ave Chicago, through May 10, 2020. For ticket, hours and other information call (312) 280-2660 or visit MCA Chicago/Home.

To hear Duro Olowu talk about the why behind the exhibit go to the video


Jodie Jacobs

From parades to performances Chicago celebrates Chinese New Year


celebrates with its annual Argyle parade. (Photo courtesy of Uptown Assoc.)
Uptown Chicago neighborhood celebrates with its annual Argyle parade. (Photo courtesy of Uptown Assoc.)

Lanterns, dragons, colorful dances, art and instrumental music – there are Chinese New Year events in the next couple of weeks that will enrich our appreciation of Chinese culture.

But do you know your zodiac animal? If you go to any of the Chinese New Year programs in Chicago, you will likely hear that 2020 is the Year of the Rat. Because different elements also take turns, you might hear that it is the metal rat. A good, easy place to find out your animal sign and more about the Chinese Zodiac is the astronomy site of Time and Date.

Now you’re ready to check out the following events to see which fits into your calendar. They are free, open to the public and in Chicago unless otherwise noted.

Chinese Fine Arts Society Chinese New Year Kickoff

On Jan 24 at noon go to the Chicago Cultural Center during the lunch hour to see  lion dances, martial arts, traditional Chinese  dance and hear  China’s Zhejiang Shaoju Opera Theatre. The location is the Preston Bradley Hall on the third floor of the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. For more information visit ChicagoCulturalCenter/events.

Continue reading “From parades to performances Chicago celebrates Chinese New Year”

Around Town for Martin Luther King Jr Day

Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington DC. (J Jacobs photo)
Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington
DC. (J Jacobs photo)

Often called MLK Day, the third Monday of January has been officially observed to honor the civil rights leader in all 50 states since 2000.  It is an American federal holiday so schools, banks, and some business are closed.

The day has become a chance to honor Martin Luther King Jr with service projects, free museum visits and special programs. Here are some of the events and places to spend quality time on MLK Day this year, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.


Performance of The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights”

Glencoe-based Writers Theatre holds annual performances of “the MLK Project.” Written by Yolanda Androzzo, directed by Sophiyaa Nayar and featuring Adhana Reid, “The Fight for Civil Rights” production will be held Jan. 20, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark Street in Chicago. The event is free and includes a post-show community discussion. Attendees also have free museum admission for the whole day. Folr more information visit Writers Theatre/Education.

The Writers Theatre production is a tour that goes to schools and community centers then closes at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, 7 p.m. Feb. 28, 2020. The performance is free and can be reserved in advance by calling (773) 947-0600.

DuSable Museum MLK Day events

The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, has a full day of activities from crafts to discussions 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 20, 2020. Admission is $5 for children (age 6 and up) to adults. For more information visit Dusable Museum/Events.


Free museum admissions on Chicago’s Museum Campus

The Adler Planetarium at the far eastern end of the Museum Campus at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., has one of its free General Admission days for Illinois residents on Jan. 20, 2020. It is also an Illinois Resident Discount Day which means that tickets to other exhibits and shows not included in General Admission can be obtained at discount prices. For more information call (312) 922-7827 or visit Adler Planetarium/special offers.

The Shedd Aquarium, located in the middle of the Museum Campus at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., has a similar arrangement for MLK Day. There is free general admission and discounts for special exhibit and shows for Illinois residents. For more information call (312) 939-2438 or visit Shedd Aquarium/discount and free days.

The Field Museum, sitting at the entrance to the Museum Campus at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., also has one of its free general admission days on Jan. 20, 2020. As part of the Illinois Resident Discount Days, passes to special exhibits are available at lower prices. For more information call (312) 922.9410 or visit Field Museum/free admission days.


Free Museum of Science and Industry admission.

MSI, south of downtown near Hyde Park neighborhood at 57oo s. Lake Shore Dr., has an Illinois Resident Free Day Jan. 20, 2020 so general admission is free plus special exhibits can be seen at discounted prices. For more information visit MSI tickets.

(See other free general admission and discount days at each museum link listed. The free days are for Illinois residents so valid ID is needed. Also check for other categories such as active military and education personnel.)


Martin Luther King Day of Service

Some communities have projects planned for MLK Day. North suburban Highland Park is holding its 11th annual Day of Service 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 2020 at the Recreaction Center of Highland Park, 1207 Park Ave West, just east of IL Hwy 41. The projects will help area agencies. For more information visit Park District of Highland Park/MLK.

Jodie Jacobs