“Open Culture” signals the reopening of summer events in Chicago’s diverse and legendary cultural scene with music, dance, public art, markets, and more at Millennium Park and venues citywide.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Choose Chicago, and Chicago’s cultural community announced “Open Culture” — the next phase of Open Chicago, the Mayor’s latest initiative to safely and fully reopen the city.
Summer cultural events for Chicago residents and visitors alike will include a variety of activities. Music lovers will get a chance to experience “Chicago In Tune,” a new citywide festival celebrating Chicago’s diverse and legendary music scene and the 2021 Year of Chicago Music, as well as concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion featuring the 2021 season of Grant Park Music Festival. Fans of dance will enjoy performances in Millennium Park by American Ballet Theatre presented by the Auditorium Theatre, Dance for Life presented by Chicago Dancers United, and partake in neighborhood-based Chicago SummerDance lessons and live music. New public artworks by Nick Cave, Bob Faust, Andrea Carlson, and other celebrated artists will be on display. Chicagoans and visitors can also mark their calendars for the return of Chicago City Markets including, the historic Maxwell Street Market, Taste of Chicago To-Go community meals, and more. The City will welcome dozens of other free and affordable, in-person, and hybrid cultural activities throughout the summer. Most DCASE events will have limited capacity and require advance registration. All summer events will adhere to the latest public health and safety guidelines.
“Despite the unimaginable challenges that were thrown our way last year, we were still able to persist and come together to slow and stop the spread of this virus and put our city on the right path toward a safe reopening,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Open Chicago — including Open Parks, Open Streets and now, Open Culture — is not only the direct result of these efforts, but it also serves as the latest step in our mission to fully restore a sense of normalcy within our city by bringing back and reimagining some of our favorite summer- and fall-time activities. I am grateful to every City, arts, community, and business leader who partnered with us on this incredible initiative as well as our residents, who continue to follow public health guidance and keep our COVID-19 metrics low enough to launch efforts like these.”
City officials are also highlighting upcoming vaccination events for the arts community at The Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park Ave) on May 20 at 12-7 p.m. and Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont Ave) on May 21 at 12-7 p.m., plus mobile vaccinations at many City-sponsored summer events. Additionally, arts workers are invited to attend seven virtual information and drop-in sessions to engage in conversation about the Arts 77 arts recovery plan — starting with a 2021 Neighborhood Access Program Info Session on May 5 at 4-5 p.m. To learn more, visit Chicago.gov/Arts77.
“Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic. We all must do our part to support the recovery of this vital sector, which is so necessary to our economy and our sense of belonging,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “I am also excited to know that the arts will be on the leading edge of the city’s reopening as our music clubs, theaters, and festivals come back to life and energize Chicago. There is so much to be excited about as the arts return. During this Year of Chicago Music, our “Chicago In Tune” festival will emerge as a joyous month-long celebration of Chicago’s amazing music scene. Our Chicago Presents and Chicago Band Roster programs will animate our entire city with music, theater, and dance. The arts may have suffered greatly, but the arts will also bring us back into the public realm.”
DCASE is currently reviewing Special Events applications for outdoor festivals, street and art/craft fairs, and athletic events. Events must follow the State of Illinois Outdoor Markets and Festival Guidelines. Permit approval is conditional on improved public health metrics. All events must follow guidelines in place at the time of the event.
City residents can expect many exciting summer events and cultural activities across Chicagoland — including Open Parks and Open Streets events announced last week, new Millennium Park and other DCASE programming summarized below, plus:
- The return of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts at Symphony Center including “Fanfare” opening on May 27
- Hyde Park Art Center – Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden: Shrouds by Faheem Majeed open May 3 – July 24
- Rosa’s Lounge – Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band on May 7
- Pivot Arts Festival: Reimagining Utopia – A Performance Tour: Live, Multi-Arts Experience from May 21 – June 5
- Chicago Latino Theater Alliance – Sola en la pandemia está cañón at Joe’s on Weed Street on June 19
- The South Side Jazz Coalition – Jazzin’ On The Steps on May 23
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago – Tuesdays on the Terrace kicking off June 1
- Old Town Art Fair on June 12 & 13
- Art Institute of Chicago – The Obama Portraits from June 18 – August 15
- Pride in the Park on June 26 & 27
- Goodman Theatre – School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play reopening in August
- Court Theatre – Othello in October
- Southport Art Fair on July 10 & 11
- Smart Museum of Art – Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 on view July 15 – December 19
- Chinatown Summer Fair on July 17 & 18
- Jazz Institute of Chicago – Chicago Latin Jazz Festival on July 23 & 24
- Printers Row Lit Fest on September 11 & 12
- Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 25 & 26
- Lyric Opera of Chicago 2021/22 season including opening night featuring an all-new production of Verdi’s Macbeth on September 17
- Broadway In Chicago – Six at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place running October 5, 2021 – January 30, 2022
For these and other upcoming events, including many more to be added throughout the spring and summer, visit ChooseChicago.com/events and Chicago.gov/DCASE for DCASE summer programming details including its artist lineups and ticketing (free advance registration), which will be available in the coming weeks.
Through Chicago Presents, DCASE will provide up to 100 grants ranging from $5,000 – $30,000 to activate cultural programs that comply with public health guidelines in neighborhoods throughout Chicago in Summer 2021. Emerging and established cultural presenters are invited to submit proposals for free live, in-person concerts and events, spanning all music genres, performance, and dance that activate Chicago’s streets, plazas, and parks. Additionally, presenters may select up to two solo musicians and/or bands from the Chicago Band Roster to play at their event.
The Band Roster is a new resource listing over 200 Chicago-based musicians of all genres — created as part of the 2021 Year of Chicago Music. Chicago Presents is an initiative of Arts 77, Chicago’s arts recovery plan. Applications for July 1 – August 14 events are due May 7 at Chicago.gov/Music.
Chicago In Tune (August 19 – September 19) is a new citywide festival celebrating Chicago’s diverse and legendary music scene and the 2021 Year of Chicago Music. This month of music will bring iconic neighborhood venues, presenting organizations, and musicians from across the city together to celebrate all music genres and forms — with both free and ticketed events at clubs, concert halls, and beyond. DCASE will present four special evenings at Jay Pritzker Pavilion presented by the Millennium Park Foundation honoring music born and innovated in Chicago: Gospel music (September 3), Jazz (September 4), House (September 11), and Blues (September 18) — all at 5:30-8:30 p.m. Venues, organizations and artists may submit Chicago In Tune events by visiting Do312.com/ChicagoInTune.
Millennium Park summer programming — made possible in part by the Millennium Park Foundation — will include pop-up music, theatre, and dance performances throughout the Park starting in June; the 2021 season of Grant Park Music Festival (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, July 2 – August 21 at 6:30-8 p.m., GPMF.org) featuring 21 classical music concerts at the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavilion; plus 10 more genre-defying concerts as part of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series (Mondays, August 2 – September 13 at 6-8:30 p.m., and Thursdays, September 2-16 at 6-8:30 p.m., MillenniumPark.org).
Special events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion include The Auditorium Theatre presents ABT Across America featuring American Ballet Theatre (July 8 at 7:30 p.m., AuditoriumTheatre.org); as well as Dance for Life (August 26 at 6:30 p.m., ChicagoDancersUnited.org) presented by Chicago Dancers United. Jay Pritzker Pavilion events will be limited capacity and require free advance registration for both the seating bowl and lawn. Additionally, the Millennium Park Summer Workouts (Saturdays, July 3 – August 28 at 8:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., MillenniumPark.org) will return in person on the Great Lawn featuring Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and Zumba.
The beloved Chicago SummerDance (ChicagoSummerDance.org) series returns this summer at parks throughout the city, during August and September. Dancers of all ages and skill levels are invited to take part in introductory dance lessons by professional instructors followed by live music and dancing. Schedule, locations, and other details will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Chicago Riverwalk (ChicagoRiverwalk.us) will welcome a new series of five large-scale banners near Michigan Avenue, scheduled to be installed by late May. Artist Andrea Carlson’s You are on Potawatomi Land will replace the current series of work by artist Ebony G. Patterson. Art on theMART (ArtontheMART.com) continues to project its spring program nightly, exhibiting works by the Adler Planetarium and select images from current exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago. Hope is a Light: Select Works from the Chicago Public School Class of 2021 launches on May 20 and three new commissions in alignment with the Year of Chicago Music will launch the summer program on July 5. Vendors in the Riverwalk concession program began operating earlier this month and will be followed by Pier 31 on the Riverwalk and the Community Marketplace opening in mid-May.
Another new public art project, Ways and Means is a Facility Artwork conceived and created by Nick Cave and Bob Faust (FacilityChicago.org), presented by DCASE and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), late May through late June on the CTA Green Line. The project consists of eight fully wrapped CTA railcars and focuses on “ways forward and the myriad means we use to get there.” The interior of the railcars will also immerse riders in kaleidoscopic pattern created from Cave’s artwork, as well as the project statement.
Chicago City Markets presented by Humana(kicking off May 15 with Division Street) sell fresh seasonal produce, flowers, prepared foods, unique Chicago-made products, and rare finds — at Chicago’s longest-running farmers market on Daley Plaza (Thursdays beginning May 27); the historic Maxwell Street Market (reopening June 6 with a new schedule: 1st and 3rd Sundays at 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., MaxwellStreetMarket.us); more City Markets in Austin, Bronzeville, Englewood, Pullman, Roseland, and West Humboldt Park; and dozens of independent markets operated by community organizations and chambers of commerce in neighborhoods across Chicago. For the complete schedule and the City’s latest health and safety guidelines, visit ChicagoCityMarkets.us.
Taste of Chicago To-Go (TasteofChicago.us) will return this summer with special events around the city in July, August, and September — including pop-up cooking demonstrations, the return of the “Community Eats” community meals program, and other special events promoting Chicago’s amazing restaurant industry.
Previously announced, the Chicago Cultural Center (ChicagoCulturalCenter.org) will reopen on June 2 with new visitor amenities and new exhibitions “Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford: League of Nations” and “what flies but never lands.” Soon after, “CHICAGO: Where Comics Came to Life, 1880–1960” will open on June 19.
As the city reopens to with more in-person activities for the summer, we urge residents to continue to be safe, social distance, wear their masks, and get vaccinated. As of April 19, all Chicago residents over the age of 16 are eligible to be vaccinated and can schedule an appointment or learn more about the City’s vaccination efforts at chicago.gov/covid.