New to the 'Art World'? Here Are Starting Points to Experience


When I hear the term “art world,” I imagine several people – unusually tall and good-looking – gathered together sipping champagne while discussing some sparkling Warhol. Or I hear the incessant clicking of impossibly tall stilettos, going one-two-three-pause-for-reflection-one-two-three across a stone-cold floor in a space adorned by “masterpieces.” Neither of these scenarios is particularly inviting. Furthermore, they are not what I actually have found art, and its related spaces, to have the potential to be: radical, engaging, and provocative. Despite loving art my entire life, I too grow hesitant upon hearing someone invoke the words “art world.”

There are numerous spaces around the city that are dedicated to offering beautiful, even transcendental art experiences. In order to encourage anyone who is a bit hesitant about where to start, I have compiled a list of events that may serve as a healthy first course. This is not to say that any of these events don’t appeal to those who frequent these spaces more regularly, but rather that these events present excellent appetizers for anyone who's not yet sure if they want to stay for dinner and dessert. 


1. Holiday Photo Book Bazaar, Columbia College of Chicago, December 6, 5-7 PM

Photography was once deemed a “lower” art form than the great likes of painting and sculpture. However, the past century has given way to the likes of both brilliant photographers and massively influential Instagram stars alike. Since photography has become such a mainstay in our everyday technology, it could serve as an easy entranceway into the art world. Yes, the images are probably a bit more edgy than what is on your feed, but several of the artists featured in the bazaar, including Cecil McDonald Jr. and Melissa Ann Pinney, often utilize everyday subject matter. Having their book on your coffee table might be a good tasting before going to a gallery or show.


600 S. Michigan Avenue


Color Memory and Time, Nicole Mauser and Colleen Keihm

2. Colleen Keihm and Nicole Mauser: Break Here at Filter Photo, December 7, 2018 - January 5, 2019

Both Keihm and Mauser make works that are, undeniably, aesthetically appealing. Working in collaboration for this exhibition, Keihm and Mauser created work that is bold, vibrant, and filled with fun geometric shapes. The cover photo for the event in itself is enchanting: an abstract black-and-white construction stands out against a spectrum of neon color. If you find yourself still interested after a visual perusal, a quick dive into their theoretical practice will uncover some pretty relatable truths about our present moment, particularly the speed at which our technological advances are reshaping our reality.


1821 W. Hubbard St. Suite #207


Whitney Bradshaw, Cecily, 2018,  courtesy of the artist 

3.  Whitney Bradshaw: Outcry, DePaul Art Museum, through December 16

Nothing is as relatable in our current political climate as someone tilting back their head and just letting out their emotions in one great, loud, outcry. This exhibition consists of portraits of women, of all races and ethnicities, screaming at the issues they face everyday. The artist, Whitney Bradshaw, has been bringing together groups of women who don’t know each other since the Women’s March in 2018. There, the women engage in conversations surrounding all kinds of topics, such as racism, sexism, and sexual assault. The resulting images are not posed, but rather the true expressions of these women as they discuss the issues that many of us are also working through everyday.


935 W. Fullerton Avenue


4. Revolution Craft Show, December 16, 12 PM- 6 PM

There are so many opportunities, especially in a city like Chicago, to support local artists in small, meaningful ways. This craft show gives you access to over forty local artists working in a variety of mediums: from pins to prints to soap. While it isn’t fine art per say, you will be able to stock up on high quality work - all the while sipping on some beer and meeting those same artists whose work you are supporting. Who needs champagne anyways?


3340 North Kedzie Avenue


5. James Webb: Prayer, Art Institute of Chicago, through December 31

As the streets of Chicago become inundated with dirt-colored snow and the temperature drops to unbearably small degrees, it can be nice to just take off your shoes, take some deep breaths, and listen. This could happen in your house, maybe, or it could happen at the stately Art Institute of Chicago. Although most of the floors are dedicated to some of the greatest masters in the world – think all the names that you probably associate with art – an exhibition called Prayer invites its listeners to remove their shoes, walk along soft carpet, and listen to a symphony of different voices – all from Chicago – recite prayers in their respective religions and beliefs. It is a truly lovely way to enjoy the Holiday season.


111 S. Michigan Avenue


Sarah Adler is a freelance writer. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and serves as both the gallery assistant at Monique Meloche Gallery, as well as an intern in the interpretation department at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.