Tourist For a Day: When an Art Insider Takes Time Off

We love Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park too, but there are so many things to see  throughout Chicago!

Summer in the midwest is basically one mad dash to be out in the fresh air as long as possible, before the doors of winter snap shut again. Many area gallery owners and artists are often busiest inside, welcoming visitors to see summer shows. We figure they relish the chance to get out and enjoy the city as well as the art that is all around us.

Deborah Maris Lader, an artist, musician and the driving force behind the Chicago Printmaker’s Collaborative let us in on what she would do on a day off or a day out with visitors to Chicago.


By Deborah Maris Lader, as told to Ginny Van Alyea

Since I spend my days in my studio surrounded by artists and/or making art, I enjoy the rare “day off” by feeding my other senses, while simultaneously stocking my visual cupboard with new material. My perfect day would be waking up to my morning matcha, while watching the birds gather at the feeder outside my window. Hopefully I’ll have picked up an oat jammer cookie at Baker Miller the day before to go with my daily soft boiled egg breakfast. If it’s a warm day, I’d bike down the lake trail to Maggie Daley Park and rent some shoes to scramble around on the self-belay rock climbing walls. If it’s cold I’ll rent ice skates and glide on the ribbon. I love walking along Lake Michigan in all kinds of weather, usually starting at the bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor.

Then I’d go to the Museum of Surgical Science in the Gold Coast, which is a fairly serious funhouse of medical history filled with both gory and beautiful curiosities and inventions. Where else can you see a bowl full of kidney stones?

Lunch would be something leafy – Left Coast Cafe, or the chopped salad at Cafe Selmarie. In winter, I’m a fan of the Tom Yum soup at Sticky Rice. Since I’m also a musician, I’d run over to the Old Town School of Folk Music, pick up some accessories at the store, and catch up with my musician friends, who I’d likely run into in the lobby. If I’ve got friends in town, I’d give them a tour of the WPA murals throughout the building, which used to house the old Sulzer Library.

Deborah Maris Lader (center) with her fellow band members.


In the evening, my top picks are to head to Millennium Park for a summer concert, or catch a Shakespeare in the Park performance, or a concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Evanston SPACE, or City Winery (my band plays all 3 venues, so I can get good tickets!).

Dinner is at my new favorite, Kitsune on Lincoln Ave. It’s one of the most original food experiences I can think of. I’ll eat things there that I would never normally eat, just because it’s so unusual. I had my first bite of bone marrow there (and I don’t really eat beef, but whatevs). In general I love so many places in my neighborhood (Lincoln Square). When I have visitors, I like to show it off.

I recently had arty friends visit, and we did a workshop at my studio at Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. I gave them a tutorial in woodcut and screen printing. Later we headed to Northman Cider pub for a cider tasting, and saw a play at Lookingglass Theatre. We also of course did the Chicago Architecture Center's Architectural Boat Tour.

If friends are in on a weekend, we’ll attend an opening, usually someplace a bit smaller or offbeat, AdventureLand, or Firecat Projects, or Addington Gallery, or pretty much anything Aron Packer is doing (usually a pop up).


Deb Lader playing atop CPC on Western Ave.


Other favorite places to take visiting friends:

The Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington) Ogle the mosaics, stained glass and grand staircases.

Navy Pier (600 E Grand) can be fun. I love walking outside along the pier to see the boats and watch people.

• The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (Fullerton and Cannon Dr.), next to Lincoln Park Zoo, is an example of Prairie School landscape architecture designed by Alfred Caldwell in 1936. 

• The Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N Central Park Ave) is truly amazing. It’s great in the winter when you need a blast of Amazonian-like jungle humidity. And greenery.

Millennium Park! (Randolph and Michigan Ave.) There is so much to love – the Frank Gehry bridge, the Lurie garden the Crown Fountain, The Bean [Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate]   

My tourist tips:

• Skip the “Chicago pizza” experience

• Rent a bike (and helmet) on the lakefront trail to see the city skyline

• Pick up a CGN Arts Guide for a comprehensive listing of all the galleries and spaces in the city!

Helpful Freebies:

• Walk around downtown. It doesn’t cost anything, it’s good exercise, and you’ll see all kinds of cool stuff.

• Hungry? Gallery openings have free booze and food.

• Actually, it never costs anything to walk into any gallery in the city and look at art. How great is that?