Remember...The Crowds? The Return of Larger Scale Exhibitions and Fairs


Consider for a moment the fall of 2019: The first weekend after Labor Day meant dozens of galleries were jammed with art lovers standing shoulder to shoulder. The end of September meant a weekend filled with EXPO Chicago VIP events, and the Ship of Tolerance docked at Navy Pier. The Chicago Architecture Biennial began a three month run, and November brought SOFA Chicago. Everywhere you went, there were people. Lots of people. There were no capacity limits or lines outside. 

If you wondered throughout 2020 how we could ever return to crowded openings, festivals and art fairs, this season several events are leading the way safely back in person. A few highlights are listed below. Visit for updates and additional events throughout the fall.


The Other Art Fair

Billed as "The Art Fair for a new generation of art buyers", TOAF is a young, fresh party sort of art fair. Returning this fall for a third edition, the fair will take place in the West Loop at Revel Fulton Market.

Thousands of affordable artworks from 120 independent artists will be exhibited, as well as immersive art experiences, special installations, murals and performances, and COVID-19 safety protocols! 

Plus, DJ sets, a fully stocked bar and some of Chicago’s freshest street food crews will set up in TOAF's outdoor seating areas.

September 30 – October 3. 


Chicago Architecture Biennial

The Available City, the 2021 edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, is a framework for a collaborative, community-led design approach that presents transformative possibilities for vacant urban spaces that are created with and for local residents. Through workshops, installations, activations, performances, and programs, The Available City invites a critical global conversation that asks how design can foster collective engagement and agency to identify new forms of shared space in urban areas. The Available City directly confronts the often-opaque process of how cities are designed and developed by proposing an inclusive and transparent design process. 

The fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial presents a new chapter of a decade-long research initiative led by 2021 Artistic Director, designer, and educator David Brown. The Available City introduces a process for bringing ideas generated from community workshops into existence on vacant lots in neighborhoods across the city. Currently, there are more than ten thousand city-owned, vacant sites in Chicago that each measure 25 by 125 feet. In aggregate, these lots are roughly equal in size to Chicago’s downtown center, the Loop. The Available City explores a scalable approach to urban design that recognizes the significance of addressing both individual lots while also envisioning the network of these thousands of sites as a cohesive urban landscape.

September 17 – December 18


Filter Photo

Filter Photo Festival

Filter Photo Festival is a multi-day celebration of photography that takes place every autumn in Chicago. The 2021 Festival will be held September 22nd - 26th and will be primarily in-person at the 21C Museum Hotel, centrally located downtown in proximity to museums, galleries and other cultural institutions. 

Programming includes workshops, portfolio reviews, lectures, and artist talks. Additionally, exhibitions will be hosted at Filter Space gallery in West Town.

Portfolio reviews are a central element of the Festival. During a portfolio review, an artist is able to share work directly with local, national, and international photography professionals, including gallery directors, curators, editors, and publishers. Emerging and established photographers are welcome to sign up for these 20-minute, one-on-one sessions. 

September 22 – 26. 


Lavezzorio Community Center. Photo by Anna Munzesheimer

Open House Chicago

Every October, the Chicago Architecture Center hosts Open House Chicago—a free public festival that offers self-guided history and architecture trails throughout Chicago, talks and programming, and behind-the-scenes access to architecturally, historically and culturally significant sites across the city.

Open House Chicago remains one of the largest events of its kind in the world. This year's in-person site visits occur on October 16 and 17, with extended programming and city-wide trails available for the entire month of October.This year's festival will build on the success of the OHC 2020 mobile app to bring expanded content directly to your mobile phone.

October 16 – 17, with events throughout October.