the multitude of color ful murals splashed acr oss building exteriors and alleyways. B ut
this institution—the only Latino museum accr edited b y the American Association of
Museums—may be the neighborhood 's most priz ed possession. That's quite an accom-
plishment, given that the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum was founded in 1987 by a
passel of public schoolteachers who pooled $900 to get it star ted.
The museum is very family-oriented, offering a deluge of educational workshops for kids
and parents: It's truly a living museum. There are wonderful exhibits to be sure, showcasing
Mexican and Mexican-American visual and per forming artists, and often drawing on the
museum's permanent collection of mor e than 2,400 works. But it's the visiting artists, fes-
tival programming, and community participation where the museum really shines. Its Day
of the Dead celebration, which r uns for about 8 w eeks beginning in S eptember, is one of
the most ambitious in the countr y. The Del Corazon Mexican Performing Arts Festival,
held in the spring, featur es pr ograms b y local and international ar tists here and ar ound
town. And the Sor Juana Festival, presented in the fall, honors Mexican writer and pioneer-
ing feminist Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz with photography and painting exhibits, music and
theater performances, and poetry readings by Latina women.
The museum also has a splendid gift shop , and it stages a holiday mar ket, featuring
gift items from Mexico, on the first weekend in December. Allow 1 hour.
1852 W. 19th St. (a few blocks west of Ashland Ave.). & 312/738-1503. www.nationalmuseumofmexican
art.org. Free admission. Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Subway/El: Blue Line to 18th St. Bus: 9.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum Finds Ages 12 & up. Junior high kids
and older can emerge fr om this unique museum with a better understanding of the
Vietnam War and the liv es touched by this experience. This museum houses one of the
most stirring art collections anywhere—and the only one of its kind in the world—tell-
ing the stor y of the men who fought in Vietnam. Since the war, many of the v eterans
made art as personal therapy, never expecting to show it to anyone, but in 1981 a small
group of them began sho wing their wor ks together in Chicago and in touring exhibi-
tions. The collection has grown to more than 700 paintings, drawings, photographs, and
sculptures from all over the country and other countries, including Vietnam. Titles such
as We Regret to Inform You, Blood Spots on a Rice Paddy, and The Wound should give you
an idea of the power of the images in this unique legacy to the war . Housed in a former
warehouse in the Prairie Avenue district south of the Loop , the museum is modern and
well organized. An installation that 's suspended from the ceiling, Above & Beyond
comprises more than 58,000 dog tags with the names of the men and women who died
in the war—the emotional effect is similar to that of the Wall in Washington, D.C. The
complex also houses a small theater, a cafe open for breakfast and lunch, a gift shop, and
an outdoor plaza with a flagpole that has deliberately been left leaning because tha's how
veterans saw them in combat. Allo w 1 hour.
1801 S. Indiana Ave. (at 18th St.). & 312/326-0270. www.nvvam.org. Admission $10 adults, $7 seniors
and students with ID . Tues-Fri 11am-6pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun noon-5pm. Closed major holida
Bus: 3 or 4.
Newberry Library Ages 12 & up. Got a bookworm in the family? The Newberry
Library is a bibliophile's dream. Established in 1887 at the bequest of the Chicago mer-
chant and financier Walter Loomis Newberry, the noncirculating research library today
contains many rar e books and manuscripts (such as S hakespeare's first folio and J effer-
son's copy of The Federalist Papers ). Although most of the librar y is off-limits to kids 15
and under, the library does hold children's story hours throughout the year. It also houses