Museum of Contemporary Art Ages 5 & up. The MCA is the largest con-
temporary-art museum in the country, emphasizing experimentation in a vari-
ety of media—painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, dance, music,
and performance. To be honest, some of the works are challenging enough for
adults, much less kids, but kids might get into some of the touring shows, which
have included Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, and Chuck Close.
Sitting on a front-row piece of property between the lake and the historic
Water Tower, the classically styled building, clad in aluminum panels, is a sub-
dued, almost-somber presence, and the steep rise of stairs leading to the entrance
is monumental yet a bit daunting. But don't let the gloomy exterior get you
down; the interior spaces are more vibrant, with a sun-drenched two-story cen-
tral corridor, elliptical staircases, and three floors of exhibition space.
You can see the MCA's highlights in about an hour, although art lovers will
want more time to wander (especially if a high-profile exhibit is in town). Your
first stop should be the handsome barrel-vaulted galleries on the top floor, ded-
icated to pieces from the permanent collection. For visitors who'd like a little
guidance for making sense of the rather challenging works found at a contem-
porary-art museum, there is an audio tour for rent, as well as a free daily tour
(1 and 6pm Tues; 1pm Wed-Fri; 11am, noon, 1 and 2pm Sat-Sun). In addition
to a range of special activities and educational programming, including films,
performances, and a lecture series in a 300-seat theater, the museum features
Puck's at the MCA, a cafe operated by Wolfgang Puck of Spago restaurant fame,
with seating that overlooks a 1-acre terraced sculpture garden. The museum
store, Culturecounter, has one-of-a-kind gift items that make it worth a stop
even if you don't visit the museum. Allow 1 to 2 hours.
220 E. Chicago Ave. (1 block east of Michigan Ave.). & 312/280-2660. Fax 312/397-4095. www.
mcachicago.org. Admission $10 adults, $6 seniors and students with ID, free for children 12 and under. Free
admission on Tues 5-8pm. Tues 10am-8pm; Wed-Sun 10am-5pm. Subway/El: Red Line to Chicago/State. Bus:
3, 10, 66, 145, 146, or 151.
Museum of Contemporary Photography Ages 8 & up. Columbia Col-
lege's photography museum sometimes has shows that kids find appealing (one
show featured fairy-tale based photography aimed at preteens; another featured
photos of twins)—so call or check out the website for current shows. Ensconced
in a ground-floor space at the college, a progressive arts- and media-oriented
institution that boasts the country's largest undergraduate film department and
a highly respected photojournalism-slanted photography department, the
Museum of Contemporary Photography is the only museum in the Midwest of
its ilk. As the name indicates, it exhibits, collects, and promotes modern pho-
tography, with a special focus on American works from 1959 to the present.
Rotating exhibitions showcase images by both nationally recognized and “undis-
covered” regional artists. Related lectures and special programs are scheduled
during the year.
600 S. Michigan Ave. & 312/663-5554. Fax 312/344-8067. www.mocp.org. Free admission. Mon-Wed and
Fri 10am-5pm; Thurs 10am-8pm; Sat noon-5pm. Subway/El: Red Line to Harrison. Bus: 6, 146, or 151.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum Ages 12 & up. Junior high
kids and older can emerge from this unique museum with a better understand-
ing of the Vietnam War and the lives 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—telling the story of the men who fought in Vietnam. Since
the war, many of the veterans made art as personal therapy, never expecting to