Last week I took my kids to the Art Institute because their Christmas break was almost over and I was quickly running out of days to torture them. When we got there, I was in for a pleasant surprise. And no, it wasn’t that they fell down weeping at the beauty of Monet’s haystacks. It was that admission was FREE!
On weekdays through February 10th, the Art Institute is free to Illinois residents.
When we arrived, the nice, smooth-talking lady at the counter told me it was “free to Chicago residents,” which played to my I-live-within-the city-limits snobbery and I found myself making a donation anyway. At her suggestion, I also bought a small guidebook for $6, which I gave to my son and promptly forgot about, so it remained safely in his back pocket the entire time and therefore guided us nowhere.
After fifteen minutes of Renoir, Monet and Caillebotte, thank goodness we found the Caffe Moderno! Just in time for my poor, suffering children to find sustenance and the strength to go on.
Throughout the two hours we spent there, we moved quickly. I didn’t really want to make them suffer, I just wanted to give them an overview of the museum. The boys insisted we stop at the armor exhibit, where everyone picked out their favorite halberd. We breezed through the impressionists, saw the old stock exchange room, the Chagall windows, the huge O’Keefe and the modern wing, where we scratched our heads at a big log and ate part of some Candy-in-the-Corner art installation. (My children are nothing if not good at finding food.)
Lest you think I’m overly cruel, dragging my kids to an art museum as their vacation was winding down, I have to tell you it was necessary. My sons hadn’t been there since they were around five and my daughter had never been. Our day of art exceeded all our expectations. Everyone had a good time. So, as we were making our way toward the door, I asked them if they wanted to check out some of the old masters upstairs.
“Uh, no Mom. That’s okay,” Ethan said. “I’ve had enough enrichment for one day.”
The Art Institute is a Chicago treasure. And if you have the chance, you should try to get there on a weekday before February 10th, (MLK Day is coming up!) so your wallet can stay enriched while you enrich your children. Just, um, don’t try to enrich them too much.