Six Reasons to Get Your Kid to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

If you go to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) today(9/28/13), you can go for free if you click right here.  Missed the Smithsonian-sponsored deal?  I still think it's worth a visit (or ten).

1. Get your nails done

What? Yes. From the MCA's website

Imperial Nail Salon (my parents’ living room) (2011–13) is an installation and interactive performance by Chicago-based artist Dzine. In homage to his mother’s nail salon business, which she ran in their family home, Dzine has recreated his childhood living room in one of the galleries at MCA Chicago. On two Saturdays a month during the exhibition Homebodies (Jun 29–Oct 13, 2013), two gifted nail artists will work in Dzine’s installation, creating customized nail designs for visitors with appointments.

We invite you to participate in Imperial Nail Salon. Due to popular demand, additional appointments have been added to the completely booked project. Imperial Nail Salon appointments are now available on a walk-in basis only, after 1 pm on the following dates:

October 6, 1–5 pm
October 13, 1–5 pm

We wandered into this exhibit on the right day and got our nails painted. Well, just some polish, no art because I couldn't predict the chaos EK might  create if I sat down for a full session. He did, however, really enjoy playing with all of the artsy acrylic talons nails that were available to anyone who wanted to walk about with some fanciness adhered to their digits.

Front room salon

Front room salon

Matching digits

Matching digits

2. Interactive Exhibits & Stroller Tours

What? Oh yea.  Floor four's Homebodies installations also provides crazy fun for anyone interested in batting balloons with bells. Plus photographers get a few skyscrapers as a dramatic backdrop.

Homebodies presents work by contemporary artists who examine the space of the home, both literally and metaphorically, as an integral site for making art. Featuring an expansive range of artworks, some made of materials found in the domestic sphere and others that represent or re-create a sense of domesticity, Homebodies demonstrates a new understanding of how the domestic context has influenced the creation and interpretation of contemporary art.

20130928_102546 20130928_102604

Feel like rearranging chairs? They've got your number. And a few videos to boot.

Taking it in.

Taking it in.

We were both fascinated and engaged by the entire Homebodies exhibit. If you are interested in learning more about the various artists involved, I suggest you click right here.

And if you have a little one that in containable, first, I am really jealous. And second, the MCA actually offers STROLLER TOURS! Before visiting, I had never heard of a such an amazing thing offered by a museum. A tour with other parents who could care less if your kid loses his/her mind? Sign.Me.Up.  Stroller tours take place on the first Wednesdays of each month, 11:30 am–12:30 pm.Tours meet at the second floor admissions desk

3. Friendly and knowledgeable docents

I am always a little timid when it comes to taking EK to museums for fear that docents' laserbeam  glares will melt us on the spot. But fear not! Every docent we encountered talked to us about the exhibit and didn't treat Ellis like a total idiot. Kudos, MCA! He employed his "art hands" (hands behind the back) when necessary, and let those busy digits fly loose when he got the thumbs up.

Ellis was particularly intrigued by Amanda Ross-Ho's MCA Plaza installation: THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS

Acknowledging how most public art is experienced through the lens of a camera, Ross-Ho deliberately treats her sculptures as photographic subjects and actively seeks to make viewers aware of their role as photographers. In Ross-Ho’s hands, the plaza is transformed into an enormous photo studio, with objects on display for the purpose of being photographed by the public, while the sun provides a shifting source of light, affecting both our perception of how the objects look in real life and how they appear in our photographs. The artist hopes to collect and share images taken by viewers to consider the circulation and recycling of public information and how it affects the production of aesthetic objects. Share your photo on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using #ILLUMINATEDTHINGS.

Art hands and Ellis looking into his future (GIANT heads run in the family)

Art hands and Ellis looking into his future (GIANT heads run in the family).

4.  Eat Up! aka Bring a Snack From Home. ..and don't forget about the restrooms.

You can grab a snack or meal from Puck's restaurant, or roll like us, and enjoy a snack from home and water (provided gratis by the MCA) on their lovely outdoor patio. It's always nice to bring your own food and avoid fatty bills for a granola bar and a beverage. Plus, the kids have ample room to run around on the patio or in the sculpture garden while you relax (and it's gated!)

Puck cafe for cold winter days

Puck cafe for cold winter days

Soak up some Vitamin D and run out some energy before you head into the museum

Soak up some Vitamin D and run out some energy before you head into the museum

See that tiny spot running around on the grass? That's EK. And, that's what I get for forgetting my camera at home and supplementing with my smartphone.

See that tiny spot running around on the grass? That's EK. And, that's what I get for forgetting my camera at home and supplementing with my smartphone.

The lower-level, super-sanitary restrooms are easily accessible via an elevator or staircases AND feature kid-friendly equipment. Like what? Oh, I don't about a miniature sink (at least in the ladies' room)!

No more wet least for mom.

No more wet least for mom.

It's a small perk, but it certainly is nice to not have to balance your kid on the edge of a wet counter top while pressing his guts into your own. And look at that tiny sink! It's adorable. In the rear right section of the above photo, your eagle eyes should spot a spacious changing table to boot!

5. Photo-Ops Galore!

In addition to the zillions  of spectacular exhibits inside  the museum, spend some time in the sculpture garden and snap a few of the little ones running around with Chicago's  skyline as your backdrop. Seriously, it's lovely.


EK hearts JH

6.  Arrive Early, Play Early.

We drove to the museum this morning because I am incredibly lazy. But, as you might know,  the MCA is smack in the middle of the Magnificent mile,  hotel city, the lake and Northwestern University's/ medical buildings/hospital. Thus, there exist approximately four spots for 3489356 people.

Anyway, my advice is if you must drive, try to get there early to nab a spot. And bring your credit card since it's $4.00/hour. Lucky for you, you can run around on the plaza in front of the museum or walk a half-block west and play at the Seneca Playlot Park. It's a shady, fenced-in spot where your tiny person can burn off some energy before you hit up the museum.

So consider checking it out - we certainly had a lovely morning and I enjoyed the easiest nap-time transition ever.

 Family Days

  • Yep! The MCA offers a number of themed family days that are fun for everyone. Check out their calendar running from October 2013 - May 2014 here.


  • $12 Suggested, $7 Students* and Senior Citizens
  • Free for MCA Members, military,
    and children 12 and under**
  • Admission is free for IL residents
    on Tuesdays, year round.

* Student ID required.
** must be accompanied by an adult.

MCA Hours

  • Closed Mondays


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    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

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