Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Fine Arts Building 125th Anniversary Open House Friday October 13, 2023

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: Free Family Friendly Fun 

Mayor Brandon Johnson declares 

Fine Arts Building Day on Oct. 13th



Photo credit for all, Bonnie Kenaz-Mara unless otherwise noted

By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

The Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue, is a city treasure. Originally created for the Studebaker Company, when they outgrew the space, it was converted into a hub for artists, musicians, architects, and others. Designed by Solon S. Beman, who was the architect behind Pullmantown and had his office in the building, it has housed the studios of such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright and sculptor Lorado Taft. Instructional platelets outside studios identify the famous artisans who had their workspaces there, such as William W. Denslow who was an artist and illustrator and did the drawings for the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The Chicago Little Theater was founded at Fine Arts and its tiny performance space is considered a precursor to the Chicago storefront theater movement. 

Art studios were open to peruse on Friday night. Many beautiful and striking paintings were for sale. My sister and I were wowed by the gorgeous and whimsical handcrafted jewelry by Monsieur Pamplemousse: “Elegance in Everyday Life.” He had lovely earrings and necklaces for sale with reasonable prices. Monsieur P. (a.k.a. Alex Agudo) was directing a class of participants stringing their own beads to create an original piece. He invited us to stay and join the next group, but we still had so much to see.     

We donned 3-D glasses and watched a curious short film called “One Night in Hell” (2014) at The movie included a skeleton band playing “We Will Rock You” which led into the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky. The Queen reference is very deliberate since Sir Brian May produced the film. The guilarist has always had a fascination for 3-D images and collects stereoscopic cards. (My generation remembers View-Master toys!)     

Photo credit Bonnie Kenaz-Mara 

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival has their headquarters in the Fine Arts Building. Check out their programs at

We cooled off in the scenic courtyard. It was fun to see folks discover this little charming space and hear their delight. 

And don’t miss the awesome bookstore on the second floor, Exile in Bookville. They can be reached at (312) 753-3154. 

The highlight of the evening was a concert by Chicago Opera Theater Young Artists. Paula Gelpi on piano was amazing. Michelle Mariposa, a mezzo-soprano from the Phillippines, sang a spooky modern number. I would have liked hearing more from her. Tenor Karlos Pinero-Mercado and Baritone Louise Floyd each sang solo arias before performing a duet from “The Secret Garden.” 

The COT upcoming season looks fantastic, beginning with “The Nose” on December 8 & 10 to be performed at the Harris Theater. “Book of Mountains and Seas” will play January 27 & 28. “The Weight of Light” is April 27. The season concludes with “Before It All Goes Dark” on May 25 & 26. “The Nose” will be COT’s biggest production to date. 

We had intended to catch the piano concert but there was so much to see and do. Two of the pieces to be performed by Dr. Yulia Lipmanovich in the Studebaker Theater were played at the opening concert by Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler on September 28, 1898. Those selections were the “Hungarian Rhapsody No 12” by Franz Liszt and Chopin’s  “Ballade No. 1 in C minor Op. 23.” 

Photo credit Bonnie Kenaz-Mara 

Exploring the architecture of the Fine Arts Building itself is a treat. The paintings, carved woodwork, ornate clocks, and especially the manually-operated elevators (yes! The last of their kind in the city. Soon to be replaced, sadly, because the replacement parts are unavailable any more…) are a visual delight. 

Photo credit Bonnie Kenaz-Mara 

If you want to examine the place yourself, attend the “Second Fridays events” from 5:00-9:00 on the Second Friday evenings of the month. 

Catherine Hellmann is a high school teacher in The Loop and adores all things Chicago. 

Chicago’s Fine Arts Building hosts 125th Anniversary Celebration

including a free concert in the renovated Studebaker Theater

Friday, October 13 from 5-9 p.m.

Spend your Friday the 13th this year with a bit of history, a dash of mystery, and rides in some of the last manually operated elevators in Chicago. Within the next two years, modern elevators will replace the ornate Otis cars and another slice of history will disappear from the public eye. 

Photo credit for all, Bonnie Kenaz-Mara unless otherwise noted

Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've seen so many fabulous shows and events at Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building and we still notice artistic flourishes in the architecture that we've never seen before. Check it out. 

Come explore this art immersions event featuring dozens of artistic tenants, including Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Exile in Bookville, Jazz Institute of Chicago, Liederstube, Monsieur Pamplemousse, Natya Dance Theatre, Press Here Studio and the Second Floor Art Gallery exhibiting Don Yang

Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Avenue) marks its 125th anniversary with a major public celebration on Friday, October 13 from 5-9 p.m. that activates all ten floors of this Chicago Landmark, an artist haven since its founding in October 1898. Mayor Brandon Johnson has declared Oct. 13 Fine Arts Building Day in Chicago “in recognition of [this] milestone 125th anniversary” and to “encourage all residents to support this historic landmark.”

The Fine Arts Building is a home for art in all forms: from pioneers like Poetry magazine’s founding publisher Harriet Monroe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, sculptor Lorado Taft and the Chicago Little Theatre, to the ongoing legacies of painters, musicians, booksellers, puppeteers, dancers, photographers and craftspeople who inhabit the building today, the Fine Arts Building is buzzing with more than a century of Chicago creativity and innovation.

The 125th Anniversary Celebration on October 13 will include a free concert at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated Studebaker Theater from Dr. Yulia Lipmanovich, a distinguished concert pianist and piano teacher based in the Fine Arts Building. The Studebaker originally opened with a piano recital by Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler in 1898, and Dr. Lipmanovich will be recreating some of Zeisler’s original setlist to commemorate the theater’s 125th anniversary. Advance registration for the concert program is free and recommended at

An expanded version of the building’s monthly Second Fridays open studios events, the 125th Anniversary Celebration highlights artistic tenants throughout the building, ranging from music, dance and puppetry to literature, fine art and jewelry—illustrating the full range of art forms that fill the halls of the Fine Arts Building today.

Programming highlights of the October 13 celebration include (with event locations):

Chicago Human Rhythm Project (Studio 300) will present a “Taste O’Tap” with opportunities for visitors to learn the first steps of the Shim Sham (national tap dance anthem) as well as demonstrations of lesser-seen tap choreographies to classical music, swing and old standards such as “I've Got You Under My Skin.”

Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival (Studio 433) will present an overflowing display of handmade puppets and flowers, created for a special public spectacle in Maggie Daley Park to welcome Little Amal to Chicago.

Chicago Opera Theater (Studio 404) will present a series of live musical performances in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

Exile in Bookville (Studio 210) will highlight an all-star group of authors as guest booksellers throughout the evening.

Jazz Institute of Chicago (lobby) will present performances from a jazz combo 5-7 p.m.

Liederstube (Studio 721), which presents classical music in intimate and informal settings, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. They will perform selections of their greatest hits, inviting visitors to gather around the piano and sing art songs.

Monsieur Pamplemousse custom jewelry by Alex Agudo (Studio 702) will walk guests through the making of a bracelet or key chain pendant with a special 125th anniversary message. Limited edition for the first 100 guests.

Natya Dance Theatre (Curtiss Hall) will perform the dance theater of India known as Bharatanatyam, which combines percussive footwork, geometrical body movements, hand gestures and facial expressions to convey profound messages.

Press Here Studio (Studio 419) will present the Center for Mad Culture’s interactive exhibition “It’s Not Art Therapy” by Sandie Yi and Katie O’Neill, as well as a reading and book signing with MV Perry, who will read from his new novel A Revolution of the Mind.

The Second Floor Art Gallery (2nd Floor), curated by Stanley Smith of Oak Street Design, will open a new show featuring the plein air paintings of fellow Fine Arts Building tenant and artist Don Yang, showcasing the architectural icons of Chicago and the surrounding areas.

New historic exhibits Art Alone Endures and Staging Ground (5th Floor) offer “windows into history,” sharing stories of the artists and companies that have called the Fine Arts Building home over the past 125 years. The exhibits are free and open to the public daily during normal business hours. A self-guided walking tour of historic sites and artists’ studios throughout the building is available online at 

Additional tenants participating in the 125th Anniversary Celebration include: Ann Pickett Studio and Gallery; portrait artist Lou Ann Burkhardt; Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras; painter, illustrator and editorial cartoonist Richard Laurent; Patrice Olsen Fine Art, presenting drawing, painting and photography for social justice; Ossia Musical Forum, a musical academy and chamber music concert booking specialist; and abstract artist James Tansley.

Second Fridays open studios are free to attend at the Fine Arts Building on the second Friday of every month from 5-9 p.m., and include gallery openings, special performances and artistic demonstrations. For more information, visit

The Fine Arts Building is a home for art in all forms: from pioneers like Poetry magazine’s founding publisher Harriet Monroe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, sculptor Lorado Taft and the Chicago Little Theatre, to the ongoing legacies of painters, musicians, booksellers, puppeteers, dancers, photographers and craftspeople who inhabit the building today, the Fine Arts Building is buzzing with more than a century of Chicago creativity and innovation. A Chicago Landmark since 1978, the building features original manually-operated elevators, Art Nouveau murals from the late 19th century and the recently renovated Studebaker Theater, one of the city’s oldest and most significant live theatrical venues.


Final 2 photos by Alexander Utz and Mikel Pickett

No comments:

Post a Comment