Anyone who lives in Chicago can tell you that we are a city chalk full of cool museums. From gazing at the stars to diving into the deep with whales to traveling back in time to visit Sue the dinosaur, there is no shortage of cultural adventures for tourists and locals to explore. However, for me, The Art Institute will always hold a special place in my heart. That’s why I jumped at the chance to see it from a whole new vantage point with a Museum Hacks tour…
If you’re anything like me, you have your favorite rooms or exhibits in your preferred museum. At the Art Institute, mine are the Impressionist gallery and the miniature Thorne Rooms. They are must-stops whenever I visit the museum. Sometimes, though, I end up neglecting other cool parts of the museum because I always beeline for my old faithfuls.
Museum Hacks solved that problem in no time! Designed to showcase unique and off-the-beaten-guide book parts of a museum, this tour group is thriving in Washington DC, New York City and San Francisco. They only recently invaded Chicago with their renegade tour guides, starting with the Art Institute, but will be expanding to other museums in the future.
I highly recommend our tour guide, Sarah, because she made our two hours together fly by. She opened our tour with the idea that “Your imagination is a powerful tool to bring with you to a museum. You don’t have to look at anything you don’t want to.”
Thankfully, everything Sarah showed us was something I genuinely was interested in looking at, even if I had never really seen them before. In all my previous visits to the Art Institute, I had never seen most of the works that we discussed on the tour.
However, one thing to remember about these tours is that it will be different every time you go! You might have a different tour guide, or even the same tour guide who chooses to focus on different works of art that day. So, you can keep coming back with different friends and family, and you likely won’t ever repeat an exact tour. Even though that’s true, below are some of the things I learned and loved on my first Museum Hacks experience:
TOP FACTS LEARNED:
- A whirligig, (above center) aside from a being a very cool folk art object, was first mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Twelfth Night. It essentially means “what goes around, comes around.”
- Green paint, when it was originally created in the 1880’s, actually contained a good amount of arsenic to achieve that color dye. Van Gogh was a big fan of this color, as was Napoleon, both of whom might have been affected in different ways by the arsenic.
- “Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair” is the only painting currently hanging in the museum that was once stolen in 1979. Luckily (and obviously) it was found and returned!
THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
- Photo challenges and other games: We were challenged early on in our tour to look for a specific type of painting, and also played games like finding out “spirit animal statue” or creating stories for the people depicted in works of art. It makes you look at paintings, statues and the museum around you in a whole new light
- Mementos: In addition to a photo with our “spirit animal statue,” we also were given museum post cards that we could send to a loved one anywhere in the world! My sister, currently teaching in Thailand, now has a fun surprise coming to her mailbox.
- Lots of fun: From a group chant to hilarious ice breaker games, our tour guide did a fantastic job of keeping the energy high throughout the whole tour, and really bringing our group together.