The Arts Club of Chicago begins its second hundred years with a wide-ranging, timely and engaging examination of its first one hundred in “The Arts Club of Chicago at 100: Art and Culture, 1916-2016.” In the decades after the Great Chicago Fire, “everything had seemed possible as Chicagoans remade literature, architecture and the social sciences and offered a new vision of what cities could be with the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.” Founded by socialite Rue Winterbotham Carpenter in 1916—and helmed largely by women of the same cloth for most of its existence—The Arts Club was formed particularly to advance the cause of local artists and craftsmen. It was modern, experimental and radical, while interweaving an international awareness of what was vital to the now.
Through the club’s activities, “Chicago, more surely than any other American city, not even excluding New York, has been kept aware of what is going on in the world beyond its gates.” Members of the private club continue to discuss art in the salon tradition; but its exhibitions are free and open to everyone. Its mission has been an ongoing intellectual and artistic conversation with the city about the role of art and culture—art, dance, literature, music, performance, architecture—in social change. A history of culture in Chicago that has mirrored the city’s own history like a companion, this book is an opportunity for the club to “invite readers to appreciate all that has taken place in our rooms” while it strives to embrace a broader public.
The book’s chapters are organized around the club’s history and chronology, its relationship to separate disciplines, as well as its exhibitions and acquisitions. Architecture has been important to the club, not just as a discipline, but central to the club’s own character. As Chicago’s architecture scene made its way up Michigan Avenue, so coincidentally did the Arts Club. The vitality of The Arts Club is reflected in this collection and it is for everyone. With the changing times we’re embarking upon, here’s to one-hundred more years. A very nice birthday present to give the city indeed. (Kate Burns)
“The Arts Club of Chicago at 100: Art and Culture, 1916-2016”
Edited by Janine Mileaf and Susan F. Rossen
University of Chicago Press, 176 pages, $45
Kate Burns is a writer, musician and voiceover talent living in Chicago. Her voice haunted the elevator in her gynecologist’s building until by chance the practice moved. She taught preschool Spanish for three years and, like a bartender, grew to rely on the security of having a guitar, or a bar, between herself and the patrons. It’s only a matter of time before she succumbs to her family’s lobbying for a dog. You may see her walking this dog on Chicago’s wintry sidewalks with a leash in one mittened hand and a tissue in the other. She enjoys knitting rectangles in large font while binge-watching TV. She rues the fact that she hasn’t been to a movie in several adjacent seasons, but give her a book and she’s golden. She likes gardening. Plants are quiet. Her one and only child challenges her daily like the Mack truck of karma. Her favorite animals are seahorses and hummingbirds and her favorite food is popcorn. She decided on these as a teenager and hasn’t revised her opinions.