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How To Help Chicago’s Cultural Institutions During COVID Lockdown

How To Help Chicago’s Cultural Institutions During COVID Lockdown

Many of Chicago’s cultural institutions that depend on daily visits from residents and visitors, corporate and individual donations and other fundraising efforts,  are trying to figure out how to proceed as many industries are faced with grim realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since the Illinois Shelter-at-Home order by Governor J.B Pritzker, businesses deemed non-essential have had to shut their doors, waiting for when the lockdown will be lifted to welcome guests,  though if we’re being honest and realistic, we know that crowd rush will not be immediate. Some of these cultural institutions were in the process of launching or recently launching exhibits, planning or hosting critical fundraisers, talks and more. Since the coronavirus pandemic, we know the way people go out now will be altered for some time. While we all wait to get the A-Okay to head back out, to try and enjoy these havens of culture we love, there are ways you can help Chicago’s cultural institutions right now while we are on lockdown and beyond. We’ve picked some of our fave organizations to showcase below. We’ll be updating this space as more information is received (you can email info {at} SociaLifeChicago {dot} com so please do check back often.


The MCA kicked off the year with a great exhibit in February titled Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago. The museum had to close in the midst of the exhibit running due to covid precautions but merchandise collaboration from the exhibit are still up for purchase. Recently launched is the Duro Olowu x MZ Wallace Metro Tote, which showcases Olowu’s take on the iconic MZ Wallace Metro Tote, featuring a custom print in Olowu’s signature style, is now available for purchase online here. All of the net proceeds from the limited edition Metro Tote will benefit the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s educational programs. The collaboration is part of MZW Gives Back, the long-standing philanthropic program started by MZ Wallace with the mission of encouraging empowerment through education and equal opportunity. The exhibition is guest-curated by Duro Olowu and organized for the MCA by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator, with Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant. You can also attend virtual events with a few slated for the month of April you can view here. Not in the market for a tote? You can pick up a slew of other fun gifts from the MCA Store like a stress swan, Colorforms® 60th Anniversary Edition set, Yayoi Enamel Pin and so much more. The other ways you an support MCA Chicago during this time is to either become a member (gift a membership) to donate.



The Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute, has been supporting and now its time we help give this venerable institution. Though you can’t physically go into their theatres now, the film center’s hosting screenings “Film Center from your sofa” you can watch at home. Make it a party by not only purchasing viewing for yourself but you could gift the screenings and make it a party. They will continuously update their website with the streaming schedule as well as posting on Facebook page to allow viewers a chance to engage with others. All proceeds during this challenging time will help keep the Film Center and the independent distributors operating.



The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has cancelled performances through at least May 10 but in the proverbial speak, the show must go on, especially with a majority of people spending time at home and looking for things to take their minds off the constant stream of grim news. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and WFMT-FM launched a six-week series, CSR Radio—From the CSO’s Archives: Maestro’s Choice. The Tuesday-night series, begins at 8pm CST/7pm EST, will supplement the CSO’s Sunday-night nationally syndicated broadcasts on WFMT-FM (98.7). Along with the over-the-air broadcasts, the “Maestro’s Choice” series will be streamed on and on the WFMT app, and will be available on CSO Radio. Tuesday, April 21 performance will feature Bernard Haitink conducting Mahler 3. April 28, Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Sheherazade’ —featuring concertmaster Robert Chen.



The Art Institute is such a gem and cultural icon in our city of Big Shoulders, that no visit to Chicago is complete without at least a stop. Their physical doors are closed for the time being, but you can visit the museum virtually and give a donation is able to. Some of the ways you can enjoy The Art Institute of Chicago online includes a visual tour of the “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance” exhibition. Other virtual visits options exist and you can always gift a membership or some puzzles from the gift shop.


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