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Immersive Van Gogh Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Immersive Van Gogh Chicago

February 2021 events calendar for Chicago

Pack February with the best things to do in Chicago for Valentine's Day, the Chinese New Year and more

By Emma Krupp

February might be the shortest month of the year, but you'll still find lots to do throughout Chicago—even as many of the month's most notable annual gatherings host virtual editions (if they haven't been postponed). That means we're seeking out substitutes for some of our favorite February festivities. The Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade is canceled this year, so we recommend ringing in the Year of the Ox with takeout from your favorite Chinese restaurant in Chicago, or by taking a day to explore the neighborhood with a walk through Ping Tom Park. Similarly, you can celebrate Valentine's Day in Chicago with love-themed virtual events like a lecture on the mating habits of T.rex from the Field Museum (seriously) or by taking a romantic spin around the best ice skating rinks in Chicago with your sweetheart. There are also new events to explore—pay a visit to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit if you're craving a change of pace. Get ready to make the most out of the month of love with our February 2021 events guide.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2021

Featured February 2021 events

Krista Franklin, Self-Portrait in the Aftermath , 2020.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

“Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency”

Art Photography Museum of Contemporary Photography, Loop

Eight different artists consider the psychological, physical and emotional tolls of reproduction, displaying photographs that explore unconventional representations of the female body. Tackling topics like birth, miscarriage and abortion, “Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency” draws attention to the rights of females at a time when they are once again being threatened throughout the world.

Guests wishing to view this exhibition must secure a reservation in advance of their visit.

Chicago Gamespace
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Gamespace

“Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History”

Art Digital & interactive Chicago Gamespace, Logan Square

You've probably played Pac-Man before, but did you know that the iconic video game character was introduced to American audiences by Chicago-based Midway Games? Chicago Gamespace's latest exhibition explores the history of one of the most popular digital characters on the planet, considering how a yellow group of pixels became a beloved part of pop-culture that has jumped from arcade cabinets to home consoles and movie screens. Collecting games and Pac-Man ephemrea (including soap, lunch boxes and clothing), “Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History” is an interactive tribute to a the hungriest video game icon.

Bisa Butler
Photograph: Margaret Fox

“Bisa Butler: Portraits”

Art Textiles Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

Enter the colorful world of Bisa Butler in this exhibition devoted to the textile artist's portrait quilts, which depict Black subjects that have historically been marginalized. Originally trained as a painter, Butler shifted to making works with fabrics, layering textiles and building on the sewing techniques that she learned from her mother and grandmother. The Art Institute is presenting the first solo exhibition of Butler's work, collecting more than 20 of her vibrant portrait quilts.

Monet Poppy Fields
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection.

“Monet and Chicago”

Art Painting Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The Art Institute of Chicago hosted Claude Monet’s debut U.S. solo show in 1895 and was the first American museum to buy one of his paintings. "Monet and Chicago" acts as an homage to the city's special connection to the “father of Impressionism,” showcasing a mixture of major works as well as rarely seen sketches and landscapes sourced from local collections.

 Jo Ractliffe
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“Jo Ractliffe: DRIVES”

Art Photography Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The stark, black and white imagery of South African photographer Jo Ractliffe takes the spotlight in this new Art Institute of Chicago survey of her work. Ractliffe's images confront the aftermath of apartheid, the legalized form of racial discrimination that exisited in South Africa until the early ‘90s. Depicting barren landscapes and literal debris, her photos and video installations document places and people that are reckoning with the consequences of forces beyond their control.

Steppenwolf What is Left, Burns
Photograph: Lowell Thomas

Steppenwolf NOW

Theater Drama Various locations throughout Chicago,

With its stages closed to the public for the time-being, the Steppenwolf NOW programming stream is a way to see groundbreaking new theater without leaving the house. A $75 membership gives you access to six works, which will premiere between November 2020 and June 2021. Playwright James Ijames kicks things off in November with the concise 20-minute play What is Left, Burns, which follows a video call between ex-lovers at very different points in their lives. Other works to look forward to include Isaac Gómez's department store drama Wally World, Carrie Coon in a new short called Red Folder and Sam Shepard's two-hander Ages of the Moon.

Find the complete lineup of Steppenwolf NOW plays and additional details about virtual membership on the theater company's website.


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