September 2018 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your September in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits
Tricked-out rides cruise into Pilsen for the Slow and Low Community Lowrider Festival, August 10, 2014.
Photograph: Kaitlin Hetterscheidt
By Time Out Chicago staff, compiled by Zach Long |
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Summer in Chicago may be winding down, but you've still got time to enjoy outdoor festivals, beer gardens and patios. Plus, the arrival of September is an exciting time in the city, with Oktoberfest celebrations, a deluge of new theater shows and events like Riot Fest on the horizon. You'll find famous chefs serving delicious dishes at Chicago Gourmet, amazing contemporary artworks on display at EXPO Chicago and 70mm films displayed on a gigantic screen at the Music Box Theatre. Find something (or many things) to look forward to with our guide to the best events in September in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

Featured events in September

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

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Childish Gambino
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Records
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Childish Gambino + Rae Sremmurd

There was a time when Donald Glover was just a sitcom star who released clever, embarrassingly confessional rap tracks under a moniker devised by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. These days, he's the creator of genre-defying FX show Atlanta, a part of the Star Wars universe (as young Lando Calrissian) and the creative voice behind the striking music video for his latest track, “This is America.” On tour behind his not-yet-titled “final” album, Glover will be joined by Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Festivals

Renegade Craft Fair

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares,. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far, while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

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Riot Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

Riot Fest

It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings acts like Beck, Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, Blondie, Elvis Costello and rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis to Douglas Park for a three-day carnival of music (there's even a Ferris wheel). You'll find punks, metalheads, indie fans and hip-hop aficionados eating corn dogs and crowding the fields at this eclectic end-of-the-summer fest. 

Movies, Action and adventure

The Music Box 70mm Film Festival

icon-location-pin Wrigleyville
icon-calendar

The Music Box Theatre isn't just one of our favorite places to see a movie in Chicago, it's also one of the only theaters left in the world with the equipment needed to project 70mm film. For two weeks, the Music Box will be screening movies on the enlarge, hyper-detailed format, including classic flicks like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia (presented on a brand new 70mm print). The rest of the lineup features Jim Henson's puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal, New York City musical West Side Story, John Carpenter's sci-fi horror movie The Thing and Stephen Speilberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Fulton Market Harvest Festival
Photograph: Eugene Galdones
Things to do, Festivals

Fulton Market Harvest Fest

One of the city's hottest dining districts welcomes autumn with the Fulton Market Harvest Fest, curated by Chefs Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat) and Paul Kahan (The Publican). These Chicago food bigwigs round up dishes from some of the best West Loop restaurants, accompanied by beer, cocktails and cooking demos from some the area's most talented chefs. Want even more reasons to indulge? Check out a lineup of dinners, bread-making lessons, butcher demos and even more way to take part in the seasonal food fun.

The Happy Prince
Courtesy Sundance
Movies

Reeling Film Festival

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square
icon-calendar

Founded in 1981 and organized by Chicago Filmmakers, Reeling is the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the U.S.—this year's edition will take place at the Davis Theatre, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and the Chicago Filmmakers HQ. The program is filled with movies that feature LGBTQ talent (both in front of and behind the camera), including Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince, the Chicago premiere of Mapplethorpe starring Matt Smith as the controversial BDSM photographer and the documentary Studio 54, which explores the story behind the popular ‘70s nightclub.

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Goose Island
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Music festivals

312 Block Party

icon-location-pin United Center
icon-calendar

Didn't get the invite to your neighborhood block party this summer? No worries—Goose Island is inviting everyone to its annual 312 Block Party, which takes place right in front of its Fulton Street brewery. A $10 donation to a local charity at the gate gets you access to live music, food truck fare and more than 20 different beers, which are only $3 each. On Friday, September 21 experimental rockers TV on the Radio headline the music stage, joined by psych outfit Sunflower Bean and local rapper Mick Jenkins. Americana act the Drive-By Truckers top the bill on Saturday, September 22, with support from indie-rockers the Hold Steady and country singer Lillie Mae. With so much great music and cheap beer on tap, the 312 Block Party usually fills up quickly, so your best option is to arrive early (the fest's entrance is at Fulton St and Wolcott Ave) and have a few drinks while you wait for your favorite act to play.

Beer Hoptacular
Photograph: Courtesy Beer Hoptacular
Things to do, Festivals

BeerHoptacular

icon-location-pin Little Italy, UIC
icon-calendar

One of the Chicago's most expansive craft beer festivals sets up in a helicopter hanger this year, offering more than 150 different brews to taste over the course of an afternoon. The BeerHoptacular also features a homebrew competition, DJs spinning vinyl, a live insult booth where you can take out your frustration and many more attractions.

Festivals in September

Expo Chicago at Navy Pier
Photograph: Audia
Art, Fairs

EXPO Chicago

icon-calendar

The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, also known as EXPO Chicago, returns to Navy Pier, hosting more than 100 of the world's prominent contemporary galleries. You’ll see towering installations, sprawling canvases, intriguing sculptures and more cutting-edge art at this annual gathering, which features work by artists from around the globe. EXPO Chicago also presents conversations with artists, film and audio programs, book signings and more ways to immerse yourself in the creative spirit of the event—if you can't wait to experience it all, snag a ticket to the Vernissage night (September 27) for a preview. 

0913.chi.rb.chicagogourmet25.jpg
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Gourmet

icon-location-pin Millennium Park
icon-calendar

The annual three-day fest kicks off Friday with its Hamburger Hop throwdown. Walk in to Millennium Park and waddle out once you've stuffed your face at cooking demos, tasting pavilions and a wine sampling. This year's event features local celebs such as Stephanie Izard, Joe Flamm, Rick Bayless and more.

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Whitney
Photograph: Dominique Goncalves
Things to do, Festivals

Revolution Oktoberfest

icon-location-pin Logan Square
icon-calendar

Revolution Brewing's annual Oktoberfest celebration returns to the streets of Logan Square, welcoming attendees to quaff a few beers while enjoying German cuisine (from the likes of Dönermen and the Radler) and a stacked music lineup. Local folk rock act Whitney and Mary Timony's noisy trio Ex Hex headline the stage on Friday, while garage rock vets King Khan and the Shrines and Japanese psych rocker Kikagaku Moyo top Saturday's bill. A $5 donation gets you into this fall street fest, located just off the California Blue Line stop in front of the Revolution brewpub, with proceeds benefitting the Friends of Goethe School.

The Other Art Fair
Photograph: Courtesy The Other Art Fair
Art, Fairs

The Other Art Fair

icon-location-pin Lower West Side
icon-calendar

Online gallery Saatchi Art brings together a crop of more than 130 independent and emerging artists for a fair hosted by Mana Contemporary, where even the cash-strapped among us can afford to take home a masterpiece. Attendees can chat with artists, take in interactive art experiences, watch theater performances and listen to live music while enjoying a selection of food and drinks. Hebru Brantley will be in attendance as the fair's special guest and has created an exclusive print that will be sold at the event, with profits donated to a local charity.

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St. Alphonsus Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy St. Alphonsus
Things to do, Festivals

St. Alphonsus Oktoberfest

icon-location-pin Lake View
icon-calendar

St. Alphonsus Church's annual Oktoberfest celebration features plenty of brews (including separately-ticketed craft beer tasting sessions on Friday and Saturday night) as well as activities and entertainment for kids and families. The fextive weekend hosts performances from a variety of cover bands, including tributes to the Beatles, ‘80s hits and a rock 'n' roll polka act. 

Thalia Hall
Photograph: Clayton Hauck
Things to do, Festivals

Dusek's Blocktoberfest

icon-location-pin Lower West Side
icon-calendar

Oktoberfest comes to Pilsen at Dusek's annual block party, which takes place on the street just outside of Thalia Hall. Admission is free and once attendees are inside the gates, they can enjoy German food (including Dusek's pretzels and sausages), seasonal beer and a special punch. A lineup of local DJs will be providing tunes to soundtrack the festivities and Tack Room will transform into a Kid's Zone, where the little ones can entertain themselves while you're celebrating.

Concerts in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago may be best known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

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Luke Bryan
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Music Group
Music, Folk, country and blues

Luke Bryan + Sam Hunt + Jon Pardi

Bro-country poster boy Luke Bryan may object to the label being applied to his music, but there's really no easier way to describe twangy songs with titles like "She's a Hot One" and "Drinking Again." On the heels of his new gig as an American Idol judge, Bryan brings his What Makes You Country Tour to Wrigley Field, with fellow Nashville singers Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi and Carly Pearce in tow.

Billy Joel
Photograph: Jeff Schock
Music, Rock and indie

Billy Joel

Can we start calling this an annual residency yet? For the fifth summer in a row, the "Piano Man" returns to Wrigley Field. The 68-year-old singer-songwriter hasn't released a new album in more than a decade, but he's still playing the hits on a monthly basis at his always sold out Madison Square Garden residency. As long as there are people who want to sing along to "Uptown Girl," we expect Joel will continue packing the ballpark every summer.

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H.A.T.
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Music, Latin and world

World Music Festival

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square
icon-calendar

Expand your musical tastes at the annual World Music Festival, a series of free concerts at venues throughout the city that feature artists from all corners of the globe, including France, China, Gambia and more. The festival kicks off with the annual Ragamala concert, an overnight concert at the Chicago Cultural Center which features more than 12 hours of classical Indian music. Other highlights of this year's lineup include an El Grito celebration in Millennium Park featuring mariachi bands, an appearance by Morrocan experimental audio-visual artist H.A.T. and a concert held in tandem with World Dumpling Fest in Polk Bros Park.    

Fall Out Boy
Photograph: Pamela Littky
Music, Pop

Fall Out Boy + Machine Gun Kelly + Rise Against

While there’s always been a theatrical flair to Fall Out Boy’s music, the band’s latest record, MANIA, takes those overwrought inclinations to their logical conclusion. There’s nothing subtle about the bells and choir that grace a track called “Church” or highlight-reel worthy lyricism of “Champion.” A hometown show in Wrigley Field seems like the perfect opportunity for Patrick Stump and company to dig into their catalog, in front of a crowd of older fans that should know all the words to “Dead on Arrival.”

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Childish Gambino
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Records
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Childish Gambino + Rae Sremmurd

There was a time when Donald Glover was just a sitcom star who released clever, embarrassingly confessional rap tracks under a moniker devised by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. These days, he's the creator of genre-defying FX show Atlanta, a part of the Star Wars universe (as young Lando Calrissian) and the creative voice behind the striking music video for his latest track, “This is America.” On tour behind his not-yet-titled “final” album, Glover will be joined by Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd.

Comfort Station
Photograph: Martha Williams
Things to do, Festivals

Bands & Beers for Comfort Station

Logan Square community arts center Comfort Station holds its annual summer benefit, which helps fund its year-round slate of exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, concerts and workshops. Setting up a stage at the foot of the Centennial Monument, the free event will feature sets from psychedelic jazz outfit Dos Santos, local hip-hop producer Phoelix, twangy indie rockers Campdogzz and quai-industrial act Dim. Donations are welcome, and if you want to have a few beverages at the event, you can purchase a $25 wristband for access to beer, cider and more.

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lollapalooza 2017, vic mensa
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Music, Music festivals

The Breaks Vol. II Music Festival

While the first edition of the hip-hop-focused The Breaks Music Festival took place near Soldier Field, this year's iteration is moving to Toyota Park. Legendary New York rap collective the Wu-Tang Clan headlines the fest, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs and Talib Kweli are also on the lineup, in addition to hometown hip-hop heroes and Twista and Vic Mensa.

Jon Hopkins
Photograph: Steve Gullick
Music, Dance and electronic

Jon Hopkins + Daniel Avery

While much of Jon Hopkins' early career was spent collaborating with Brian Eno and Coldplay, in recent year's the English producer has come into his own as an electronic musician with a distinctive sound. Hopkins' latest album, Signularity, is a suite of expansive compositions, littered with ambient synths and glitchy beats that coalese into some of his most epic, room-eveloping tracks to date. There's a transcendent power to Hopkins' arrangements, lending a decidedly intimate feel to his larger-than-life production. Ambient musician Daniel Avery opens the show.

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Theater in September

Photograph: Joe Mazza
Theater

Radio Golf

icon-location-pin Hyde Park
icon-calendar

An ambitious black real estate developer seeks to “revitalize” his childhood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, putting the area’s vital history at risk. Ron OJ Parson directs the final play in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, starring Allen Gilmore and James Vincent Meredith.

Chopin Theatre
Photograph: Katie Kullen
Theater

Borealis

icon-location-pin River West/West Town
icon-calendar

Armed with an axe and a book on corporate communications, 13-year-old Cozbi fights through the heart of an Alaskan big oil conglomerate to find her missing big brother. Monty Cole directs this satirical, surreal epic from playwright Bennett Fisher for the House Theatre of Chicago.

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Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett
Theater

Frankenstein

icon-location-pin Rogers Park
icon-calendar

A family tragedy spurs Victoria Frankenstein to create a creature that will defy death. Adaptors Robert Kauzlaric and Paul S. Holmquist deliver the first of many Chicago Frankenstein adaptations this season, commemorating the famed novel’s 200th anniversary.

RivendellTheater.VEnue.jpg
Photograph: Joe Mazza
Theater

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

icon-location-pin Edgewater
icon-calendar

Man meets goat. Man falls in love with goat. Man’s wife is very upset. Edward Albee’s twisted 2002 play about love in a time of moral hypocrisy receives a storefront revival from Interrobang Theatre.

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Theater

Tootsie

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

If you don’t already know the plot of Tootsie, this show might not be for you. The production features music from The Band’s Visit composer David Yazbeck (winner of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Original Score) and stars Santino Fontana from Frozen and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It bows at the Cadillac Palace on its way to Broadway in spring 2019.

Theater

Second Skin

icon-location-pin Wicker Park
icon-calendar

A woman returns home to care for her dying mother and to confront the secret horrors that caused her to flee years ago. This world premiere from writer Kristin Idaszak is being directed by Jess Hutchinson at Wildclaw Theatre, a company that specializes in horror plays.

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Photograph: Rick Aguilar
Theater

The Artificial Jungle

icon-location-pin Lake View
icon-calendar

A bored housewife meets a sexy drifter, and the duo plots to off her husband in a zany ’80s noir pastiche from the late, great Charles Ludlam. Shade Murray directs for Hell in a Handbag Productions, the city’s premiere home for drag parodies.

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Theater

Nell Gwynn

icon-location-pin Streeterville
icon-calendar

One day you’re hawking oranges in the streets of Restoration-era London, and the next you’re a famous actress and the mistress of King Charles II—go figure! Christopher Luscombe directs Scarlett Strallen and Timothy Edward Kane in this period comedy.

Theater

Downstate

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park
icon-calendar

A man turns up at a group home for sex offenders to confront his childhood abuser. Pam Mackinnon directs this world-premiere drama by Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park).

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Free events in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago may be best known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Things to do, Festivals

Slow and Low Chicago Lowrider Festival

Hundreds of tricked-out cars and motorcycles line Loomis Street in Pilsen during this annual community festival, where you can take a look under the hood and watch classic rides bouncing around (with some hydraulic assistance). If you can tear yourself away from the automotive display, you can chow down on tasty tacos, shop for goods made by local vendors and listen to live DJs.

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Brendan Fernandes
Photograph: Courtesy Brendan Fernandes
Art, Contemporary art

“Brendan Fernandes: The Living Mask”

icon-location-pin Sheffield & DePaul
icon-calendar

Chicago-based artist Brendan Fernandes draws inspiration from the fabricated African masks that were once sold to tourists, exploring how traditional art was modified and commodified. Displayed alongside wooden masks from Burkina Faso, Congo, Cameroon, and Nigeria from DePaul Art Museum’s African collection, Fernandes's striking neon light masks examine the ways in which society claims ownership of artistic ideas.

Liner Notes
Photograph: Steve Reidell
Things to do, Talks and lectures

Liner Notes: A Musical Storytelling Series

An album is more than a collection of songs—it can serve as the soundtrack to a pivotal time in your life or the window to a new world of musical discovery. The Liner Notes storytelling series celebrates records that change lives, gathering local musicians, writers and artists to talk about a particularly influential LP. In September, rapper SHOWYOUSUCK discusses Many Facez by Tracey Lee, Chicago Tribune writer Jessi Roti unpacks Fever to Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hood Internet producer Steve Reidell professes his love of the soundtrack to Judgement Night and Metro owner Joe Shanahan talks about a mystery album.

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H.A.T.
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Music, Latin and world

World Music Festival

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square
icon-calendar

Expand your musical tastes at the annual World Music Festival, a series of free concerts at venues throughout the city that feature artists from all corners of the globe, including France, China, Gambia and more. The festival kicks off with the annual Ragamala concert, an overnight concert at the Chicago Cultural Center which features more than 12 hours of classical Indian music. Other highlights of this year's lineup include an El Grito celebration in Millennium Park featuring mariachi bands, an appearance by Morrocan experimental audio-visual artist H.A.T. and a concert held in tandem with World Dumpling Fest in Polk Bros Park.    

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Festivals

Renegade Craft Fair

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

Advertising
German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

Things to do, Festivals

Festival de la Villita

Celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain with Mexican food, music and dancing in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Vendors and carnival rides fill the streets Friday through Sunday, and the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade ends here on Sunday afternoon.

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394.wk.at.pw.mexicanindependencedayparade.jpg
Photograph: Miguel Zuno
Things to do, Festivals

Pilsen Mexican Independence Day Parade

Head to Pilsen to celebrate Mexican Independence Day at this annual processions along 18th Street, which features colorful floats, costumed dancers and local marching bands. The parade steps off at noon from Newberry Avenue and 18th Street and concludes at Wolcott Ave.

"Guitao", Ed Paschke (1978)
Photograph: Courtesy the Ed Paschke Art Center
Art, Painting

“Break A Rule: Ed Paschke’s Art and Teaching”

icon-location-pin Evanston
icon-calendar

Displaying a collection of Chicago-native Ed Paschke’s vibrant paintings, this exhibit connects the artist's experimental images to the tenants he taught his students as a professor at Northwestern University: to learn the rules in order to break them, trust your instincts and get out of your comfort zone. 

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