10 Events to Visit in Chicago in April


Chicago is a hive of cultural activity at all times of the year – and this April will see a varied programme of events descend on the Windy City.

An eye-catching projection during a previous edition of Art on theMART (Photo: Bex Walton via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Home to a huge number of cultural and entertainment venues, ranging from museums, galleries and other popular places of interest, Chicago plays host to an incredible variety of shows and events that draw locals and tourists alike. We’ve picked out 10 of the best to look out for taking place this April.

Art on the Mart

Said to be the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, Art on theMART returns to Chicago this spring, kicking off with the world premiere of The Adler Planetarium’s Astrographics. Featuring projections of contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre riverfront façade of the city’s iconic The Merchandise Mart building, the unique arts project, which runs into the summer, will once again serve as a canvas for an assortment of renowned local, national and international multi-disciplinary artists.

LOCATION The Merchandise Mart, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza DATES 1 April – 4 July 2021

Monet and Chicago

An exterior shot of the Art Institute of Chicago (Photo: Daniel X. O’Neil via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The Art Institute of Chicago is home to the largest collection of work by Claude Monet outside of Paris. Thought to be the first exhibition to explore Chicago’s pioneering connection to the great Impressionist artist, Monet and Chicago tells the story of  the city’s early embrace of his work that dates back to the late 19th century. Featuring more than 70 pieces, the exhibition includes some of Monet’s most famous paintings, alongside sketches and drawings that reveal the craft behind his genius.

LOCATION The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue DATES 14 June 2021

Next Window, Please

A picture from the ‘Next Window, Please’ exhibition (Photo: Hyde Park Arts Center)

Every year at the Hyde Park Art Center, six professional artists mentor over 150 student artists to develop their artistic voices over the course of 30 weeks. During the 2019-2020 year, the young artists experienced the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the powerful wave of organised protests for racial justice. Several photographs in this exhibition document the days between March and May of 2020 from the perspective of young Chicago artists. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from a photo taken of a drive-through window filled with notes asking customers to move forward, and speaks to our desire to move forward and to our new relationship with windows, digital or physical, that keep us safe and together at the same time.

LOCATION Hyde Part Art Center, 5020 South Cornell Avenue DATES Through 3 April 2021

Wings and Talons: A Day in the Life of a Raptor

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a hawk? Or how a vulture learns to fly? This spring you can join the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and their friends from Wings and Talons for a live virtual raptor show featuring impressive birds of prey. From fledglings to their first flight, you’ll get to take a closer look at the daily lives of these amazing birds and learn how their habits and habitats are affected by our own daily lives.

LOCATION Online only DATES 3 April 2021

Spring Flower Show

The entrance to Garfield Park Conservatory (Photo: Ryo Chijiiwa via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

A mecca for horticulture enthusiasts, each year Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory plays host to a beautiful spring flower show. For 2021, visitors will be treated to a distinct twist on conventional garden design that incorporates varying colours dotted throughout the landscape. Called ‘Saturation’, the show will focus on groups of blooming flowers that allow viewers to appreciate the vast diversity of hues and tins within each colour while taking in their vivid, rich and intense nuances.

LOCATION Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Avenue DATES 27 February – 9 May 2021

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

Created to celebrate four decades of the iconic video game, this exhibition delves into the history, design and legacy of Pac-Man. Charting the game’s history, from its early conceptual development I Tokyo, Japan through to it hitting the American market before becoming a household name, the exhibition features a range of immersive and interactive displays, including playable arcade cabinets, console titles, and Pac-Man themed art and artifacts from down the years.

LOCATION Chicago Gamespace, 2418 West Bloomingdale Avenue DATES Through 30 May 2021 

Mandela: Struggle for Freedom

Visitors peruse exhibits at the Mandela: Struggle For Freedom exhibition (Photo: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center)

Change can start anywhere – even a jail cell. See the new immersive exhibition, Mandela: Struggle for Freedom, now open at Illinois Holocaust Museum. Step into a replica of Mandela’s Robben Island jail cell, read secret messages, and create your own protest poster as you explore South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement with Nelson Mandela as one of its central figures. Through immersive environments and engaging interactives, Mandela promotes human rights with a clear message: all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Visitors can enjoy free admission every Wednesday through April.

LOCATION Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie DATES Through 12 September 2021

Immersive Van Gogh

An exhibit at the Immersive Van Gogh exhibition (Photo: Lighthouse ArtSpace)

This high-tech exhibition uses more than 50 digital projectors to explore the incredible work of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. Animated versions of the painter’s artworks are emblazoned across 35-foot walls, accompanied by a score that blends electronic and classical compositions. The entire presentation is around 35 minutes long, with mostly the same projections displayed in each of the rooms throughout.

LOCATION Lighthouse ArtSpace, 3418 West Armitage Avenue DATES Through 6 September 2021

The ‘Friends’ Experience

Despite screening its final episode back in 2004, the iconic American sitcom “Friends” continues to enjoy a huge fanbase. And those who still cherish the memories of Joey, Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel and Phoebe can indulge their nostalgia at this unique experiential pop-up event when it comes to Chicago this Spring. Visitors will have a chance to roam around 12 rooms, take photos and check out show memorabilia like Rachel and Monica’s purple door, a reconstruction of Central Perk, and even a glass case dedicated to the evolution of Rachel’s haircuts.

LOCATION The Shops at Northbridge, River North DATES Through 30 May 2021


Featuring an assortment of leading international contemporary and modern art galleries, EXPO Chicago goes online for one year only in 2021. Despite its virtual presence, the prestigious curated exposition will once again draw upon Chicago’s rich history as a vibrant global cultural destination to serve as a platform for local, regional and international arts communities.

LOCATION Online only DATES 8-12 April 2021

By Paul Joseph