Chicago has a rich history in the arts.

Visual Arts

From Carl Sandburg to Nelson Algren to Kevin Koval, the art of literature has followed a path throughout our history. In the world of photography and photojournalism from László Moholy-Nagy, Aaron Siskind, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe to Gordon Parks to Pulitzer prize winner John White, Chicago has been at the forefront of great photojournalism for the last century. Chicago artists from Richard Hunt to Ed Paschke to Theaster Gates have built world-wide renown.


Chicago was the birthplace of improvisational comedy and it all started in 1955 with the Compass Players at the University of Chicago. Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Alan Alda and Ed Asner were just a few of the many famous names that started here, as did Jeremy Piven’s parents, Joyce and Byrne Piven, as well as Ben Stiller’s parents, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. Compass Players later begat Second City which, of course, led to Saturday Night Live and a burst of other successful comedy clubs in Chicago (and around the world) that have produced so many television and movie stars including Bill Murray, Tim Meadows, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and way too many others to list here.

Steppenwolf, Goodman and Lookingglass Theaters have become known the world over for their gritty, hard-hitting dramas, and have produced a wave of award-winning actors and playwrights including David Mamet, John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Sinise, David Schwimmer, and just this year, Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney.


In the early part of the 20th century, many African Americans moved from the agricultural south to the industrial north, with Chicago being one of the final destinations. Case in point: Buddy Guy left Letsworth, Louisiana to travel by train to Chicago with his guitar and just enough money to last a few days. On the third day he entered a club and encountered Muddy Waters, who told him that if he liked Buddy’s playing, he would buy him a sandwich. Thus, began a long career for one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time!

In 1915, the word Jazz was first used in the media (Chicago Tribune). In 1922, Louis Armstrong moved to Chicago to record with his Hot 5 and Hot 7 bands. This tradition continues through Ramsey Lewis to Kurt Elling today.

Chicago is ground zero for the hip-hop world, with House music (invented here) giving way to Kanye West, Common and now Chance the Rapper, all having grown up on the south side of Chicago, and now enjoying world-wide acclaim.
From Soul music in the 1960’s (Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, the Staple Singers to Jennifer Hudson) to gospel (Thomas A. Dorsey wrote the first modern gospel song at Pilgrim Baptist Church) to Polka. In fact, Chicago is home to the  International Polka Association and in the 1940’s was known worldwide as the Broadway of Polka. And let’s not forget that Chicago produced some pretty famous rock and jazz/rock bands that have included Chicago, Ides of March, Survivor, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Warpaint and many others.

Honoring and Celebrating Chicago’s Rich Arts & Culture

The scattered arts facilities that currently exist in Chicago make it more difficult for artists and musicians to work and collaborate, and the widely scattered galleries and night clubs discourage local art patrons and tourists from venturing out.

Artists will significantly benefit from clustering because equipment, supplies, facilities and other artists will be close at hand making it easier and more economical to put together arts projects, and creates more opportunity for collaboration.

The clustering of a variety of galleries and live music venues (featuring classic to modern) will make it easier for arts patrons to see and hear more artists, and more efficient for artists to market their craft.

In addition to maker facilities, galleries and live performance venues, artists’ coops will include art and recording studios, affordable housing, business classes, back office and marketing help.

In return for the subsidized facilities and housing, artists will teach, provide lessons, coach and mentor students of all ages.

The David Lynch Foundation has also committed to developing their award-winning health & wellness center at IMAGINE that will feature their highly successful youth trauma program. IMAGINE will also feature a variety of exciting, interactive museums focusing on music of all genres, including gospel, blues, jazz and rock music, improvisational comedy and drama, sports, Bronzeville history, and beer ! Each museum will contain live performance venues, classrooms and lots of entertaining things to do.