We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive from teens so you can plan ahead and make the most of your visit.
Where do I enter the museum?
The Art Institute has two entrances. Both have an admissions desk, coat check, gift shop, and audio guide counter.
The main entrance is located at 111 South Michigan Avenue and is flanked by two lion statues.
The Modern Wing entrance is located at 159 East Monroe Street. The free Ryan Learning Center spaces are just to the left of the Modern Wing entrance—look for the orange floor as you enter the museum. You don’t need a ticket to visit the Ryan Learning Center.
Am I eligible for a free teen ticket? If I am, how do I claim it?
The Art Institute of Chicago is free for Chicago teens under the age of 18, thanks to the extraordinary sponsorship of Glenn and Claire Swogger and the Redbud Foundation. To take advantage of this opportunity, bring some form of identification (a driver’s license, a school ID, or a library card), pick up a ticket at the admissions desk, and explore the museum. Children under 14 are always free, and Illinois residents get free admission on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
What can I do with my backpack and/or coat?
Backpacks are not allowed in the galleries, but coat check is available at both museum entrances for $1 cash per item. Bags must be smaller than 13 x 17 x 4 inches to enter the galleries. Anything larger must be checked for your safety and the security of our collection.
For a complete list of what is and isn’t allowed in the galleries, see the museum FAQs.
I’ve never been to the Art Institute of Chicago before. How should I begin?
After you’ve picked up a ticket at one of the admissions desks, here are a few ways to start your visit:
Download the Art Institute of Chicago Official Mobile app and explore the galleries with our Teen Audio Guide. Though you can begin using the guide anywhere, we suggest the Michigan Avenue entrance as a starting point.
Just wander—the museum is a great place to get lost and stumble upon unexpected and amazing things.
Not ready to venture into the vastness of the galleries just yet? Visit the Family Room, located in the Ryan Learning Center, and create a customized tour using JourneyMaker. Sure, it’s for kids and families, but it’s pretty fun to design and keep a tour with your name on it.
Is the weather too nice to stay indoors for long? Relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the beauty of nature and art in the Art Institute’s gardens. The museum has two public gardens—the North Garden, on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, and the South Garden, on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Street. There are also two gardens that can be accessed from inside the museum, Pritzker Garden in the Modern Wing and McKinlock Court, located just outside the Museum Café.
I’m standing in front of a work of art. Now what?
Museums are places to think, reflect, and dream, and there are many different ways you can engage with works of art. Here are a few to get you started:
- Imagine how the artwork might have been made.
- Consider why the artist made this artwork. Even if it doesn’t seem significant to you now, it was significant at some point. Why?
- Read the descriptive label next to the artwork.
- Listen to an audio stop about the artwork on our app.
- Put on your favorite song and get lost in looking.
- Write poetry or free-write in response to the work.
- Take photos to share on social media or keep for yourself.
- Google quotes by the artist or about the artist.
- Use a pencil to sketch ideas or details inspired by the work of art.
- Look closely and think about how the work of art might relate to you, your life, and your emotions.
Can I take photos in the museum? Where are the best places to take pictures?
Yes, non-flash photography and video are allowed in all the permanent galleries, but there are a few exceptions. Works of art on loan and special exhibitions are mostly off limits. You will see a symbol of a camera crossed out on the wall text next to works of art that you can’t photograph. When in doubt, ask a security officer nearby. Flash photography is never allowed in the museum because excessive light can fade the pigments and weaken the surfaces of artworks.
For more about equipment allowed in the galleries, filming, and sketching, see the museum FAQs.
There are lots of great places to take photos at the Art Institute, but our top three favorites are:
The contemporary galleries on the second floor of the Modern Wing
The museum’s many staircases—from the Grand Staircase and the spiral stair in the Michigan Avenue building to the Modern Wing’s light-filled suspended steps
Will I be the only teen at the museum?
Probably not—Chicago teen attendance at the Art Institute quadrupled last year.
Can I bring a friend or date?
Please do! Talking about art with others is a great way to get to know people better and learn more about yourself.
Are there places to relax in the museum?
Yes—many galleries have benches, and Griffin Court has comfy chairs.
Why is it so quiet in the museum?
We don’t exactly know. Silence seems to help people relax and focus their attention, but talking is encouraged. If you’d like to listen to something while you look, check out our Teen Audio Guide or bring your own headphones to listen to tunes.
Where is there food nearby?
You can grab some food in the museum, either in Caffè Moderno on the second floor of the Modern Wing or in the Museum Café on the lower level. There are lots of other options outside the museum, too; wander down to Michigan Avenue to explore other restaurants in the area.
I’m intimidated by security. What should I do?
Many people initially feel intimidated by security officers, but we want to assure you that everyone who works at the museum is happy you are here. Security officers have an important job: they protect our visitors and our collection. Like all people, some officers are serious and quiet and others love talking about art. Next time you see a security officer, smile and say hello.
I’m interested in taking an art class. Do you offer any?
Yes! You can find out about upcoming programs and drop-in workshops through our calendar.
If you’re looking for a broader offering of skills-based, seasonal art classes, we recommend checking out these Chicago youth arts organizations: