Chicago: All the Write Things in All the Write Places


The “Word Waterfall” in the “Nation of Writers” exhibit offers a unique meditative experience at the American Writers Museum. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

Chicago boasts many new arts attractions and a new museum dedicated to American Writers

By Shane Fay

Chicago has always been a fantastic destination with a lot going on. A new museum has opened that celebrates the American Writer.

Arts and Culture Attractions in Chicago

From now through February 28, 2018, it is possible to see the critically acclaimed Hamilton on Chicago’s Broadway.

A massive Rolling Stones exhibit at Navy Pier in Chicago contains 500 very rare Rolling Stones items and much more.

From June 6 to September 24, you can come see the redesigned Museum of Contemporary Art and the Takashi Murakami exhibition that kicked off the 50th anniversary of the museum.

In the fall, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater is the third venue for those interested in theater to come see plays at a unique changeable performance space.

Perhaps the most exciting advancement in Chicago’s Arts and Culture scene is the American Writers Museum. The American Writers Museum is the first national museum invested in engaging public interest in the celebration of American Writers.

Chicago’s American Writers Museum

The "Nation of Writers" exhibit teaches visitors about the American voice in writing across all genres and mediums throughout history. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
The “Nation of Writers” exhibit teaches visitors about the American voice in writing across all genres and mediums throughout history. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

In May of 2017, the American Writers Museum opened to the public. At last, there was a museum honoring American literature while offering the public interesting exhibits.

The museum’s website boasts a quote from Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2002-2009, talking about the importance of an American Writers Museum:

“How thrilling to imagine a museum dedicated to the great achievements of American literature. Such a museum—no matter where in the U.S. it was located—would immediately become both a national center and a national symbol for creativity, education, and the highest aspirations of our culture.”

And that’s just what the American Writers Museum has already achieved in its short lifetime. Chock-full of unique permanent and temporary exhibits, the American Writers Museum makes for an interesting attraction among Chicago’s Arts and Culture scene.

What the Chicago Reader has to Say about the Museum

The Chicago Reader is a comprehensive alternative weekly newspaper that is well-known for its unique style and coverage of arts and culture.

The Chicago Reader‘s own Deanna Isaacs had a lot to say about the American Writers Museum in her May 23 article. “Longer on gadgetry than on literature, AWM is all about the breezy quote and the glitzy busy work toys that are now the currency of the exhibit industry: push a button, spin a wheel, drag an icon, and the gadgets spit out a thimbleful of data.

“It’s American Lit 101 (and more), the nutshell version…the museum, which opened last week on the second floor of a vintage office building at 180 N. Michigan, reveals itself as a friendly little place, a sort of populist literary arcade comfortably in tune with the era of Trump and Twitter.”

Isaacs gave the American Writers Museum a modern association that will surely help bring in younger crowds and breed excitement for writing among young people.

The Goal of the American Writers Museum

The "Mind of a Writer" Gallery allows visitors to get in on the writing and creativity for themselves. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
The “Mind of a Writer” Gallery allows visitors to get in on the writing and creativity for themselves. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

The American Writers Museum’s President, Carey Cranston, said, “We have had the honor to work with an inspiring team of people dedicated to the importance of celebrating American culture through writing and we hope the museum inspires visitors to not only appreciate the works of the writers featured in the museum but practice the art of writing themselves.”

It’s safe to say that because of the museum’s many great exhibits, inspiring visitors shouldn’t be a problem.

The Permanent Exhibits

The Stead Family Foundation Writers Hall gives visitors the chance to discover the literary greats that once resided and worked near them, through the use of interactive kiosks.

Visitors have the opportunity to learn about some of the most influential authors in American history, the distinct forms of American writing, all kinds of writers including songwriters and sports writers, and museumgoers can even enjoy a meditative experience in the Word Waterfall in the John and Cathie Estey: A Nation of Writers exhibit.

With kiosks powered by Goodreads, The S. Leigh Pierson and Douglas R. Conant Readers Hall gives visitors the chance to rank their favorite works alongside other museumgoers’ favorites, as well as Goodreads users’ favorites.

"Anatomy of a Masterwork" within the "The Mind of a Writer" gallery offers tips on how to craft a written masterpiece. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
“Anatomy of a Masterwork” within the “The Mind of a Writer” gallery offers tips on how to craft a written masterpiece. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

The Mind of a Writer exhibit opens up a world of opportunity for visitors to become writers themselves. Visitors can engage in the act of writing digitally, with a typewriter, or with a pencil and paper.

Furthermore, visitors can gain in-depth knowledge about American masterworks through interactive touchscreen tables, view the best tips on how to write a masterpiece, and enhance their word choice while playing fun games.

Thanks to the Wintrust Chicago Gallery’s multiple exhibits, visitors can learn about Chicago’s unique literary scene, discover various literary landmarks in the Windy City, and become familiar with Chicago’s many famous and influential writers.

Children can read, learn about famous American children’s authors, enjoy a lovely commissioned mural by famed children’s author Paul O. Zelinsky, and interact with six exhibits in The Negaunee Foundation Children’s Literature Gallery.

To learn more about the American Writers’ Museum and its permanent exhibits, check out their website.

In the "Children's Literature Gallery," kids can explore the world of reading and writing, and attend story-times. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
In the “Children’s Literature Gallery,” kids can explore the world of reading and writing, and attend story times. Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

The Current Temporary Exhibits

The life and work of W.S. Merwin, an American poet, gardener, and environmentalist, are celebrated with the Palm: All Awake in the Darkness exhibit.

Available to see in the museum’s Meijer Gallery from May 16 to October 6, 2017, this exhibit draws a connection between Merwin’s gardening and writing.

This particular exhibit was made by artists Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris, as well as Ian Boyden, and is also the American Writers Museum’s first commissioned artwork.

To learn more about Palm: All Awake in the Darkness, visit the museum’s website or view the exhibit’s press release.

From May 16 to October 27, 2017, visitors can come see The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” This exhibit offers visitors the uncommon chance to see Jack Kerouac’s original scroll of On the Road, a classic novel about travel and adventure, and to learn the behind-the-scenes stories that came with writing this amazing novel.

To learn more about The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” visit the museum’s website.

Learn about Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and see the book's original scroll at the temporary exhibit, "The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road.'" Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen
Learn about Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and see the book’s original scroll at the temporary exhibit, “The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road.’” Photo courtesy of Barry Brecheisen

While Chicago is already an incredibly cultural city with so much to see and do, add the American Writers Museum to your vacation itinerary and you will not be disappointed!

Enrich your knowledge of American literature and history at the American Writers Museum in Chicago with plenty of fascinating and interactive exhibits!

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Shane Fay is a creative writer and soccer enthusiast from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts intent on traveling across Europe to enhance his knowledge of the beautiful game, and explore the vast and various landscapes that the continent has to offer.



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