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Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago, Illinois
By Mark Traston

In a building that was originally a bakery, the Museum of Contemporary Art (or MCA) in Chicago, Illinois was founded in 1967. It was initially intended to be a space for temporary exhibitions. In 1974, the MCA began acquiring a permanent collection. This permanent collection of contemporary art consisted of pieces created after 1945. After years of expanding into neighboring buildings, the MCA relocated to its current site in 1996. The current site at 220 East Chicago Avenue was the site of a former National Guard Armory from 1907 until 1993. The first American structure designed by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the new structure consists of limestone and aluminum and contains 45,000 square feet of gallery space as well as a sculpture garden and an auditorium.

Today, the MCA has a collection of 2,345 contemporary art pieces focusing on surrealism, minimalism and conceptual photography. There is also a monthly exhibit of art created by Chicago's up and coming artists. Only a small percentage of the total collection is displayed at any given time and these pieces may be displayed in any space within the museum. The MCA collaborated with Chef Wolfgang Puck to create a full service restaurant and express counter. Museum admission is not required to dine at Puck's at the MCA, but reservations are recommended. The cuisine at Puck's at the MCA has a Mediterranean and Asia influence.

The MCA offers free tours of the museum daily as well as private tours, family tours and school tours among others. The "Exhibition Focus" free tour lasts for 45 minutes and operates Tuesday at 1:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M., Wednesday through Friday at 1:00 P.M., and Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 P.M. and 2:00 P.M.. The "Highlights Tours" free tour lasts for 20 to 30 minutes and only operates on Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 P.M. and 3:00 P.M.. Both of these free tours begin in the second floor lobby.

Classes, workshops and lectures are also offered at the MCA for any skill level. MCA members receive a discount on participation fees. There are many programs and events going on all the time so there is something suitable for every visitor. Live performances are held at the MCA as well on a regular basis.

If you plan to visit the MCA, discounted parking is available in their parking garage on Chicago Avenue. Be sure to validate your parking at the admission desk or you won't receive the discount and will have to pay full price for parking. There is free bicycle parking in front of the parking garage.

Mark Traston is an associate with Portrait Painting. The company specializes in turning a photo to painting. Each portrait artist specializes in a specific area including pet portraits, wedding paintings, and executive portraits.

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