What did the dynamic world of booming Chicago look like to Art Institute students back in 1909? That’s what you’ll discover in this unique exhibit of recently restored murals from Lane Tech High School. It was all the result of a competition sponsored by Kate Buckingham (she who gave us the very big fountain). The four winners reflect the surprising diversity of the student body back then: two were women, one was African American—and all four were very talented, especially under the direction of their firebrand young instructor, Thomas Wood Stevens, (who was 27 at the time, had studied with Sorolla, and would later go on to run the Goodman Theatre and found the first theater department in an American university.) They were really having fun—and you can feel their thrill at the smoking factories and busy docks they were depicting. As something of a coda to this project, a much older student, German-born Henry Brandt came back five years later to paint a cycle celebrating the life of Native Americans—very decorative, very Romantic and perhaps a bit goofy—but the work of all five artists has fared well with the patina of time. (Chris Miller)
Through December 31 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, (312)744-8074.