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Free in February! Museums and More

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

Get Inspired this Winter

Field Museum in Feb. 2020, Photo: Spencer C. Schluter,

Snow. Ice. Sleet. Slush. Wind chill factors. Here in Chicagoland, it can be tempting to stay home and hibernate in the winter. While we are staying in, it is a great time to build our craft and grow as artists. This includes practicing scales and exercises, composing new music, drawing in our sketchbooks, journaling, and creating our goals for the upcoming year. Creating art doesn't happen just in the practice room, on our tablet or laptop, or with pencil and paper, it's important to get out into the world and experience life and as author Julie Cameron says in her classic creativity guide, The Artists's Way, take yourself on "Artist Dates." Listening to great music, viewing artistic masterpieces, and spending time with nature are all ways to connect your inner artist. Local museums, the CSO, and the even the local zoos offer free fun and creative inspiration in February.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest art museums in the United States and has one of the highly-regard collections of great visual art in the world with works such as Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (pictured above), Edward Hopper's Nighthawks at the Diner, and Grant Wood's American Gothic. They offer free admission to Illinois residents every Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. all year round, but from now until March 4, they are offering free weekday admission (Monday through Friday) for Illinois residents. Get out and get inspired to create!

Chicago Symphony Orchestra All-Access Chamber Series

Chicago is fortunate to be home to one of the world's most accomplished orchestras, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Musicians from the CSO offer a series of free chamber concerts in Orchestra Hall and in neighborhood venues throughout the city each season.

On Wednesday Feb. 19, 2020 at Symphony Center, CSO Chamber Players will perform Hungarian composer and musicologist, Bela Bartók's Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano along with French composer Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. Quatuor pour la fin du temps translates as "Quartet for the End of the World" and was composed by Messiaen while he was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and other prisoners. It is a deeply moving work and not to be missed! Concert time is 6:30 p.m.

Additional concerts this season include works by Brahms, Beethoven, and Ravel. Visit the CSO online to view the full list of free chamber concerts.

Museum of Science and Industry

The arts and technology are intrinsically intertwined. In fact, scientific and artistic innovation go hand in hand. Through art and science we seek to understand the universe. Chicago's Museum of Science of Industry is looking forward with the permanent exhibit Fast Forward … Inventing the Future. This exhibit includes Reactable, a new musical instrument, invented by Sergi Jordà, a computer scientist and musician from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. Visitors can actually play the Reactable and experience its wide range of sonic possibilities that can be created with this luminous, multi-touch sensitive, and tangible object-based musical instrument.

MSI is offering free admission to Illinois residents with proof of residency in 2020 Feb. 3-6, 10-13, 18-20, and 24-27. They are open from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Field Museum

A museum of natural history may not be somewhere you would look to find artistic inspiration, however, the collections of Chicago's Field Museum, showcase arts and culture from around the world and across history. The magnificent Ancient Egyptian collection, the gemstones, and dinosaur exhibits are all highlights. They also has their own poet-in-residence, Eric Elshtain. Eric hosts poetry pop-ups at his typewriter every Wednesday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., in locations all around the museum. No previous poetry experience required to attend.  

The Field Museum offers free admission for Illinois residents with proof of residency throughout February!

Brookfield Zoo

The Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo is offering free admission from now until Feb. 29, 2020. The zoo offers great subjects for visual artists to take photos, sketch, animal and nature soundscapes to inspire musicians, and much-needed time outside between buildings. Although admission is free, guests still must pay the $15 parking fee. Chicago's other zoological park, Lincoln Park Zoo, offers free admission year round.

Shedd Aquarium

Changing your perspective is key for artistic inspiration. One way to view the planet we live on differently is to explore the world under the sea. The Shedd Aquarium is offering free admission to Illinois residents with valid ID weekdays (Monday through Friday) for the entire month of February. On Monday, Feb. 17, the Shedd will be open until 9 p.m, every other day they are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Adler Planetarium

From Van Gogh to the Dark Side of the Moon, staring into the boundlessness of the night sky has been always been source of creative inspiration. If you are seeking celestial inspiration, the Adler Planetarium is offerings free admission to Illinois residents in 2020 on Feb. 4 to 6, 11 to 13, and 17 to 20. Free Museum Entry includes access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding the Atwood Sphere experience as well as the sky shows.) The Adler Planetarium is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The Block Museum of Art

The Block Museum of Art located on the Northwestern University Campus in Evanston, IL is always free and is currently featuring the exhibit, Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection. This exhibit features mid-century modern art from Iranian, Turkish, and Indian artists. Pieces like Calligraphy by Siah Armanjani (1964), pictured above from the exhibit, embody the style of the mid-twentieth century while also encapsulating the style of their respective lands of origin. Be inspired by art by artists who may be unfamiliar to you and who come from another side of the globe. This exhibit runs through April 5, 2020. Its companion film exhibit, Terence Gower: Ciudad Moderna, runs through April 19, 2020. The Block also has specially curated works from its permanent collection on display to accompany the special exhibits.

Photo by Spencer Schluter,

Baha’i House of Worship

While on the North shore, you may wish to stop by the awe-inspiring Baháʼí House of Worship located at 100 Linden Avenue Wilmette, IL. They are open to public, and the impressive architecture and the contemplative interior space is worth the visit. They are offering free special events in February, including “And Still We Rise: African American Music through the Ages” on Feb. 1, 2020 starting at 7 p.m. The concert will include music by Duke Ellington and contemporary Baha’i gospel music.

February 2020 Challenges

Musicians? Visual artists? Writers? What do you do with all of this inspiration? You use it to create something!


RPM Challenge 2020 – Compose and record 10 songs or 35 minutes of original material during the month of February. Then share it with the world via Add the hashtag #RPMchallenge2020.

Visual Artists

Doodlewash Drawing and Watercolor challenge "A Beautiful World" – During Feb. 2020, Doodlewash is celebrating the most beautiful things in the world by encouraging artists to create visual art with watercolor painting, drawing (ink, colored pencils, crayons, etc.!), or a lovely mix of both! Add the hashtag #doodlewashFebruary2020 when you post on social media and if you choose to create with watercolor add the #WorldWatercolorGroup.


750 Words – This challenge is perfect for those of you who journal with Julie Cameron's Morning Pages approach. Simply write (at least) 750 words every day during February.

All Creatively-Inclined People

30 Day Intuitive Art & Creativity Explore creative mediums and express yourself however you choose from Feb. 1 to March 1, 2020.

Bloom in 2020

Have you always wanted to learn a new drawing software, make your own drum, start a Raspberry Pi synthesizer project, or anything else? Create your own challenge! Make up your own hashtag. Maybe this year you will #TakeTheLeap, #CreateYourself, or just #MakeStuff. Feel free to share your ideas and hashtags with us. We want to see how you #BloomIn2020! Let's inspire each other.

Learn more

Art Institute of Chicago,

Field Museum of Natural History,

Museum of Science and Industry,


Janae J. Almen is a professional music instructor, composer, sound artist, writer, and creativity challenge fan. She has a BA in Music/Education from Judson University and a MM in Computer Music/Composition from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. She is passionate about tea and creating our own daily rituals. Visit for more about music lessons and for more about a variety of wellness related topics including tea, sound healing, and more. Contact her via for questions about tea, ceremony, music composition, sound art, arts wellness, writing, photography, or other relevant topics.



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