Gay-friendly Illinois: Inclusive Art in Elusive Places

By @ 05/07/19 in Gay travel, Illinois, LGBT travel Illinois, Travel

Inclusive art in elusive places in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineGay-friendly Illinois is rich with inclusive art, queer works, architecture and locales favorited by the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re looking to broaden your horizons or just your outlook on the art scene in the Prairie State, don’t hesitate. You’ll find plenty of breathtaking galleries and structures in and beyond Chicago from Lake Michigan to the Shawnee National Forest.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

If you’re a city slicker at heart or not looking to step outside Chi-Town, check out Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. Quite the mouthful for a place to see bleeding edge art by outsiders, whoever they may be. Intuit describes outsider work as “self-taught art, defined as the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead are motivated by their unique personal visions.” Peek at their recent exhibits and you’ll see what they mean.

The gallery, located in Chicago’s River West neighborhood, has showcased the work of many queer outsider artists in its four stellar exhibitions a year. Intuit also hosts events focused on LGBTQ+ inclusivity and scholarship in addition to other lectures and educational programs. Be sure to pick up a copy of the gallery’s magazine, The Outsider, while you’re there for more information on its exhibits.

Art Gallery at the Center on Halsted

The Center on Halsted is a bastion for queer culture and community in the Midwest. Its deep history of activism and support stretches back to 1973, when it was a small, volunteer-run clearinghouse and meetup spot for gays and lesbians. It’s since burgeoned into a one-stop shop for cultural, technological and health services for the queer community in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, complete with two galleries featuring work by LGBTQ+ artists. You’re welcome to peruse the galleries on the center’s second and third floors during normal business hours or attend an opening night reception where you can schmooze it up with featured artists and queer community members.

Inclusive art in elusive places in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineARC Gallery in Lincoln Park

ARC Gallery is another sure bet in Chicago for art by queer artists. The gallery has been operated as a non-profit cooperative by a collective of women artists since 1973. Its mission is to not only nurture emerging and experimental art, but to raise awareness of social issues through its exhibitions, including issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. If you check out ARC, be sure to take a walk around the neighborhood—it’s in Lincoln Park, which is famous for beautiful, historic churches and neat brick row houses nestled up against urban park, and some of the city’s best restaurants and shopping, too.

Galena Main Street

If you’re looking for a weekend foray into the countryside, head to the little town of Galena, just 3 hours northwest of Chicago. It’s home to the gay-owned Jail Hill Inn, a 135-year-old, four-story brick building, loaded with history and charm, and overlooking the countryside. As you walk along Main Street past the red brick buildings that date back to Galena’s start as a mining town, be sure to check out Pinder Pottery, an artist-run shop and studio featuring pottery as functional as it is beautiful.

Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House is a modernist architecture gem situated on a flood plain in Plano, Illinois, just an hour west of Chicago. The house confounded visitors when it was built in 1951 and continues to protest traditional notions of what a house should be while very much remaining, well, a house.

Dana-Thomas House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Visit the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois and soak in amazing architecture along with some fascinating and energizing queer-related history. The house is one of 13 Wright-designed houses along the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, a self-guided tour of Wright’s incredible, culturally rich contributions to the area.

Susan Lawrence Dana, a progressive social dissident who would go on to fight for equal rights for women, commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel her father’s house in 1902. The result was a breathtaking example of Wright’s work that catered uniquely to Dana’s female perspective. In the 1920s, the house became ground zero for political activism and women’s rights activities. Dana’s mark on progressive and enlightened thought in the region would remain for decades through activities, classes and lectures hosted at the house.

The house is open for tours most days for a suggested donation. Make a weekend trip when you can—Springfield is about three hours southwest of Chicago.

Starved Rock Lodge, Utica

A popular same-sex marriage venue is also one of Illinois’ greatest examples of the rustic stone and timber architecture popularized by 20th-century New Deal projects. Starved Rock Lodge, which proudly hosts gay marriages, may remind some visitors of summer camp—only more luxe. The lodge, positioned on a wooded bluff overlooking the Illinois River, was built in the 1930s by the Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings to rival expensive private resorts and has been updated since to stay comfy. It’s an ideal place to stay for architecture and Americana enthusiasts who are looking to enjoy Starved Rock State Park, and it hosts numerous events and concerts throughout the year. Head to its website to see a schedule or book a room.

Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is another favorite outdoor arts and wedding space for LGBTQ+ locals and travelers. Its sculptures and regular displays of natural artistry are regular featured in online queer publications. While some visitors come for the weird, whimsical sculptures of trolls across the property and related events (how about a troll hunt?), many visit for the simple, curated beauty of the arboretum’s natural grounds. Take a breath of fresh air at one of Illinois’ best-known queer-friendly outdoor spaces.

More Gay-friendly Illinois

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Continue your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.


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