Here is Chicago’s lineup of summer festivals, concerts and cultural events.
One of the many reasons last summer was weird was the lack of outdoor events, festivals, markets, and concerts, which typically provide Chicagoans with plenty of entertainment choices. At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined representatives from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events as well as organizations like the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Goodman Theater to announce the The city’s Open Culture initiative (in tandem with the Open Chicago initiative), which marks the return of many annual events and the start of new concerts, theater, public art and other summer events.
The lineup is preliminary but expansive, and includes the return of familiar events like the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Millennium Park Summer Music Series, Chicago SummerDance, and the Maxwell Street Market. Notable new events include the Chicago Tune-in Festival, which will feature local gospel, jazz, house and blues performers with a series of concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion (apparently replacing the multi-day festivals usually spent to these genres) and a pair of new dance performances, also at the Pritzker Pavilion.
The events announced today are probably just the start of what we can expect during the summer. According to a statement, “DCASE is currently reviewing special event requests for outdoor festivals, street and art / craft fairs, and sporting events.” All approved events will need to follow the latest city and state health guidelines. And there’s a good chance you need to plan ahead instead of showing up to this summer’s events. For example, all events taking place at the Pritzker Pavilion will require prior registration to attend, and officials are still in the process of determining maximum capacity.
Read on for the full list of recently announced and previously announced summer events and start marking your calendar – it looks like there will be a lot more to do in Chicago this summer.
Events, concerts, exhibitions and festivals
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts return at Symphony Center, opening May 27
- Planting and maintaining a perennial garden: the shrouds of Faheem Majeed at the Hyde Park Art Center, from May 3 to July 24
- Rosa’s Lounge, Melvin Taylor and the Slack Band on May 7
- Pivot Arts Festival, May 21 – June 5
- Chicago Latino Theater Alliance at Joe’s on Weed Street on June 19
- South Side Jazz Coalition Jazzin ‘On The Steps on May 23
- Tuesdays at the Contemporary Art Museum on the terrace start on June 1
- Old Town Art Fair June 12-13
- “The Obama Portraits “at the Art Institute of Chicago, June 18 to August 15
- Pride in the park on June 26 and 27
- Schoolgirls; Or, naughty African girls play at the Goodman Theater, reopening in August
- Othello at the Court Theater, July 8 to August 8
- Southport Art Fair July 10-11
- Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 at the Smart Museum of Art, July 15-December 19
- Chinatown Summer Fair July 17-18
- Jazz Institute of Chicago Chicago Latin Jazz Festival July 23 and 24
- Printers Row Lit Fest September 11-12
- Hyde Park Jazz Festival September 25-26
- Lyric Opera of Chicago Season 2021/22, opening with a brand new production by Verdi Macbeth September 17th
- Six at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, from October 5 to January 30, 2022
From August 19 to September 19, this new city-wide festival will celebrate the 2021 Year of Chicago Music. Both free and paid concerts will take place at neighborhood venues, featuring local artists and representing a range of genres. DCASE will present four special evenings at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, showcasing music born and innovated in Chicago:
- Gospel music (September 3)
- Jazz (September 4)
- House music (September 11)
- Blues (September 18)
Millennium Park summer programming
Visitors can look forward to pop-up music, theater and dance performances throughout Millennium Park, starting in June. The Auditorium Theater will present ABT Across America with American Ballet Theater (July 8 at 7:30 p.m.) as well as Dance for Life (August 26 at 6:30 p.m.) presented by Chicago Dancers United. All events will require prior reservation for the pavilion and lawn – capacity is still being reduced. The summer lineup also includes familiar events at the Pritzker Pavilion, including:
- Grant Park Music Festival (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from July 2 to August 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.)
- Millennium Park Summer Music Series (Monday, August 2 to September 13, 6 to 8:30 p.m. and Thursdays, September 2 to 16, 6 to 8:30 p.m.)
- Millennium Park Summer Training (Saturday July 3 to August 28 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.)
Chicago City Markets
Kicking off May 15 at Division Street, Chicago City Markets will return to the streets and parks this summer. This includes Farmers’ Markets at Daley Plaza (Thursdays starting May 27); the historic Maxwell Street Market (reopens June 6 with a new schedule: Sunday 1st and 3rd 9am to 3pm); as well as other city markets in Austin, Bronzeville, Englewood, Pullman, Roseland and West Humboldt Park.
New public art
The city has announced a series of new public art projects that will debut across Chicago this summer, including a new series of five full-scale banners on the Chicago Riverwalk near Michigan Avenue to be installed in late May. The art on theMART will add a new segment called Hope is a Light: Selected works from Class of 2021 at Chicago Public School at its nocturnal screenings on May 20. In addition, the artists, Nick Cave and Bob Faust organize Means and methods, made up of eight CTA wagons wrapped in artwork that focus on “the ways forward and the myriad of ways we use to get there”. The interior of each wagon will be wrapped in a kaleidoscopic pattern created from Cave’s artwork.
Introductory dance lessons by professional instructors followed by live music and dance will return to city parks in August and September. Schedule, locations and other details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Taste of Chicago on-the-go
Instead of a single event, Taste of Chicago will return as special events across the city in July, August, and September. Expect a range of pop-up cooking demonstrations, the return of the Community Eats program and other special events promoting Chicago’s restaurant industry.
Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center will reopen on June 2 with new exhibits “Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford: League of Nations” and “What Flies But Never Land”. “CHICAGO: Where Comics Came to Life, 1880–1960” will open on June 19.