Jan 5, 2024 - News

Chicago's arts scene: A look ahead for 2024

Illustration of a reel of film shaped like a paint palette.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Chicago's arts scene continues to fight back from a "crisis" driven primarily by the pandemic. And there's still plenty to look forward to in 2024.

  • Here are some issues and events we're watching in the arts this year.

Theater rebound?

Low attendance has forced theaters to cut staff or go dark completely in recent years, which both Victory Gardens Theater and Lookingglass Theatre did.

Flashback: Chicago released a report last fall about the dire straits of the performing arts scene, with attendance down nearly 60% from 2019 to 2022.

Yes, but: There are exciting things ahead, including Chicago Shakespeare's staging of Sufjan Stevens' beloved "Illinoise" album this month and February's annual Theatre Week, which spotlights Chicago's robust storefront scene.

Staff unions

Workers at arts organizations demanded better pay, benefits and job security last year.

The latest: Members of The Second City's teachers union voted in November to authorize a strike if their bargaining team deems it necessary and have not accepted what The Second City management says was its best and final offer.

Of note: The Second City is opening a theater this month in Brooklyn.

What we're watching: As part of its contract deal to end a strike involving part-time faculty last month, Columbia College is reinstating some courses the arts-focused school had cut.

  • Many of the instructors who were on strike are working artists in film, dance, visual arts and other areas.

Art beyond downtown

Art Design Chicago is showcasing exhibitions citywide, from the North Shore to Grand Crossing. It runs until 2025.

Details: This is a great way to experience visual and performance art beyond the big-name venues. Check out:

Filming in Chicago

Last summer's writers' and actors' strikes forced productions to halt, putting people in front of and behind the camera out of work, and leading the Illinois Production Alliance to call 2023 "a long dark year for the film industry."

Yes, but: Illinois still had more than 90 productions last year, the Illinois Film Office tells Axios.

What we're watching: Unions have ratified their contracts and productions continue to come back. "The Bear," "Somebody Somewhere" and "Emperor of Ocean Park" are a few of the series expected to film here in 2024, according to the Illinois Production Alliance.

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