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Arts Club records

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Arts Club

Scope and Content of the Collection

Planning files, publicity, business records, informational records, and a small amount of original artwork from the Arts Club of Chicago. Since 1916, the Club has been serving its mission by mounting exhibitions and hosting music performances, dance performances, lectures, receptions, film screenings, and plays, and its records reflect these activities. Minutes from the various Club committees show the early stages of planning each seasons' events, and files within each of the artistic series detail the day-to-day logistics of creating each event. The Membership files reveal the wide variety of Chicago-area (sometimes nationwide) artists, art patrons, and enthusiasts who were active in the Club. Other series, such as Historical, Cards and Catalogue Books, and Scrapbooks, provide information to the long public history of the Club's activities through newsclippings, photographs, and printed matter.


  • Creation: 1892-2004



Materials are in English, and occasionally in French.


The Arts Club records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Arts Club records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

History of The Arts Club

The Arts Club of Chicago was incorporated in 1916. Its objectives, according to the mission drafted at its inaugural meeting, are "to encourage higher standards of art, maintain galleries for that purpose; and to promote the mutual acquaintance of art lovers and art workers." Since its inception the Arts Club has been a pioneering force in modern and avant-garde art exhibitions, performances, lectures, and events in Chicago. For example, the Arts Club was the first venue in Chicago to exhibit Picasso drawings, in 1923. Other modern art exhibitions have followed, featuring artists who were to become major names and influences in the 20th century: Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Walt Kuhn, Fernand Leger, Jacques Villon, Berthe Morisot, Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi, Louise Nevelson, etc. In addition, the Arts Club hosted musical performances or lectures by modern composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Mihaud, and John Cage. The Arts Club has been at the forefront of dance as well, in holding both performances and lecture/demonstrations by Martha Graham, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, and Merce Cunningham. Its Lecture Series has hosted writers, poets, historians, and artists since the beginning, and has included Thornton Wilder, W.H. Auden, Le Corbusier, Gertrude Stein, David Mamet, and David Sedaris.

The Club has always had a two-tiered membership system; professional artists pay lower dues than patrons, ensuring that artists remain a vital component of Arts Club membership. Since its inception, The Arts Club has had seven locations around Chicago. Currently it is in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago at 201 E. Ontario Street, and retains the steel interior staircase designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for its previous space at 109 E. Ontario Street. Its exhibits are open to the public, and the Club still maintains a rigorous exhibit and event schedule.


111 Linear Feet (198 boxes, 16 oversize boxes, and 51 volumes)

34 items (16 audiocassettes, 3 DVDs, 15 VHS tapes)


Corporate records of the Arts Club of Chicago, an institution incorporated in 1916 and devoted to exhibiting and showcasing innovative artists and performers. Records include extensive exhibition files, files on the Club's music, lecture, film, and drama series, and administrative and financial files.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Exhibitions, 1917-2004
Boxes 1-117
Series 2: Drama and Films, 1919-1995
Boxes 1-2
Series 3: Lectures and Receptions, 1917-1995
Boxes 1-7
Series 4: Music, 1917-2002
Boxes 1-14
Series 5: Correspondence, 1912-2000
Boxes 1-3
Series 6: Committees and Membership, 1916-2004
Volumes 1-31, Boxes 1-12
Series 7: Financial Records, 1916-1969
Volumes 1-20, Boxes 1-9
Series 8: Historical, 1918-1996
Boxes 1-2
Series 9: Facilities, 1918-2000
Boxes 1-5, oversize blueprints
Series 10: Audiovisual, approximately 1892-2004
Boxes 1-14
Series 11: Cards and Catalogue Books, 1920-2004
Boxes 1-16
Series 12: Scrapbooks, 1917-1973
Boxes 1-10
Series 13: Artwork, 1921-1969
Box 1

Collection Stack Location

1 2 7, 1 3 1-7, 1 16 1-2; 4a flat file drawer; Vault 49 4


Gift, Arts Club of Chicago, 1972, with subsequent donations.

Processed by

Benita Cullinan, 1972; Christine Sammon, 1981; Ruth Ann Koesun, 1999; The NEH Grant processing team, 2005, Eileen Truong, 2014.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Inventory of the Arts Club records, 1892-2004
Alison Hinderliter, Eileen Truong
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-01-17: Audiovisual materials have been permanently removed from the collection for preservation. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States