The area around Chicago’s historic Water Tower is best known for its luxury shopping. And it lives up to the hype, with an incredible array of stores up and down Michigan Avenue, plus the massive Water Tower Place mall. But a century ago, it had a completely different reputation.

Formerly known as “Towertown”, the historic neighborhood was once a thriving artists colony. It attracted a diverse community of writers, poets, and artists, who brought with them studios, bookshops, coffee shops, and more. While the neighborhood’s bohemian roots faded over the years, a new city initiative is looking to celebrate the area’s rich legacy.

The Water Tower Arts District is a coalition of 15 cultural organizations, from art galleries to companies to museums, all within walking distance of the iconic Water Tower. The purpose is to draw attention to the concentration of cultural attractions, while encouraging the organizations to collaborate and promote each others offerings.

Learn more about the Water Tower Arts District members or explore a map of member organizations.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Commons at Museum of Contemporary Art

One of the world’s largest venues for contemporary art hosts an array of provocative and experimental exhibits throughout the year. 220 E. Chicago Ave.

Arts Club of Chicago

A 100-year-old private club with a free public exhibition of international artwork. 201 E. Ontario St.

Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place

This modern, intimate venue hosts Broadway in Chicago shows, including international hits and exciting premieres. 175 E. Chestnut St.

City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower
City Galley at Historic Water Tower

Housed in one of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks, City Gallery features photographs of the city through the lens of local photographers. 806 N. Michigan Ave.

Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

This non-profit foundation produces exhibitions and events that foster conversations around architecture and how it relates to the arts, culture, and society. 4 W. Burton Place

International Museum of Surgical Science

Inside the Museum of Surgical Science

North America’s only museum devoted to surgery, the public gallery features fascinating art and artifacts from the history of medicine. 1524 N. Lakeshore Drive

Lookingglass Theatre Company

This Tony-Award-winning theatre is dedicated to creating and performing original, cutting-edge works, along with sharing the art of theatre with Chicago-area students. 821 N. Michigan Ave.

Loyola University Museum of Art

LUMA’s mission is to explore how artists address questions of faith and spirituality through a collection of free, rotating exhibits. 820 N. Michigan Ave.

The Newberry Library
Newberry Library

A world-renowned research library with a free public collection of rare artifacts spanning six centuries. 60 W. Walton St.

Poetry Foundation

An independent literary organization, with readings, events, and exhibits, committed to making poetry more accessible to the wider community. 61 W. Superior St.

Porchlight Music Theatre
Stage at Porchlight Music Theatre

Porchlight has earned widespread acclaim for their edgy and intimate musical theatre productions, including local and national works. 1016 N. Dearborn St.

Richard Gray Gallery

This long-standing gallery specializes in contemporary art and has featured some of the most prominent names in modern art. 875 N. Michigan Ave., 38th Floor

Richard H. Driehaus Museum
Staircase inside Driehaus Museum

Housed in a historic mansion, the Driehaus Museum showcases turn-of-the-century art, architecture, and design, with a special focus on the Gilded Age. 40 E. Erie St.

The Ruth Page Center for the Arts

A central hub celebrating Chicago’s dance history, featuring all-ages dance classes and performances. 1016 N. Dearborn St.

Society of Architectural Historians

A membership-based non-profit that advocates for the study and preservation of architectural works. 1365 N. Astor St.