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For Families Visiting the MCA

For children and their adults.


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Photo © Callie Lipkin Photography, Inc

Getting Ready For My Visit

Today, I am visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Before going on my trip, I review the MCA’s new rules about keeping everyone safe from getting sick. They are: 

  • To wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.
  • To respect the quarantine period, if we're traveling from a state on the Chicago Travel Quarantine List.
  • To follow the visitor path marked with blue arrows.
  • To mind the signs and maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from other visitors. 
  • To stay home if I or my family is feeling sick at all. 
  • To be kind! 

The museum is a big, gray, square building with the letters “M” “C” “A” on the front. They are hard to miss! 

I will enter through a door on the side of the building near Pearson Street. There is a neon sign above the door that says “Marisol.” Before we go inside, I must be sure to wear our masks, like everyone else inside the museum. 

MCA Staff members are always here to help during my visit. They are easy to spot because of their lanyards. They can answer questions about the museum, where the bathrooms are, where exhibitions are, and anything else that might come up!

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Visitors take in art in a gallery on the MCA's second floor.
Visitors viewing Surrealism: The Conjured Life, MCA Chicago, Nov 21, 2015–Jun 5, 2016
Photo: Adrian Gaut

Finding My Way

We can look at a digital map by scanning a QR code.

When we look at the map, we’ll see there are three floors with art to see. We can take the elevators or the stairs throughout the museum to get to all the galleries. We can take as much time as we need in the galleries.

The fourth floor is at the top of the building and has the most art to see: two small galleries and one big one.

The third floor has just one gallery.

The second floor has two galleries and one mural.

The second floor also has a beautiful indoor garden called the Commons with big windows that look into the museum’s backyard. After looking at art, I may want to take a moment here to think about what I’ve seen.

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Three young black school children in school uniforms standing in front of a painting on a school tour.
Multiple Visit Program field trip, Theodore Herzl School of Excellence, May 03, 2016. Installation view of Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Apr 23–Sep 25, 2016
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Expectations and Behaviors

There are stickers on the floor in blue, green, red, and yellow that tell us where to go and to remind us to keep 6 feet away from our neighbors.

People look at art in different ways. People might react to art in different ways. I don’t have to whisper in the galleries, but I do have to be respectful of how other people are experiencing the art. That means I speak in an indoor voice, stay near to my group, and speak up if I want to go somewhere else in the museum!

I should walk through the galleries instead of run to keep everyone safe—including me. The art might inspire me to move my body—I can mimic the lines or shapes in the art. I can act out what the art is or what it makes me think of. I can move how the artwork makes me feel. I can find more moving prompts in this family guide.

I need to be careful not to touch the artworks, as much as I might want to. Instead of touching the art, I can put my hands on my hips or in my pockets, I can put my hands on my head, or give myself a hug.

If I feel inspired, I can bring pencil and paper from home and draw in the galleries. I will only draw on my paper.

If I’m not sure what I’m looking at, I can ask these ten questions about the art to my group or myself.

The museum’s walls are plain white and the floors are plain gray so that we can better see the art. Sometimes the art is new, so I may be able to smell the materials the artist used to make the art.

Sometimes the galleries are at different temperatures to protect the art. I am prepared to wear a sweater or take off a sweater if I get too warm or too cold.

These rooms are big and echoey, so sometimes it may get quite loud. Especially when the artworks have sound! I can leave a gallery if it is too noisy.

My body might get tired from standing and walking. If I need to sit, there are some benches in the hallways. If I need to sit in the gallery and there’s no bench, I can always sit on the floor in front of an artwork, while making sure to keep a safe distance from the art.

If I’m ever overwhelmed, I can ask to visit the Quiet Space on the first floor, near the door where I entered the museum. This is a room reserved for people who need a moment away from sound, lights, smells, or strangers. If I need to use the room, I can ask an MCA Staff member.

When my group and I have seen everything we want to see for as long as we want to see it, we can leave the MCA by exiting through the MCA Store on the second floor. We’ll need to go down a set of stairs to get to the exit doors. I can use an elevator instead if I need it—there is one near the entrance to the MCA Store on the second floor.

I can take a picture on the plaza steps to remember my day at the contemporary art museum!

Visiting the Museum

For anyone.


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I will arrive at 220 E Chicago Avenue. The museum is directly across from the Seneca Playlot Park and faces Mies Van Der Rohe Way. The museum is a big, gray, square building with the letters “M” “C” “A” in yellow.

Before I enter, I must be sure to wear my mask. By visiting the museum, I’m agreeing to all of the MCA’s new safety rules to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

  • To wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.
  • To respect the quarantine period if traveling from a state on the Chicago Travel Quarantine List.
  • To follow the visitor path marked with blue arrows.
  • To mind the signs and maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from other visitors. 
  • To stay home if I or my family is feeling sick at all. 
  • To be kind!

I will enter the building through the doors near Pearson Street, on the north side of the building. There is a neon sign above the door that says “Marisol.” Before we go inside, we must be sure to wear our masks, like everyone else inside the museum.

After I go through the doors, I’ll go to the Visitor Experience Desk and check in with an MCA Staff member. They’ll ask me for my zip code (so the MCA knows what neighborhood I live in) and email address (in case the MCA needs to contact me later). The MCA Staff member may ask me some questions about the safety rules to be sure I am following them and then I’m ready to enter the galleries.

The MCA staff member will offer a digital map to us by showing us a QR code.

When we look at the map, we’ll see there are three floors with art to see. We can take the elevators or the stairs throughout the museum to get to all the galleries. We can take as much time as we need in the galleries.

The fourth floor is at the top of the building and has the most art to see: two small galleries and one big one.

The third floor has just one gallery.

The second floor has two galleries and one mural.

The second floor also has a beautiful indoor garden with big windows that look into the museum’s backyard. This is a space that is free for me to use however I like. I can sit and look out the windows, I can chat quietly with people I came to the museum with, or I can take a moment to be peaceful.

There are bathrooms on this floor, right by the admissions desk. If I don’t need to use them now, I can always come back. There are also bathrooms on the second floor, in the Commons.

There are stickers on the floor in blue, green, red, and yellow that tell us where to go and to remind us to keep 6 feet away from our neighbor.

MCA Staff wear blue lanyards and are always available to answer questions.

Some people think museums are like libraries—but that’s not true! I can speak to people I came with or laugh if the art makes me laugh. I am free to use my voice at an indoor volume. If I feel inspired, I can bring pencil and paper from home and draw in the galleries, but not on the art.

I may want to touch or hold the art, but I should not because it may be fragile. Instead of touching the art, I can put my hands on my hips or in my pockets, or on my head, or I can give myself a hug.

The museum’s walls are plain white and the floors are plain gray so that we can better see the art. Sometimes the art is new, so I may be able to smell the materials the artist used to make the art.

Sometimes the galleries are at different temperatures to protect the art. I am prepared to wear a sweater or take off a sweater if I get too warm or too cold.

The galleries are big and echoey, so sometimes it may get quite loud. Especially when the artworks have sound, or if there’s a crowd. I can always leave a gallery and come back later.

My body might get tired from standing and walking. If I need to sit, there are some benches in the hallways. If I need to sit in the gallery and there’s no bench, I can always sit on the floor in front of an artwork.

If I’m ever overwhelmed, I can ask to visit the Quiet Space on the first floor. This is a room reserved for people who need a moment away from sound, lights, smells, or strangers. If I need to use the room, I can ask an MCA Staff member. When I’m done, I can let the MCA Staff member know so that someone else can use the space.

After I have seen everything there is to see, I can exit through the MCA Store on the second floor. I’ll need to use the staircase or the elevator to get to the first floor, where the exit doors are.

The second level has lots of different items. There are friendly sales associates on both levels to help me in case I need it. After I’m done looking or shopping, I can exit out the doors marked “EXIT.”

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