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Thompson Hotels Influencers Chicago X Lisa Key


The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is home to some of the city’s most iconic art exhibitions: Theater artist Mikhail Baryshnikov recently produced a performance onsite and a highly anticipated David Bowie exhibit will hit the Windy City this fall. A pillar of Chicago culture, the Museum of Contemporary Art is supported by a Board of Trustees and exhaustive fundraising efforts, spearheaded by Thompson Chicago’s Creative Spirit, Lisa Key. As MCA’s chief development officer, Lisa works to fund the museum’s countless fundraising initiatives, engage trustees, and ensure that the MCA continues to provide Chicago locals and visitors alike thought-provoking and exciting exhibitions. We caught up with Lisa to find out how to take full advantage of Chicago’s one-of-a-kind art scene. (Surprise: It doesn’t have to include a museum!)

Whether you’re looking to add a new piece to your collection or just looking for inspiration, here are a few of the art-centric places Lisa recommends visiting:

Thompson Chicago: Where can a novice art collector score museum-worthy pieces?

Lisa Key: A great small Chicago non-profit gallery, Threewalls, has a community supported art program where you can buy artwork from major artists for a great price.

TC: Where is the best place to discover new artists?

LK: There are some amazing galleries in Chicago brimming with new artists from the city. Check out River North or River West for galleries. 

TC: Where are you most likely to stumble upon amazing street art?

LK: Murals along Hubbard Street and down by the lake at Navy Pier.

Key’s love of the city began long ago, and when asked what her fondest memories here are, she gushes, “There are so many favorites!” Among them, “Watching Millennium Park being built and then exploring the fantastic art now that it’s up and running, walking through the human heart at the Museum of Science and Industry and shopping along State Street.” We asked Lisa to sort through her memories and narrow down some of her favorite Chicago spots:

  • Favorite restaurant: Publican
  • Favorite cocktail: A dirty Martini at Violet Hour
  • Best outdoor dining in Chicago: It’s a tie for me: Bistro Campagne and Piccolo Sogno
  • Best place to take in an amazing view of the city: The Signature room on the 95th floor of the Hancock building – not only a great view but you can get a drink and relax without the crowds!

Key unapologetically notes that you cannot leave Chicago without visiting the MCA or the MCA Museum Store: “Not only do I love their jewelry selection, but I work at the museum so it’s an easy place to shop!” After checking the MCA off the tourist to-do list, Lisa suggests:

  • Checking out the city’s most under-rated landmark, the main branch of the Chicago Public Library, the Harold Washington Library.
  • Hopping on an architectural boat cruise and touring the city by water.
  • Stopping by the Chicago Cultural Center, a gem in the middle of the Loop.
  • Snapping an Instagram in one of the city’s many beautiful parks, such as Grant Park.
  • Venturing out to the suburbs for a look at the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette.