Your interest in art doesn’t have to be confined to the Monets at the Art Institute [nor should it be!]. But one you get outside of established districts like River North, where do you go?
A favorite is in the Pilsen East neighborhood, which holds court every second Friday [hosted by the Chicago Arts District and the Podmajersky family, who rent out most of the artists' lofts and galleries in this 'hood]. There are some fabulous art/garden spaces here, along with an eclectic crowd with which to mingle and share some Two-Buck Chuck.
What differs about this neighborhood’s galleries is that many change constantly, and are usually not the established artists you find in River North. The result is fresh perspectives and a variety of work.
The galleries are open from 6-10pm (very reasonable hours for a gallery walk!). The dates for 2012 are: March 9, April 13 (uh oh!), May 11, June 8, July 13, August 10, September 14, October 12, November 9 and December 14, and the action starts around Halsted and 18th, going south to around Cermak.
I also suggest checking out Kristoffer’s Cafe, right at 18th and Halsted. The tres leches cake is amazing and addictive [sorry!] and their tamales [Mexican and Mayan] are welcome as it’s a bit of a trek before you hit more restaurants. UIC is also nearby, so there are plenty of other options just a bit north.