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5 local museum visits that kids (and your wallet) will love

Curator VeronicRobinsstands next painting entitled 'Vase Flowers' Swedish American Museum Andersonville. She explains new exhibit Bonader folk art wall paintings

Curator Veronica Robinson stands next to a painting entitled "Vase of Flowers" at the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville. She explains the new exhibit of Bonader, folk art wall paintings created between 1782 and 1850 during long, dark Nordic winters. The paintings were donated to the museum from the Art Institute. Photographed on Thursday, December 27, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 3, 2013 3:27PM



The weather’s not getting any warmer, the kids are still out of school and need to be entertained, and you’re broke after the holidays.

Chicago’s got plenty of low-budget options for those looking to get out of the house but searching for a bit more fun than shopping at the local Jewel provides.

Consider warming up at one of these five spots, where a visit costs $10 or less a person.

Haitian American Museum of Chicago

Where: 4654 N. Racine

Hours: Noon-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. By appointment weekends. Call (773) 213-1869.

Admission: Free

A trip to this new one-room Uptown museum — which officially opened last month — won’t take all day. It probably won’t take an hour. But if you’re interested in learning about the cultural history of Haiti and taking in some colorful paintings and a mix of wood and glass sculpture, head to Uptown and introduce yourself to the amicable Ernst Guerrier.

Guerrier, who emigrated to Chicago in 1969, is the museum’s co-founder, curator and artist behind 90 percent of what is on display in what he believes is the Midwest’s first and only museum dedicated to Haitian culture.

“In the news [about Haiti] it’s always a bit sad,” Guerrier said. “Many [museum visitors] come over here because they are very fascinated about Haitian history.”

Haitian history is also Chicago history — Chicago’s first resident Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was believed to have been born in Haiti. Guerrier, 64, is delighted to share his culture and art with visitors, providing information on the whereabouts of Chicago’s handful of Haitian restaurants and explaining the voodoo ritual portrayed in a painting featuring an enormous dead pig.

This type of information isn’t easy to come by, he said.

“A Haitian is a very quiet type of person,” Guerrier said. “We’re trying to promote something about the Haitian community.”

Bonader: Swedish folk art exhibit, Swedish American Museum

Where: 5211 N. Clark

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration on the museum’s third floor has slightly different hours. Check swedishamericanmuseum.org for details.

Admission: $4 adults/$3 students, seniors and children/$10 families

You don’t have to be an 18th or 19th century Swedish farmer to understand the loneliness of a long, cold winter. You only need to spend January in Chicago.

Out of these dark Swedish nights hundreds of years ago came the bright folk art called bonader, wall hangings used in celebrations and feasts in Swedish peasants’ homes, said Veronica Robinson, museum curator. The bonader artisans were farmers and other laborers, and the Swedish American Museum is currently displaying part of its bonader collection — the eighth largest in the world — that is typically off-exhibit.

Often the bonader depicted biblical scenes, like the wedding feast at Cana.

“The fun thing about these paintings is that they took these biblical stories and they didn’t know what other [biblical] people dressed like at that time, so they are dressed in Swedish folk clothes,” Robinson said.

If you come with your kids, be sure to visit the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration on the third floor, an expansive play space that allows children to mimic life in Sweden, courtesy of a Viking ship and farmhouse.

“A Meticulous Beauty” exhibit, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Where: 2430 N. Cannon

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Admission: $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors (60+), $6 for ages 3-12, free for under 3 years old. For Illinois residents, Thursdays are suggested donation days.

It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before — circles and pattens of petrified bugs, decorating the room like wallpaper. Kids will like the slight ick factor, adults will appreciate the meticulous beauty.

“A Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story,” DuSable Museum of African American History

Where: 740 E. 56th Pl.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $3 for children 6-11 years old, free for children 5 years old and younger. Chicago residents get discounted admission. Free for everyone on Sundays.

In 2012, Chicago marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor. Learn more about his life and legacy in this permanent DuSable exhibit, which features a speaking animatronic likeness of Washington.

Baby gorillas, Lincoln Park Zoo

Where: 2001 N. Clark

Hours: 10 a.m-4:30 p.m. (ZooLights, through Jan. 6, extends hours to 9 p.m.)

Admission: Always free

The Zoo’s Regenstein Center for African Apes is home to two baby girl gorillas, born Oct. 11 and Nov. 16. It’s been eight years since the zoo had two infants in the same troop, and visitors can get a good look through the glass at the primate mother-baby bond.



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