Nestled on the second floor of the Chicago History Museum, the “Catholic Chicago” exhibit graces with a superb twelve-foot painting of “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” which was created on Mexican paper and done using gold leaf and pigmented dye. This large piece is flanked with an array of photos showing kids in Catholic school and finally footage from the International Eucharistic Congress of 1926—the first and largest pilgrimage event in America. Despite the airy feel of the building, these striking images alone could appear intimidating, particularly those not necessarily affiliated with the Catholicism. Despite this, expect to be greeted with an exhibit that intertwines the very roots of Chicago with the Catholic Church to a dizzying degree—creating a very personable approach to a incredibly broad topic. “Catholic Chicago” goes beyond the common facts and pertinent Catholic local figures; instead, the exhibit once again attempts to engross the audience—going so far as to feature a short film on Catholic school in front of two school desks (from a real Catholic school mind you), and offers a replica of the church experience, complete with pews, altar and piped-in music from different services and congregations. Perhaps most telling is that the exhibit strives to exemplify the diverse notions of what it means to be Catholic by covering a number of denominations and cultures (there’s an audio tour in both Spanish and Polish). Because of this widespread approach, “Catholic Chicago” is approachable by not only those who are themselves Catholic but really for anyone curious about both the religion and how it guides a person’s way of life. (Thomas Barbee)
“Catholic Chicago” through January 4, 2009, at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark, (312)642-4600.