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The Richness Of Chicago Culture

By Jerri Perry

Since the Windy City's earliest days, people from all over the world came to settle here. They brought with them the traditions of their home countries or of towns in other parts of the USA. These all influenced one another over time to create a unique, richly varied Chicago culture, which in turn has influenced the cultural landscape of America.

One of the most important Chicagoan contributions to what is regarded as American has been its music. From jazz to soul and from hip hop and house to indie rock, the city has been the home of many influential musicians. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the world's most respected and even British rock superstars like Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones were influenced mainly by the Chicago blues.

Many a popular movie has been set in Chicago. The one that is often regarded as a cinematic love letter to the city, warts and all, is the classic comedy 'The Blues Brothers'. Television has not been left behind and hit shows from 'ER' to 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' have had the Windy City as their setting.

Theater is alive and well with renowned companies for ballet, opera and other performing arts. It was probably in the Uptown district that slam poetry was invented. A form of theater that definitely originated in the city is improvisational comedy, originally the brainchild of the Compass Players, who in those days had young up-and-coming comedians like Jerry Stiller, Alan Alda and Mike Nichols among their members.

Museum lovers will have so many to choose from that they won't know where to start. There are art, history and science museums as well as museums dedicated to things as diverse as money and surgery. The different ethnic communities that have contributed to the unique Chicagoan character have museums about their heritage too. Individuals who have lived here sometimes also have museums about their lives, such as the studio and home of Frank Lloyd Wright, the legendary architect.

The city has a rich tradition of fine art and photography. River North is a neighborhood with many galleries where you may view and invest in contemporary art. There is a huge collection of public art in the streets, parks and squares, with Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Anish Kapoor and Claes Oldenburg just some of the legendary artists whose works are displayed for the public to appreciate.

Chicagoan cuisine is legendary. This was after all the city that gave the world the deep-dish pizza. You haven't had a hot dog until you've had it the way it's served here and everything from cheeseburgers to tamales have a unique Chicagoan flavor. The different ethnic neighborhoods offer a variety of eateries and you'll also find plenty of gourmet restaurants.

A great introduction to Chicago culture when you visit is to take a cultural tour with a specific theme. For example, several operators offer architecture tours of the city where the skyscraper was invented. Local festivals are a good option too or simply check the local listings for all the cultural offerings in this vibrant city.

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