The Fine Arts gets a face-lift

The Fine Arts Building under Renovation, 2012 (Credit: Celia Her City)

For many months (years, even) work has been underway on the Fine Arts facade.  The elaborate old building was caked with decades and decades of air pollution and dirt.  They clung to every inch of it, turning the whole building a murky black shade.

Fine Arts Facade, 2012 (Credit Celia Her City)

It’s been fascinating to see all the details emerge from the grime.  The building’s face is decorated with many different types of metal and cut stone, with windows of varying sizes and shapes, and an almost dizzying array of columns and pilasters and cornices, all in the service of keeping its (for the time very great) height from being boring.

Delineation of the Fine Arts facade (Credit: Celia Her City)

A project like this makes you appreciate all that goes into maintaining and using an old building of this kind.  The Fine Arts Building, originally known as the Studebaker, was designed by Solon Spencer Beman and first used as a showroom for the carriages that the Studebaker Company manufactured on its upper floors.  That was back in 1884.  By 1898, the building had been remodeled as a habitat for the Fine Arts and rechristened.  Today, it remains home to many painters, musicians, dancers, and other creatives and houses the old Artists Cafè, which I wrote about here.  Its theater, now shuttered, used to be one of the city’s best places for seeing good film.  May the money keep flowing til it’s fully restored.

Click here to see the Studebaker Building in its early days, when it and the old Art Institute occupied the same block.

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