Ask Artie

Hey Artie!

Are you the museum mascot? Do you ever roar at visitors?

Hi Tori!
Yes, I am the museum mascot but I don't roar at visitors. I enjoy meeting people when they come to the Art Institute! I'd certainly like to meet you and your family at one of our special Family Days. You and your family can enjoy drop-in art activities, gallery games, performances, artist demonstrations, and storytelling. And, of course, meeting me! Check our Family Calendar to find out when the next Family Day is taking place.

How many sculptures are in the art museum? How many paintings are there? And what is the most popular one?

Hello, Alyssa!
The Art Institute has more than 4,000 sculptures and 5,000 paintings in its collection. We have works of art from all around the world. Some are thousands of years old, while some were made in the last few years. They aren't all in the galleries at the same time—we'd have to have a much bigger museum to put everything on display! I couldn't possibly say which one is the most famous, or the best, or the most exciting, or the most popular. You'll have to come visit and decide for yourself!

Why are there lions in front of the museum? Who made them? Why do they have different poses?

Dear Peter,
The lions are made of bronze, and were a gift from Mrs. Henry Field in 1894, given in memory of her husband. Lions as guardians have an ancient history. The fierceness, strength, and grace of the lion led the earliest human rulers to adopt it as a symbol of royalty and of guardianship. The two lions outside the Art Institute "guard" our collection of artwork and also give a sense of grandeur and royalty to the building.

The sculptor who created the lions from 1892 to 1894, Edward Kemeys, was known for his lifelike sculptures of animals. It would have been unnatural for two lions to look exactly the same, so he made the north one "on the prowl" and the south one "in an attitude of defiance" (as he described them).

The lions are very famous and have become symbols of the entire city of Chicago. They wear wreaths during the holiday season and sometimes even Bears helmets or White Sox caps. If you ever come to the museum on a special Family Day, you'll see me, Artie, strolling around—I'm the younger, fuzzier cousin of the guardian lions outside and the mascot for the fun family programs we have at the Art Institute!

I am 8 years old and like to draw. I really want to learn how to do it better. Does the Art Institute have classes for teaching kids like me how to draw?

Hi Bobby,
On most Saturdays and Sundays, there is the Artist Studio program for kids of all ages. You can ask your folks to call to find out when the next class is being held. The class is free and you can come back as many times as you like.

If you want a long-term class, the School of the Art Institute offers regular art classes for kids at certain times of year. Please call (312)629-6170—that's the Department of Continuing Education and Special Programs. Information is also available at the Continuing Studies Web page at the School of the Art Institute.
Happy drawing!

I'm bringing my children to the museum for the first time. What should I show them?

Hey Paul,
It's best to choose a few areas you'd like to see and save the rest for another visit. Take your time and have fun together. The Ryan Education Center is a good place to start. You can pick up gallery games and information at the desk, and on weekends there are drop-in art activities. If you need a quiet break during your visit, stop by the Vitale Family Orientation Room in the Ryan Education Center, which has over 1,000 children's books.

Why can't I touch the works of art at the museum?

Hi Madison,
Even though they may look clean, everyone's hands have oils and dirt on them that over time can damage works of art. Of course, you can pet the lions outside the front entrance! Just please don't touch the rest of the art. This way we can make sure that the Art Institute's collection is in good shape to inspire future generations.

If you have a question for Artie the Lion, send him an e-mail at or come to one of our Family Days!