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A Journey through the Museum

Sometimes the Art Institute can be a bit overwhelming. And that makes sense—with 1,000,000 square feet of space and over 5,000 works on view at any given time, you might not know where to start. Which is where our new digital interactive JourneyMaker comes in.

JourneyMaker allows you and your family to build a custom tour around themes like superheroes and wild creatures. Using an animated touch table in the museum’s Ryan Learning Center (or at home on your computer!), you pick a journey and choose works of art. Then you print out your own personal guide and you’re off!

I hadn’t tried JourneyMaker yet, but while my friend Sophie was in the museum a few weeks ago to check out America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. After much deliberation, Sophie chose the Game-On Journey (which features puzzles and other activities at each stop) and answered questions to select her works. She then printed out her custom guide and we ventured out into the museum.

We zigzagged across the museum and stopped at six works of art, covering a lot more real estate than you might otherwise. Along the way, we made silly poses, came up with alternate titles, and drew our own versions of paintings. But most of all, we looked. So closely. Closer than I’ve ever looked at some of these works.

Sophie drew a reproduction of this Ed Clark painting, which led to a conversation about the different layers of paint and materials he used and how much harder it is to make an abstract painting than it might initially appear.

We also spent half an hour in front of this 17th-century German cabinet, examining all of the intricate carvings and playing a game where each of us had to draw a detail of the cabinet and the other had to guess where it was.

And it was really fun. It forces you—in the best way possible—to let loose a little bit and draw without worrying whether or not you’re a “good” artist. (That was more of a concern for me than Sophie!) It also gives you an entirely new way to look at works of art, whether you’re a kid or an adult. And the best part is, there are more than 260,000 different combinations of works, so you can take an entirely new tour every time you visit.

Our verdict: highly recommended.