The Chicago Students’ Guide to Cultural Events

This post brought to you by See Chicago Dance. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Living Between the Lines.

Maybe you want to expand your horizons. Maybe you’re a classical music aficionado. Maybe you want to have something impressive-looking on your Snapchat story. I don’t know and I’m not judging, but believe it or not, college might be the best time to start attending cultural events.

But “culture” isn’t always something we feel we can just dip our toes in. It sometimes feels like the fine arts are reserved for… Someone else. Maybe someone in an evening gown and a mink stole, with a cigarette on a stick and those tiny binoculars. But cultural or artistic events are actually enjoyable no matter how formal you are, and you don’t need to be an upper-crust socialite to enjoy them – or get it.

In the interest of promoting a love of artistry among college students, I teamed up with See Chicago Dance to make a guide to attending cultural events while in college. This is aimed at Chicago-area students (that’s my nearest big city), but I’ve included tips for finding events in every area.

Chicago Student’s Guide to Cultural Events

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On campus

If you’re on campus, you’re surrounded by cultural events. I can guarantee it.

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Professional performers

Your school might bring in professionals to perform for you, in which case, you can see some incredible cultural events for free or cheap. We’re talking music, drama, comedy, dance, art exhibitions with free admittance with a student ID or low, low ticket prices.

For homecoming week, U of I just had Jay Pharoah (from SNL) come do a free show for the student body. Nick Offerman (Ron from Parks and Rec) is an alum and comes to campus pretty frequently. I’m sure your school has hosted similar talents. Keep an eye on your school-affiliated email account and posters around campus for these sorts of shows!

Student work

In case you didn’t know, your classmates are super talented. Your school’s student-body choirs, dance teams, drama troupes, and art co-ops are probably constantly hosting events. And as a student performer, I can assure you – we’re desperate to get people to come. You likely have friends who have invited you to their performances or exhibitions – consider agreeing to go next time! If none of your friends are the performing types, public bulletin boards are a great way to hear about events around campus.

Off campus

Every metropolis I can think of is absolutely teeming with talent. Whatever form of culture you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in the nearest big city. If you’re not living downtown, it can be worth the commute.

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And for my fellow Chicago-adjacent readers, I actually found a pretty cool deal for you – I’m teaming up with the Every Day is a Dance campaign to let you know about their Dance Around Town Sampler Pack, which gives you steep discounts on tickets three incredible dance events. We’re talking like 58%. Check it out at See Chicago Dance.

As someone with about six left feet and minimal motor control, I’ve always admired and envied dancers. There’s something so incredible about their control and elegance, plus there’s always some great music.

If you’re interested in learning more, Carisa Barreca (who’s a Second City member) directed a video on dance in Chicago, which features a ton of impressive names: The Chicago Human Rhythm Project, The Chicago Moving Company, Chicago Dance Crash, DanceWorks Chicago, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Matter Dance, Natya Dance Theatre, and actress/Second City alum Rachel Miller.

If you’re trying to make plans, keep an eye out for these events:

  • November 18th – Dance Theatre of Harlem at The Auditorium Theatre and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Harris Theater for Music and Dance
  • December 16th – Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater at Northeastern Illinois University

If you go, use the hashtag #EveryDayIsADance and, of course, check See Chicago Dance to pick up the sampler pack for that sweet, sweet discount – no student ID required.

Why cultural events?

As college students, it’s easy to subsist on a cultural diet of Netflix and YouTube, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s nothing quite like a live show. Something about being in the room, near the stage, makes you feel connected and alive in a way that binge-watching alone just can’t match.

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College is expensive, student life isn’t cheap. But you can prioritize spending on experiences, not things, and I think cultural events definitely count. I know every time I attend a concert – much less sing in one – I’m getting an experience that can’t be matched anywhere else. So go out. Meet some people. Do some stuff. I’ve never regretted it.

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