Chicago Theatre Sign – Classic Marquee Art
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The Chicago Theatre Sign hangs above a familiar 20th century story that played out across many American cities. It’s a tale of a grand old movie palace that flourished, floundered, and was then reborn. The Chicago Theatre opened in 1921 and like many of its era was purpose built for both live performances and movies. For decades it was a thriving business but like many theaters of its vintage, the 1970s and 1980s were marked with decline.
For a period of time the lights on the Chicago Theatre sign went dark. The end of an era came in 1985 when it closed as a movie theater. But it wasn’t curtains for the Chicago Theatre! It was the beginning of a project to restore the landmark building to its original grandeur inside and out. In the year following, the Chicago Theatre was reborn as a live performance venue and a major part of the North Loop Theater district.
History aside, anyone who has followed my work knows that I’m attracted like a moth to a flame by old marquees like the Chicago Theatre Sign. I just love the over the top style of vintage movie palaces. Going to the movies was a new and novel experience back then and those old theaters are a beautiful reminder of the era. Back then, the experience of going to the movies was just as theatrical as what played out on the silver screen behind that classic sign.
My artwork in this case is based off old black an white photos of the Chicago Theatre sign Those photos were documentation for the US Government for the Historic American Building survey. Working with those detailed photos gave me the opportunity to capture the beautiful vintage details off that landmark sign.
And it’s definitely a landmark. Not only is the Chicago Theatre on the US National Register of Historic places, the Chicago Theatre sign is part of a marquee that has become an unofficial emblem of Chicago itself.
This artwork has a bit of a dreamy vibe. In part this dreamy quality was a nod to the nostalgic charm of this old sign. But it was also a nod to all those years where the stage and screen of the Chicago Theatre captured the imagination of patrons!
Have you taken in a movie or play at the Chicago Theatre? Or does this print remind you of the city you love? I hope you’ll take a moment to share with me what speaks to you about this particular print.