Oversized glass French fries, acclaimed presidential portraits and immersive Van Gogh art experiences await art lovers in the Midwest this summer. 

By Taylor Hoffman
June 28, 2021
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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | Kansas City, Missouri 

Friday Night Blues, acrylic and spray painting featuring two figures
Friday Night Blues, Harold Smith
| Credit: Harold Smith, American (born 1962). Friday Night Blues, 2021. Acrylic, spray paint, fabric on canvas. 48 x 60 inches (129.9 x 152.4 cm. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The product of a collaboration between the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Kansas City's African American Artists Collective, this new exhibit is the first in a series designed to highlight local artists. Open now through March 27, 2022, it showcases the work of more than three dozen artists, including painters, sculptors, and poets. 

The Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago

Portrait of President Barack Obama sitting in front of foliage
President Barack Obama, Kehinde Wiley
| Credit: 2018 Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

See these two historic—and widely celebrated—portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama until August 15 at The Art Institute of Chicago. The museum, which the Obamas visited on their first date, is the first stop for the portraits on a five-city tour organized by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. 

Joslyn Art Museum | Omaha

Modernique Clock designed by Paul T. Frankl
Modernique Clock, Paul T. Frankl
| Credit: Paul T. Frankl, designer (American, born Austria, 1887–1958), Warren Telechron Company, manufacturer (Ashland, Massachusetts, 1926–1992), Modernique Clock, 1928, chromium-plated and enameled metal, molded Bakelite, and brush-burnished silver, 7 3/4 x 6 x 3 1/2 in., Collection Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver, Gift of Michael Merson, 2010.0670. Courtesy of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver. Photo by Wes Magyar

This exhibit highlighting about 140 objects in Art Deco style—decorative art, industrial design, paintings, photos and more—debuts at the Joslyn (through September 5, 2021) before traveling to other museums including the Wichita Art Museum in Wichita, Kansas (February 12-May 30, 2022) and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (July 9, 2022-January 8, 2023). Ten thematic sections such as Streamline Modern and Jazz Age—Culture of Change explore a time of political, social and artistic transformation in American history. 

Immersive Van Gogh exhibit - Chicago, self-portraits of the artist
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit - Chicago
| Credit: Michael Brosilow

Lighthouse ArtSpace at Germania Club | Chicago 

Entrancing images and motifs dance across the walls and floor of Chicago's historic Germania Club. Catch this show (one of several Van Gogh immersive experiences on tour) at its first U.S. location before it closes September 6. The show is also scheduled to open in Minneapolis on August 2, in Detroit on October 21, and later in the year in Kansas City, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio. 

Newfields | Indianapolis 

The LUME Indianapolis, immersive exhibit of Van Gogh's Starry Night
The LUME Indianapolis
| Credit: Renderings of THE LUME Indianapolis courtesy of Grande Experiences

THE LUME Indianapolis transforms Vincent van Gogh's paintings into an immersive digital world using 150 state-of-the-art projectors.  At 30,000 square feet, it's the largest exhibit in the institution's history. Each year will bring new content to the space. This exhibit, created by Australia's Grande Experiences, opens July 27 and will be on display through Spring 2022. 

Flint Institute of Arts | Flint, Michigan 

Feeling hungry? Check out Blue Plate Special at the Flint Institute of Arts. Influenced by diners and 1950s pop culture, the exhibit features giant glass hotdogs, French fries and even milkshakes. Artist John Miller's oversized glass American cuisine might not fill you up, but it does make for an entertaining afternoon. 

Cleve Carney Museum of Art | Glen Ellyn, Illinois 

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945
Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait
| Credit: Frida Kahlo,Self-Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945, oil on masonite,Collection Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico copyright 2020 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

See 26 original works by Frida Kahlo, the largest display of the artist's works in the Chicago area in more than 40 years, now until September 6 at the College of DuPage's Cleve Carney Museum of Art at McAninch Art Center. The exhibition also includes an immersive experience that highlights how Kahlo's life circumstances contributed to her becoming one of the most important artists of the last century. 

Walker Art Center | Minneapolis 

The Paradox of Stillness blends visual art with performance art at the Walker Art Center. Featuring about 100 artworks, the exhibit challenges traditional mediums, like sculpture or painting, and reinterprets them in motion. The exhibit closes August 8. 

Detroit Institute of Arts | Detroit 

Celebrate the vision, skill and influence of Detroit car designers at this exhibit, open until January 9, 2022. See paintings, sculptures, design drawings, and 12 cars designed across seven decades, highlighting the relationship between creativity and innovation.  

Des Moines Art Center | Des Moines 

Popocatépetl e Iztaccíhuatl vistos desde Atlixco, after José María Velasco
Popocatépetl
| Credit: Popocatépetl e Iztaccíhuatl vistos desde Atlixco, after José María Velasco 2015, paper, glue and cardboard, 59"x72", Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

Justin Favela's vibrant cut-tissue paper art draws from Latinx culture, at history and his Guatemalan/Mexican heritage. All the work in his exhibition—shown from July 17 through October 24—will be created on site by Favela and will include a large-scale installation, wall and floor sculptures and a paper chandelier.

South Dakota Art Museum | Brookings, South Dakota 

The museum owns 145 works by South Dakota native Harvey Dunn, and to celebrate the institution's 50th anniversary, will display almost the entire collection (excluding three withheld because of concerns about their condition.) See sketches, woodcuts, landscapes, portraits, prairie works, illustrations and more from August 17 to October 24.  

Milwaukee Art Museum | Milwaukee 

Spanish Girl Leaning on a Window Sill, Mary Cassatt
Spanish Girl Leaning on a Window Sill, Mary Cassatt
| Credit: Mary Cassatt, Spanish Girl Leaning on a Window Sill, ca. 1872. Oil on canvas, 24 3/8 × 19 in. (61.9 × 38.26 cm). Collection of Manuel Piñanes García-Olías, Madrid. Photo, Cuauhtli Gutierrez

Americans in Spain is the first exhibition of its kind to highlight Spanish influence on American art. Featuring 100-plus paintings, photographs and prints, this exhibit traces the migration, tourism and travel of American artists in 19th-century Spain. Highlights include a newly discovered painting from a private collection in Madrid, John Singer Sargent's Carmencita, and Spanish old master works copied by American painters. 

Columbus Museum of Art | Columbus, Ohio 

Cool Off, Julie Curtiss
Cool Off, Julie Curtiss
| Credit: Julie Curtiss Cool Off, 2020 Oil and acrylic on canvas 26 x 20 inches Framed: 27 1/8 x 21 1/8 x 2 1/4 inches Courtesy the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY

See the striking and thought-provoking work of 27 contemporary artists in this exhibit, open now until May 22, 2022. Featuring collections of paintings, photographic material and sculptural installations, Present Generations will inaugurate the museum's Scantland Collection, dedicated to collecting modern art.  

Wichita Art Museum | Wichita, Kansas 

This exhibit—delayed a year by the pandemic—honors the 100th anniversary of women's voting rights by featuring women artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Rosa Bonheur, Helen Frankenthaler, Marguerite Zorach, Audrey Flack and Gail Albert-Halaban.