American Writers Museum opens in downtown Chicago next week

A rendering of the American Writers Museum, which will open in downtown Chicago next week.

The first-of-its-kind national American Writers Museum opens on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago Monday.

“We are thrilled to officially open the doors to the country’s first American Writers Museum and proud to call Chicago the museum’s home. It will provide an exciting and unprecedented opportunity to showcase our great writers and their works in one of the nation’s most culturally rich cities,” American Writers President Carey Cranston said. “We have had the honor to work with an inspiring team of people dedicated to the importance of celebrating American culture through writing and we hope the museum inspires visitors to not only appreciate the works of the writers featured in the museum, but practice the art of writing themselves.”

The museum will be located in the Loop at 180 N. Michigan Ave., just a block north of Millennium Station where the South Shore Line makes its final stop.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, acclaimed short story writer Stuart Dybek and two-time Pultizer winner David McCullough will attend the groundbreaking of the new tourist attraction, which is expected to draw up to 120,000 visitors a year. It will tell the stories of a variety of American writers, such as Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss.

The first temporary exhibits highlight the work of poet W.S. Merwin and beatnik legend Jack Kerouac. "The Beat Journey: Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road'" features the original 120-foot-long scroll manuscript that the novelist supposedly cranked out in three weeks during a drug-fueled creative mania.

There's also an extensive permanent collection.

"The museum’s multiple galleries, interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special events will engage visitors of all ages," the museum said in a press release. "Visitors will explore the great writers’ hometowns and learn about all of the AWM Affiliate homes in Jerre and Mary Joy Stead’s Writers Hall. In John and Cathie Estey’s Nation of Writers they will  learn about and celebrate authors who are emblematic of a unique American Voice, across history, genre, and mediums, from poets to sportswriters. Galleries such as The Mind of a Writer will demystify famed writers’ works and methodologies and invite visitor creativity with games and other immersive offerings."

There's even more to see and do at the new museum.

"The Wintrust Chicago Gallery will delve into the great writers, literary influencers, characters, and groups that shaped the city’s unique literary tradition," the museum said in the press release. Visitors will be lured back to the museum from rotating exhibits in two regularly changing galleries, with exhibits that will span a huge array of topics as diverse as the American people. The S. Leigh Pierson and Douglas R. Conant Readers Hall will host films, talks, readings, workshops, and author signings to school groups, members, and a broad range of audiences."

Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

For more information, visit americanwritersmuseum.org or call 312-374-8790.


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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.