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Why I love the Art Institute lions

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


People travel from all over to visit the Art Institute. But for me, the real magic is outside the museum — on the steps in between the iconic lions.

Because on a cold spring day in ‘96, that’s where my dad proposed to my mom.

My parents, high school sweethearts from Michigan who moved to Chicago, had been living together for a decade before he popped the question. 

They had talked about getting married, but after my mom’s younger sister got engaged, her parents turned up the pressure.

So she gave my dad an ultimatum: six months to propose or she was out. 

Sure enough, a few months later, my mom and dad were wandering around Chicago. While they walked, he was frantically trying to decide where to propose. Buckingham Fountain? The Shedd? 

And then he saw the lions outside the Art Institute, and as a Leo himself, that’s where he decided to get down on one knee. 

Two days later, they eloped in Vegas

And more than 25 years later, both my parents, happily married, still go out of their way to see the lions — and so do I.

Green lion statue sits outside the Art Institute. Light poles are lit from the side profile, and people are walking down the street.
Lions of the Art Institute in 2019. (Image by Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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▪️ Cook County’s top domestic violence court judge is retiring with a lifetime pension today amid allegations of mistreatment and inappropriate conduct. [Chicago Reader, Injustice Watch]

▪️ NorthShore Clinical Labs is the latest COVID-19 testing company under investigation for flawed results. It got $154 million from the feds. The city has opened two more testing centers downtown. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ Could Matt Eberflus, the former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator, be the head coach Bears fans have prayed for? [ESPN]

▪️ Get ready to name city snow plows! Need inspo? Other cities have suggested the Big LePlowski, Snowbi-wan Kenobi, and Mary Tyler More Snow. [Chicago Tribune]

▪️ Yet another Chicago librarian takes down a reigning “Jeopardy!” champ 💪 Who’s surprised? [The Week]

▪️ It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: the sun sets at 5 p.m.! 🤪

▪️ This week’s must-read.


TODAY: “Mean Girls” & “Nightmare on Elm Street” Pilsen drive-in
Pull up to ChiTown Movies to see the Tina Fey comedy at 7 p.m. followed by the classic slasher film at 9:30 p.m.

SATURDAY: Chinese New Year celebration in McKinley Park
Kick off the Year of the Tiger at this free, family-friendly arts and craft show at the McKinley Park fieldhouse Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

SATURDAY: Navigating the story of Cabrini-Green webinar
Learn how Black residents were pushed from their homes and jobs in one of the biggest land grabs in city history with City Cast’s Jacoby Cochran, Better Government Association, and CatchLight Local Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Customize ice sculptures in Lakeview
Watch a professional make your ice sculpture dreams a reality outside St. Alphonsus Church Saturday from 4–6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.

SUNDAY: Dog admission day at Morton Arboretum
Bring the pup to explore all 16 miles of the Lisle arboretum. Meet adoptable foster huskies Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We love a puppy party! 🐾

SUNDAY: Good eats at Black-owned biz pop-up in Chatham
Chow down on some Happy Taco, I Heart Grits, and Barbie’s Catfish at Barbie’s Luxury Rentals while shopping Sunday from 2–6 p.m.


Catch up on this week’s episodes!

City Cast Chicago is up for the Chicago Reader’s best newsletter and podcast in the city. Like what we do and want to vote? Go to the “City Life” category to vote for the newsletter and pod.

Update: Here is a list of mental health resources for teachers. The list we provided Thursday focused on how teachers could help students with their mental health. Thanks to reader Sejal for flagging.

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