Elmhurst Art Museum opened to the public in 1997 with more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space, an art collection, an Education Center and Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House. A vibrant center for the visual arts for nearly 20 years, EAM serves people of all ages, offering exhibitions, educational programs, studio classes and an architectural landmark. EAM provides residents of Elmhurst and other surrounding DuPage County suburbs with opportunities to see art, create art and deepen their knowledge of art, architecture and design right in their own backyard. With year-round classes, workshops, summer camps, community events, public programs and rotating exhibitions, EAM is committed to providing arts education and appreciation to children and adults. EAM supports exceptional artists from this region and beyond with exhibition and commission opportunities and develops programming around the McCormick House to explore modernism and its impact on art and society.
Elmhurst Art Museum was a dream conceived and realized by a visionary, generous and tenacious group of artists, art lovers and community members. Founder Eleanor King Hookham (1909-2003), a painter and educator who moved to Elmhurst with her husband Robert E. Hookham in 1946, kept the dream alive for five decades and welcomed visitors at the grand opening of the Elmhurst Art Museum building in 1997.
Elmhurst Art Museum was officially formed in 1981 when it opened in one room at Eldridge School, a property then used as a community center run by the Elmhurst Park District. Exhibiting and collecting works of primarily local artists, the small organization grew to a two-room space at Wagner Community Center. Setting their sights on the construction of a new building in the beautiful and centrally located Wilder Park, the museum created the Elmhurst Fine Arts and Civic Center Foundation to be its fundraising arm. Generous donations, countless volunteer hours, real estate purchases and sales, benefit galas and creative fundraising events, allowed the foundation to secure a footprint within Elmhurst Park District’s Wilder Park and hire architects to design an art museum in the midst of Elmhurst.
In 1992, the Foundation learned of a rare opportunity—Elmhurst’s famous “glass house,” designed by renowned modern architect Mies van der Rohe in 1952 and one of only three existing houses he designed in the United States, became available for purchase. Former Mayor of Elmhurst, Raymond Fick and his wife Mary Ann, lived for nearly thirty years in what is now called the McCormick House, after its original owner Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. and were delighted that this architectural landmark would be preserved and repurposed by the museum. Two years later, the house was moved from its original location at 299 Prospect to Wilder Park, to become part of the Elmhurst Art Museum. The EAM Board selected the Chicago-based architectural firm DeStefano + Partners to design a new building that incorporated the house.
The Museum’s Mies house represents the architect’s mature vision for a new technological age: a single space within a minimal "skin and bones" framework and a clear arrangement of architectural parts. It is an architecture expressive of his epoch. Mies said “Architecture is rooted with its simplest forms entirely in the useful, but it extends over all the degrees of value into the highest sphere of spiritual existence, into the sphere of the significant: the realm of pure art.”
Architecture at its best represents the offspring of art and science. Mies’s design is the perfect embodiment of that union. More than the rational use of industrial materials, it is a highly expressive architectural language for the 20th century.
The Elmhurst Art Museum is much more than a house. Today EAM provides robust school outreach, offering no-cost programs to the diverse populations of Chicago and the western suburbs, hand-on ‘making’ courses using both traditional and 21st century media. It mounts intellectually expansive exhibitions and public programs showcasing modern and contemporary art and design in all its forms.