Your Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide

Your Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide

This year, you can shop small, support local cultural institutions, and beat the shipping headaches from big retailers using our Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide. The Chicago Cultural Alliance includes over 40 cultural heritage centers, museums, and heritage societies across Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs. Many of them have online and in-person gift shops where you can find the perfect item for the culture lover in your life! For books, arts, clothing, jewelry, music, artisanal crafts, and things you can’t even imagine you need, our Members have got you covered.

And by the way, I know you might have a loved one on your list who says they already have everything they need or they’d love an “experience” instead of a “gift.” In that case, consider buying them a Membership to a small museum or making a donation in their name! Those help out small institutions a lot.

Core members

straw pine cone decoration


6500 S Pulaski Rd
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. Sun, 12pm-4pm. 
Lots to discover at the Balzekas’ Museum gift shop, like Lithuanian cookbooks, linens, even teas and seasonings. I love in particular the straw Christmas ornaments, which are a hallmark of Lithuanian 
Christmastime and trace their history to Lithuanians in Chicago! (Make one yourself at the workshop at the museum on Sat, Dec 11.)
Shop online here.

bronzeville candle


4455 S King Dr, Suite 103.
Hours: Fri and Sat, 10am-4pm.
A selection of awesome gifts that celebrate Black history and culture, like t-shirts, handmade jewelry, and personal care items, all by local creators. You could buy a whole basket of lotions, candles, and body scrubs from CSG Naturals, which smell great and are made right here in Chicago.  
Email [email protected] with inquiries. 


Their t-shirts, hoodies and other goods honor Scottish heroes of the past with funky designs AND your purchase supports a local charity, Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care. Very cool.
Shop online here. 


238 W 23rd St
Hours: Wed and Fri, 9:30am-2pm. Sat and Sun, 10am-4pm.
This gift shop has lots of book options that illuminate the stories and contributions of Chinese Americans to history. Check out
Chinatown in Chicagowhich was actually created by the CAMOC! 
Shop online here.

hamoc cd


Show your love for HAMOC with a mug, postcard, or Haitian flag, or groove out with some music produced by Alliance Partner Member Crossing Borders Music, like “Beyond the Headlines: Haiti in Music.” 
Shop online here

her majesty da queen dvd cover


Hibernian Media produces stories that keep the culture of Ireland alive, so their online store of course has some lively books and DVDs. Check out “Her Majesty Da’ Queen,” a documentary that gave a backstage peek at the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade queen contest.
Shop online here

stop hate enamel pin


9603 Woods Dr, Skokie
Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm.
All purchases support the Museum’s mission: “Remember the Past, Transform the Future,” and so you’ll find many items here that inspire, uplift, and remind us to build a better world. I’m partial to the simple “Stop Hate” enamel pin.
Shop online here

iahc gift shop sign


4626 N Knox Ave
Hours: Fri, 4pm-8pm, and Sat, 10am-4pm.

Whether you are hungry for sweets from the Galway Bakers or savories from Winston, you can find your Irish favorites at the Irish American Heritage Center Gift Shop. You can find crafts from our own Nimble Thimbles, including hand-sewn face masks, aprons, and quilts. The Gift Shop also carries woolens from Aran Mills, Irish caps, candles and diffusers from Inis, and even authentic turf directly from Ireland so your fireplace smells like home.


3001 Central St, Evanston
Hours: Wed, 10am-5pm, and Sat, 10am-5pm.

Their gift shop contains a collection of incredible items created by talented Native artists and craftspeople from across America. With books, jewelry, art, accessories, and more, there are unique items for everyone. My pick: Handmade Nizhoni soaps from the Navajo Nation, in Blue Corn Pollen scent.
Shop online here.

polish eagle ornament


984 North Milwaukee Ave
Hours: Tues, Thurs, Sat, 11am-4pm.
An awesome array of souvenirs, books, Christmas ornaments, and more, all reflecting Polish culture and artistic flair. A good find: A Polish Eagle glass Christmas ornament
Shop online here


sscac poster


“When you purchase a product from the South Side Community Art Center, you support the legacy and future of African American art and artists.” You also get a great gift. Options include apparel and gifts with the SSCAC’s colorful logo, or a very cool historical poster featuring 100 Black artists posing on the center’s front steps in 1958! 
Shop online here.

swedish socks


5211 N Clark St
Hours (through Dec 30):
Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm (Fri, Dec 17 extended hours to 8pm). Sat & Sun, 11am-4pm.

The gift shop at the Swedish American Museum always packs in the holiday goodies, with Swedish treats, ornaments, and gifts galore. Pick up some cozy socks or some fresh, locally-baked pastries.
Shop online here.

trickster earrings


190 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg
Hours: Tues-Fri, 10am-5pm. Sat, 10am-3pm.

An incredible array of pottery, jewelry, artwork and statues created by Native artists. There are almost too many to choose, so go browse the whole collection. Here’s a favorite of mine: delicate black and white beaded earrings by Kimberly LaRonge (LCO Ojibwe). 
Shop online here.

caulfield postcard


2320 W Chicago Ave
Hours: Wed-Sun, 12pm-4pm

Unsurprisingly for UIMA, you’ll find some thought-provoking and artistic items in the gift shop! Books, postcards and posters celebrate the legacy of Ukrainian artists. Buy the Patrick Caufield postcard bundle and pass them out to friends or liven up your home office.
Shop online here

partner members

awm storymatic game


180 N Michigan Ave
For the writer (or reader) in your life, the AWM celebrates the written word. I love the games and puzzles for kids in particular.

Shop online here

pencil necklace


756 N Milwaukee Ave
Intuit’s online and in person gift shop is full of beautiful, fascinating, one-of-a-kind objects made by artists. Brighten up someone’s life with a unique creation like the Lady Liberty Pencil Necklace by Pencil Lady.

Shop online here

chm chicago whispers book cover


One of the best stores in the city for history lovers! A great book selection of course, like Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall by St. Sukie De La Croix.

Shop online here

lion key chain


It goes without saying that a world class art museum will have an awesome gift shop for art lovers. My recommendation? Look how cute the enamel keychain of the iconic Art Institute lion is!
Shop online here. 

sue pajamas


The obvious choice for science lovers! Get your favorite niece or nephew these Sue the T-rex footie pajamas, because it’s never too early to learn about dinosaurs OR preferred pronouns.

Shop online here.



A Statement in Observation of the Juneteenth Holiday

A Statement in Observation of the Juneteenth Holiday

The Chicago Cultural Alliance observes Juneteenth —also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day—as an official holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865.

On that date, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston Texas, where some Black people were still enslaved. Granger issued a proclamation to the people of Texas re-affirming that based on President Lincoln’s order, all enslaved people were free.

There are currently forty-seven states, and the District of Columbia, that recognize Juneteenth as either an official or ceremonial holiday. A bill to recognize Juneteenth as a paid state holiday was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly and passed this week. We ask that you join the Alliance in observing Juneteenth so it is recognized by more citizens of the United States and internationally. 


Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Dear Chairman Tunney and Members of the Committee,

Recently, Landmarks Illinois and the Alphawood Foundation informed the Chicago Cultural Alliance about a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict establishing cultural exhibits and the housing of museums in “R” zoning districts and require special use permits. This proposal is in stark contrast to the mission of the Chicago Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is an arts advocacy organization that provides professional services to 42 ethnic museums, historical societies, and community centers, which we call our Core Members. Our members operating in “R” districts are active and central meeting places that contribute to stabilizing and improving their blocks and neighborhoods.

The Alliance was founded by and for Chicago’s neighborhood-based cultural institutions. Our mission is to promote, support, and connect centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive and equitable Chicago. Our members represent 30 different cultures around the world and are all based in 30 of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods and 10 suburbs.

These institutions protect and highlight Chicago’s history, foster economic stability through partnerships with local businesses and family-owned restaurants, and address residents’ needs in your wards and throughout the city. The Chicago Cultural Alliance strongly opposes this proposed zoning amendment. It will harm neighborhoods and create more uncertainty for these vital community institutions who are already a vulnerable class of small businesses because of the pandemic. It would also curtail other organizations who are planning to establish new museums and cultural exhibits, including the former home of Muddy Waters and a museum dedicated to Emmett Till.

The Alliance and our members provide cultural activities, education opportunities for teachers and students, and stimulate local business in neighborhoods. We also actively connect and partner with Alderman and Chambers of Commerce to emphasize how these institutions strengthen and rebuild our city. If members of the zoning committee want to learn more about our work, we invite you to join our monthly virtual town halls on the first Fridays of each month. If the Zoning Committee chooses to participate, please contact me at [email protected]

We urge you to vote against any change in the zoning code that will disallow and discourage our members’ operations. The proposal will seriously jeopardize the stability of neighborhood institutions that tell inclusive, equitable, and honest stories about this city and its people.


Monique Brinkman-Hill – Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center

Monique Brinkman-Hill – Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center

Have you met Monique?

If not, let us do the honor of introducing you to Monique Brinkman-Hill, who was appointed as South Side Community Art Center’s Executive Director in December 2019. Having to take over just before the start of 2020 and all the twists and turns it had in store, Monique and her team have worked hard to support their organization in its 80th year.

Do you want to hear about what it’s like to serve as a relatively new executive director during a pandemic and learn more about the South Side Community Art Center?

Listen (and/or watch) Monique’s interview with the Alliance’s own new executive director, Peter Vega, in this episode of Cultural Connections!

MOSAIC 2020 Outstanding Cultural Leader – Kathleen McDonald

MOSAIC 2020 Outstanding Cultural Leader – Kathleen McDonald

If you find yourself wondering how people end up working in their field or what it is like to work at a museum, this episode of Cultural Connections is perfect for you! 

Join Executive Director Peter Vega and Kathleen McDonald as they discuss their experiences in the arts/humanities. Kathleen has been active in the world of arts and humanities since her college years (even though it wasn’t her original plan!) and worked her way up the ranks in museums.

Maybe this episode will inspire you or someone you know to get involved at a local museum or heritage center!

We are a month into our Cultural Connections Campaign and we want to thank you for tuning in every week to listen to our members and supporters discuss topics on cultural diversity, inclusion, and equity. So far we have raised a total of $15,000 towards our goal of $50,000. We know we can hit that goal, but we need your help.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to connect, promote, and support centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive Chicago.

We simply could not do this without you.

Presenting our “Stories of Arts Resilience”

Presenting our “Stories of Arts Resilience”

Stories of Arts Resilience:

Oral Histories of arts and museum professionals during the time of COVID-19.

Generously funded by Illinois Humanities

We at the Alliance are delighted to celebrate the release of the Stories of Arts Resilience project!

Thanks to generous support from Illinois Humanities through their Community Resilience Grant, the Stories of Arts Resilience (SOAR) project was created as a response to the shared struggles and spirit of perseverance throughout the arts and culture industry during this unprecedented moment in history. The Alliance worked with our Members to collect oral histories of their efforts during this crisis.

This project granted us the opportunity  to work with new tools and materials generated by our friends at StoryCorps Chicago, and to engage our Members in order to create an oral history archive that collects, documents, and shares museum and arts professionals’ first-hand responses to the COVID-19 crisis. 

All of the oral histories collected are now forever archived in the Story Corps Archive and in the Library of Congress!

Meet our participants.

Surinder Martignetti and Zachary Whittenburg

Surinder Martignetti (45) and her friend and colleague, Zachary Whittenburg (40), talk about where they grew up, places they’ve lived, their dance education, and their work today for Chicago arts organizations during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Jason Matsumoto and Mary Doi

Mary Doi (67) interviews her friend Jason Matsumoto (37) about Japanese Taiko drumming and his film career. He talks about how he has adapted the ensemble in 2020 to COVID-19 and to pay tribute to Black Lives Matter by performing for inmates outside the Cook County jail.

Lisa Doi and Mary Doi

Mary Doi [no age given] interviews her daughter Lisa Doi (29) about her work as an organizer at Tsuru for Solidarity advocating for the Japanese American community, the history of the paper crane, the evolution of folk art in the Japanese diaspora, the rise of hate crimes in Asian American communities during the pandemic, and the value of the arts as a tool for social awareness and change.

Anthony Hirschel and Amita Banerji

Amita Banerji (65) speaks to her colleague Anthony “Tony” Hirschel (63) about how the pandemic has transformed the arts, the digital expansion of audiences for the National Indo-American Museum (NIAM), the importance of creating and maintaining strong connections with community members and businesses, and the economic challenges for nonprofit organizations.

Eva Nye and Karin Abercrombie

Karin Moen Abercrombie (62) interviews her colleague Eva Nye (49) about her immigration journey from Sweden, navigating breast cancer and family life during the pandemic, and her work as an educator, artist and member of the Chicago Art Girls.

Soo Lon Moy and Ben Lau

Soo Lon Moy (70) speaks with her friend and colleague Ben Lau (62) about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, their lives, and the Chinese community in Chicago.

Tatsuyuki Aoki and Michael Takada

Michael Takata (64) has a conversation with friend and colleague Tatsuyuki “Tatsu” Aoki (62) about how the performing arts have adjusted to their audiences during the pandemic, lessons from the younger generation, and the importance of recognizing the legacy of the performing arts in the city.

Mary Doi and Cori Nakamura Lin

Mary Doi (67) interviews new friend Cori Nakamura Lin (28) about Cori’s work as an artist and community activist.

Nathan Ellstrand and Emiliano Aguilar

Friends and fellow PhD candidates, Nathan Ellstrand (33) and Emiliano Aguilar (28), talk about their interest in history, what they love about their fields of study, their research, and how their lives and their work has been impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Cairo Dye and Henry Godinez

Cairo Dye (23) interviews her former professor Henry Godinez (62) about teaching theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Chapman and Chelsey Thomas

Sara Chapman (38) has a conversation with her colleague Chelsey Thomas (24) about her work at Media Burn Archive, her experience learning from the community of filmmakers and audiences in Russia, how connectivity with global networks has changed during the pandemic, and their vision of film.