Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
Chicago’s west suburban Elmhurst is home to gems, both literally and figuratively. The literal gems aren’t just a few small stones; these treasures are exquisite carvings of ivory, jade, amber and other hard stone, some dating back several centuries.
Museum founder Joseph F. Lizzadro, Sr., former CEO of Meade Electric and stone carving hobbyist, found that purchasing carved pieces of Chinese jade was easier and less expensive than obtaining rough jadeite to carve, so he purchased carved pieces and destroyed several of them with his carving practice. Fortunately, Lizzadro realized what treasures he was importing, and his hobby evolved into collecting the pieces and opening a museum to showcase them.
The museum’s collection includes a jade pagoda, an ivory carving of the Last Supper, dioramas of stone wildlife, and even three full meals carved from stone. Ooh and ah over the beauty and intricacies of the carvings, then visit the Rock and Mineral Experience on the lower level to learn more about gemstones. Before you leave, be sure to stop in the gift shop to purchase stones of your own, some turned into jewelry or artwork.
Elmhurst Art Museum
The Elmhurst Art Museum building is a masterpiece in itself, having won several awards, including the Distinguished Building Honor Award from the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Designed by DeStefano & Partners, the steel and glass structure blends with the adjacent McCormick house, designed by renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The rotating art exhibitions in the museum’s three galleries focus on “art work of our time.” Many of the exhibiting artists hold workshops on Friday evenings when the museum is open until 8 p.m. and admission is free. Education programs are offered throughout the year for toddlers through adults, with a heavy emphasis on summer camps for kids.
Art exhibits continue in the McCormick house, one of only three residences designed by Mies van der Rohe. The home was constructed as a prototype for the modern family and includes walls that can be moved to rearrange space as family needs change. However, the design never took off due to the expense.
Both museums are located in Elmhurst’s Wilder Park, about 15 miles west of Chicago and within walking distance of the METRA Union Pacific West Elmhurst station.
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