Thomas Murray, founder and artistic director of Waltzing Mechanics, enjoys the view from:

Cityscape Bar There are myriad rooftop bars and clubs around the Loop surrounding the spectacle that is our city’s skyline. Unfortunately, I’ve found the added altitude also generally inflates the price of drinks; a glorious glass of vino above it all quickly tastes sour once the check comes. That’s why when cocktails beckon me and my troupe skyward, I head over to Cityscape Bar on the 15th floor of the Holiday Inn-Mart Plaza. The inspiring vista above the Chicago River’s Wolf Point pairs stunningly with their weekly “Sparkling Tuesday” event when $4 glasses of sparkling wine are on the menu. No lie, Waltzing Mechanics’ entire mission was hatched perched in front of Cityscape’s windows. Savvy urban explorers may also find the lengthy but entirely indoor hike from the Merchandise Mart CTA station to be a bonus when the city is in the midst of winter’s frosty grip.

"Arcadia" by Kit Wise, 2011, video still, approx. six min., assisted by Darin Bendall
“Arcadia” by Kit Wise, 2011, video still, approx. six min., assisted by Darin Bendall

Barbara Geiger, landscape historian and educator at the Chicago Botanic Garden, finds perfection in:

“Arcadia” It takes a landscape writ large to remind us of the very real but quite natural events that humans have always had to cope with. The last time something called Arcadia came to Hyde Park it was Tom Stoppard’s very British play about radical design changes in the landscape of an English estate, at the Court Theatre. Running until April 8 at the Hyde Park Art Center is Australian Kit Wise’s animated exhibit of the same name with a very different message and on a whole different scale. Focusing specifically on the water-based catastrophes of the past few years (Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami of 2011) and their impact on human landscapes, Wise explores the big picture that we don’t often see from the ground. And “Arcadia”? Waterwise, Chicago is virtually that. Always plenty to go around and very seldom out of control, water is taken for granted here. We can’t be reminded too often that that may not be the case much longer.

<i>Ceremonial Portrait - Boy</i> from "Owl Scouts: Lost in the Woods" by Todd Baxter
Ceremonial Portrait – Boy from “Owl Scouts: Lost in the Woods” by Todd Baxter

Joe Meno, author of The Great Perhaps, gazes into the great, big eyes of:

Owl Scouts: Lost in the Woods” at Lula Cafe What sets Lula apart from other restaurants is its appreciation of art, not just in the food but in the curation of the gallery space. Over the last couple of years they’ve transformed what people think about in fine dining in Chicago while at the same time featuring really up-and-coming, prominent artists.

Todd Baxter is a local Chicago photographer. For “Owl Scouts” he enlisted models and built sets to tell a story about these two characters, a boy and girl, that have these disastrous, catastrophic adventures, like this boy drowns in the river and the girl gets sucked up by this hurricane. The narrative describes this relationship between a boy and a girl or a man and a woman, and kind of follows the pitfalls. It’s almost like he made a film but it’s a story told in static images. These large-format photos are incredibly beautiful and moving. It’s familiar American iconography that’s been transformed into something much more dreamlike. [The exhibit closes Tue 1/17.]