Woman looking at prints

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Block Museum?

The Block Museum is Northwestern University’s free art museum and is open to the public year-round. The Block is a dynamic, imaginative and innovative teaching and learning resource for Northwestern and its surrounding communities, featuring a global exhibition program that crosses time periods and cultures and serves as a springboard for thought-provoking discussion relevant to our lives today.

What kind of art do you show?

The Block museum is dedicated to presenting exhibitons and programs that resonate with the mission and vision of Northwestern University, its curriculum and research strengths, and that are relevant to our time.  The museum is focused on connecting art to the contemporary world, and using art as a springboard for thought, discussion and innovation in a contemporary context. The Museum exhibits art across time, culture and media, and showcases multiple perspectives, diverse voices, and art from around the world. While there is no one kind of art typically shown at the museum, Block Museum exhibitions and engagements can be characterized by how they:

  • Bring the world to Northwestern with globally focused content
  • Present new work by living artists working nationally and internationally
  • Present art across time, place, culture, and media
  • Offer programs of relevance to our lives today
  • Connect art with broader issues across diverse disciplines

The Block Museum has strong partnerships with museums worldwide and often collaborates with museums on exhibitions that travel across the country and the world.

What is in the Block Museum Collection?

The Block Museum houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 artworks. The collection is strong in prints, drawings, and photographs by American and European modern and contemporary artists. Specialized collections include American computer-generated artworks, Chicago-based printmakers of the 1930s and 40s, documentary photography of the Midwest, and South African prints of the early 1990s. In recent years the Block has increased the diversity of media and the international array of artists represented in its collection. Recent gifts and purchases have included videos, sculpture, drawings, photographs and installations by internationally known contemporary artists such as Paul Chan, Omar Victor Diop, Felix Gonzalez Torres and Carrie Mae Weems.

The Block Museum collection can be searched online. The Eloise W. Martin Study Center is open by appointment to allow viewing of items in the collection.

How is the Block evolving?

In recent years the Block has been proud to expand its engagement with the University’s campuses, their surrounding communities, and the national and international art worlds. The Block has authored new mission and vision statements that better reflect its role as a teaching and learning resource. The museum has taken a “Northwestern Direction,” re-imagining the university art museum as a unit which grows organically out of Northwestern’s DNA. The Block is now Northwestern’s most unique classroom, a laboratory and a convening space serving students and faculty from all academic departments and even other universities. Deep connections have been fostered across the University that have yielded new and dynamic programming. As Northwestern University evolves, the Block evolves as well – embodying the ideal of “a great museum for a great University.”

How old is the museum?

The Mary and Leigh Block Gallery opened in 1980. In recognition of its growing collection and expanding program the Gallery was renamed the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art in 1998. In September of 2000, the Museum open the doors of its current building, a major reconstruction by Chicago architect Dirk Lohan. The Museum received full accredidation by the American Alliance of Museums in 2007.

How do I get my art shown in the museum as an artist?

Museum exhibitions are planned approximately 5 years in advance of a show’s opening. At this time, the museum is not able to consider unsolicited submissions for exhibitions. For more information on potential exhibition venues and gallery representation we suggest the resources of local artist service organizations such as the Chicago Artist Coalition and the Evanston Art Center.

How do I donate art that I own to the museum?

In order to ensure the Block Museum collection supports the curriculum of Northwestern University and the teaching and learning goals of the museum, the museum staff carefully evaluates each potential acquisition. When the Block Museum accepts a work into its permanent collection, great care is taken to ensure that sufficient resources exist to adequately store and care for the artwork. Please note that due to storage limitations, we are not able to accept all donations of art. To discuss a potential art donation to the museum please contact Director of Development Helen Hilken (847.491.4178).

Can I bring my art in to be appraised or conserved?

The Block Museum is not able to offer in house appraisal or conservation services. We do maintain a list of recommended contacts for these services that we would be happy to share. Please contact Elizabeth Wolf, Collections & Exhibitions Coordinator (847.467.0734), for the most recent version of this information.

What benefits come with being a member?

The Block Museum is proudly free and open to all, and your free membership allows us to count you among our list of dedicated supporters and audiences. Your membership includes invitations to exhibitions and events, early announcements of special programs, updates and news, as well as a limited edition tote bag or other special gift.

Where can we park / drop off?

The Museum is located on the southeastern portion of Northwestern's Evanston campus, near the lake and Sheridan Road. You are invited to park at the automated garage of the Segal Visitors Center Garage (1847 Campus Drive, Evanston).  Parking is FREE after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.  All other times parking is $8. The Arts Circle Drive is open to vehicles and patrons with disabilities will find accessible location for pick-up and drop off directly in front of the museum. The Northwestern University Parking office is available by phone at 847.491.3319. The University invites large tour buses to park at Ryan Field while waiting for their group. (1501 Central St, Evanston, IL.)

Is your information available in Spanish?

While the Block Museum does not currently have bilingual printed materials we often work with docents who can provide tours in foreign languages. Should you wish to inquire about a tour, or language interpretation please contact Holly Warren, Engagement Coordinator (847.467.6046).

Where can I get information about volunteering at the museum?

The Block Museum offers opportunities for student internships, fellowships, advisory boards, and student work positions. Northwestern students can contact Holly Warren, Engagement Coordinator (847.467.6046) to learn more about how to get involved at the museum. The museum also hosts a number of ways for community members to become involved through its Building Block Fund and Block Leadership Circle. For information on these member groups please contact Director of Development Helen Hilken (847.491.4178).

Do you have audio guides at the museum?

The Block Museum does not currently offer audio guides for its shows.

Do you have children’s strollers or wheelchairs?

The museum does not have strollers. Wheelchairs for campus visits can be pre-requested through the Northwestern University Segal Visitors Center (847.491.7271).

Can I bring my stroller into the gallery?

The museum is accessible for single child strollers; however, at certain points strollers may be restricted in special exhibitions due to space limitations and crowd flow.

Can I bring a brown bag lunch to the museum?

While there is no food in the galleries, the Block Museum is home to the Block Spot, a light-filled lounge in first floor lobby equipped with chairs, tables and wifi. The Block Spot is a perfect place to study, meet friends, or enjoy a brown bag lunch. As the space is limited we suggest that groups of 5 or more enjoy brown bag lunch in the nearby Norris Student Center.

Will this exhibit / program sell out? Can I buy tickets / reserve seats in advance?

Block Museum exhibitions and programs are free and open to the public. For many popular events the museum does accept online RSVPs to ensure available seating. Please view our website to access the RSVP links to upcoming events – or contact Communications Manager Lindsay Bosch (847-467-4602) to RSVP by phone. Film screenings presented by Block Cinema have a minimal ticket cost.

What is / Where is the Northwestern University Arts Circle?

The Arts Circle -- located on the southeast portion of the Evanston campus is the geographic center of the arts at Northwestern and a collaborative idea of bringing the arts together across campus. The Block Museum is proud to be among this world-class neighborhood of arts venues including Pick Stager Concert Hall, Regenstein Hall, the Wirtz Center and the Ryan Center among many others. Northwestern University offers a shared calendar of upcoming art events at http://artscircle.northwestern.edu/

Does the Block offer accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing?

The Block Museum is able to work with AccessibleNU to provide interpretation for its films and programs upon request with 10 days lead time prior to the event. Services may include sign language interpreters, voice-to-text transcription such as C-Print or real-time captioning. Please contact Holly Warren, Engagement Coordinator (847.467.6046), with requests and details.