School Tours Overview Page

Skinner West Elementary 5th grade school tour,
April 29, 2014, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Photo: Joshua Longbrake, © MCA Chicago

Teaching artists lead all MCA school programs. Through active dialogue, students and artist guides explore, debate, and reflect upon the important ideas that lie at the heart of contemporary art.

Tours support Illinois Learning Standards in the Fine Arts, Language Arts, and Social Sciences.

All school programs for grades 1–12 are free for Illinois schools and nonprofit organizations. Chicago Public Schools are also eligible for free busing. Each student receives a free pass for a return visit.

Reservation Times

Registration for fall programs (Oct–Dec) begins Sep 2.
Registration for winter/spring programs (Jan–May) begins Dec 1.

We recommend that you book early as we cannot guarantee a reservation for every request.

Artist-Led Tours

Grades 1–12

Driven by inquiry and discussion, this 50-minute tour enables students to explore the creative process, hone critical thinking skills, and make connections between their lives and the art of our time. Tours are offered at 10 am and 11 am, Tuesday through Friday. Tours are typically available for a maximum of 30 students; however, we can accommodate up to 60 students on certain dates.

Self-Guided Tours

Grades 9–12

50 minutes not enough? Starting at noon, Tuesday through Friday, high-school teachers may independently lead groups of up to 30 students through the museum if they schedule a visit through the MCA’s Education Department and follow the guideline for self-guided visits. Self-guided visits may be scheduled on weekends during regular museum hours, as well. Please see our current and upcoming exhibitions pages to help you prepare for a self-guided tour in the galleries.

Creation Labs

Grades 3–12

Students join a practicing artist for an in-depth art-making experience during a two-hour visit. Creation Labs are offered at 10 am, Tuesday–Friday, for up to 30 students. Due to high demand and a limited number of slots, a maximum of two classes per month and four visits per school per year are permitted.

Out-of-State School Tours

Grades 1–12

Out-of-state elementary and high school groups may schedule a tour for a fee.

Group Size

Typically, the maximum number of students for a guided tour is 30, but during certain months we may be able to accommodate up to 60 students. The maximum number of students per Creation Lab is 30 students.


You must provide one responsible chaperone for every 10 students. Designated chaperones must be at least 21 years old and remain with the students at all times. The MCA reserves the right to refuse admission to any group that does not meet the minimum chaperone requirement.

Self-guided tours

High school students may self-guide in the galleries by prior arrangement only. Self-guided tours are only available for group of 30 students or fewer. To make self-guided arrangements, please contact the Coordinator of School Programs.


Our programs are FREE for all groups of 10 or more from Illinois schools.

For more information about private, guided tours for adults and college/university groups, visit Tours and Group Visits. For information about visits for out-of-state and for-profit K–12 schools, and groups of youths under 18 years of age, please call 312.397.3838.


Transportation for Chicago Public Schools is free, pending availability. A maximum of 10 buses per school each academic year is permitted. The earliest possible pick-up time from your school is 9:15 am and the latest pick-up time from the museum is 1 pm. The bus will not make stops between the MCA and your school.

CPS schools: If you have scheduled a bus with the MCA and need to cancel or reschedule, you must call the MCA at least 48 hours in advance. Failure to give adequate notice will result in your school being charged a bus fee of up to $140.


In the event of a cancellation, you must notify the Program Coordinator at least 48 hours in advance. Failure to do so may result in a bus charge to your school if you were receiving a bus provided by the MCA. In there is an emergency please email the Coordinator directly.

Special needs and students with disabilities

The MCA is fully wheelchair accessible and provides wheelchairs for visitors who need them. If members of your group have behavioral or developmental disabilities, please specify the academic level of your students so we can provide the best possible experience for your group. Interpreters for the hearing impaired are available, pending availability. Please call for further information, 312.397.3838.

Additional information

To ensure an optimum experience, there is a limit of one tour per group per day. Groups may not span more than three grade levels. Any additional information you can give us about your group is welcomed. Our guides adjust tours based on information we receive from you. Answering the following questions may be helpful: Have your students been to the MCA before? How might we connect the exhibition to what your students are currently studying in the classroom?


Support for school programs is generously provided by The Efroymson Family Fund; Reyes Holdings, LLC.; The Crown Family; Bank of America Charitable Foundation; the Helen Brach Foundation; Northern Trust Charitable Trust; and The Siragusa Foundation. Major ongoing support is provided by the Cari and Michael J. Sacks Fund for Chicago Public Schools.