Art & Community in Chicago

At The Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, we believe that beauty has the capacity to build up culture, transform society, and change lives. We hope to help you contemplate, encounter, and delight in beauty.

What we do

Rentals

We rent unique and flexible performance, rehearsal, office, and event spaces in the heart of Chicago for non-profits and performing arts organizations.

Performances

In partnership with the Chicago performing arts community, our historic theatre is home to plays, concerts, film screenings, and other live events.

Curation

We love to bring people together over what is good, true, and beautiful. We sponsor and produce a curated collection of events that bring our mission to life.

Why beauty matters

The Athenaeum Center is committed to bringing more art and more beauty into the world because we think these things make human life richer. Beauty moves the whole human person, connects us with others who are sharing the experience, and brings us to greater knowledge of reality through love.

“Beauty will save the world.”

—Fyodor dostoyevsky

The History

The Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture is located in Chicago’s historic Lakeview neighborhood.

The Athenaeum was originally founded by the Redemptorist Fathers of St. Alphonsus, as “a home for the intellectual, physical, and social intercourse” of their parishioners. Since its opening in 1911, the Athenaeum has continually served as a place for beauty, community, and the arts. It is Chicago’s oldest continuously operating Off-Loop theatre.

what’s in a name?

ATH·E·NAE·UM

The name originates from the Greek, and is defined as:

  • A temple of Minerva at Athens, in which scholars and poets gathered to read their works
  • An association of people of literary or scientific tastes for the purpose of mutual improvement
  • A building or an apartment where a library, periodicals and newspapers are kept for public use

Today, Athenaeum is a name given to clubs and establishments to indicate a mission of education, formation, and cultural engagement.

The Building

  • Designed by architect, Hermann J. Gaul
  • Opened for the public and for the parishioners of St. Alphonsus in 1911
  • Built for opera, dance, orchestral, and dramatic productions
  • 3 Floors
  • 4 performance spaces: 1 Main Stage, 3 Smaller Studio Theatres
  • Total Size: 66,000 sqft
  • Total seating: 1,220

Leadership

Staff

Lawrence Daufenbach

Executive Director

Katie Joy Daufenbach

Associate Director

BOard of Directors

James N. Perry Jr.

Anthony Pienta

advisory board

Dana Gioia

Ross Douthat

Elizabeth Lev

Elizabeth Lev

Elizabeth Lev holds degrees in art history from the University of Chicago and the University of Bologna and has been teaching art history at Duquesne University’s Italian campus since 2002. She is a well-known tour guide and serves as a consultant to the Vatican Museums for their art and faith itineraries, projects with the Vatican Patrons of the Arts and wrote “Vatican Treasures: The Via Pulchritudinis,” a film presented to Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Lev’s books include A Body for Glory: Theology of the Body in the Papal Collections, and How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, and she writes regularly for several journals, including Angelus and Magnificat. She is a Vatican analyst for NBC, and has appeared on the Today Show, Nightline and 60 Minutes and her TED Talk on the Sistine Chapel has garnered over 1.8 million views. Her latest book project, St Joseph in Art, will be published Fall 2021 by Sophia Institute Press.

advisory commitTee

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker has been Chicago-based professional actor for over 30 years and is a longtime member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA. He has appeared on stage at most of the major Chicago theaters including Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Shakespeare and on screen in a variety of locally shot film and television. A lifelong Roman Catholic and native of Sherman Oaks, California, Jeff has been a parishioner of St. Clement Church in Lincoln Park for over 25 years. Most recently, Jeff conducted a pilot preaching program for the Archdiocese of Chicago designed to help parish priests develop and hone their preaching and proclamation skills. Jeff and his wife, Lynn Baber, are the proud parents of two daughters, Grace and Constance. He has a B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Southern California.

J.R. Sullivan

J.R. Sullivan

J. R. Sullivan is a director and producer, having worked in theaters nationwide as well as heading companies as artistic director. From 2009-2013, Jim was the Artistic Director of New York’s Pearl Theatre, whose resident acting company was presented with a Drama Desk Award recognition in 2011. For the Pearl, Jim directed productions of Hard Times, Playboy of the Western World, Widowers’ Houses, Biography, Richard II, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Wittenberg. More recently, Jim directed an acclaimed Off- Broadway revival of Lillian Hellman’s Days To Come for the Mint Theatre Company. Sullivan’s Chicago work has included productions for Northlight Theatre, Remy Bumppo, American Theatre Company, A Red Orchid Theatre, Touchstone, Live Bait Theatre, Prop Theatre, Onyx Theatre, and The Shakespeare Project. His Chicago production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer played an extended run for Turnaround Theatre, then transferring to the Steppenwolf Theatre.

Mark A. Bartosic

Mark A. Bartosic

+Mark A. Bartosic is an auxiliary bishop of Chicago and Episcopal Vicar of Vicariate II. He has been Pastor of St. Frances of Rome, Our Lady of Charity and Assumption BVM Parishes in Chicago, as well as Director of Kolbe House, the Archdiocesan jail ministry. He received a BA in Theatre from Ashland University in Ohio, and before seminary, worked for a few years in the off-Loop theatre scene doing Shakespeare.

Peggy Garvey

Zach Martinez

Will you help us bring beauty to the world?

Your support of the Athenaeum Center helps us:

  • provide a home for other non-profits, artists, theater companies, and local organizations
  • host performances, events, and conversations that highlight the good, the true, and the beautiful
  • preserve and restore the historic legacy of our landmark building in Chicago

Get notified about upcoming performances and events