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


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


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


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?


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, 2 Smaller Studio Theatres
  • Total Size: 66,000 sqft
  • Total seating: 1,220



Executive Director / Founder

Associate Director

BOard of Directors

James N. Perry Jr.​

Anthony Pienta

Lawrence Daufenbach

William O’Hara

advisory board

advisory commitTee

Jeff Parker
J.R. Sullivan
Peggy Garvey
Tom Donnelly
Zach Martinez
Gabriel Torretta, OP
Michael Rogalski
Katelyn Slater
Abby Slater

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

Do you want to be the first to know about our upcoming performances and events?