The Mies van der Rohe-designed McCormick House wasn’t meant to be one of a kind. The mid-century Chicago architect designed it in 1952 as a model for prefab housing for the suburbs.
That never happened, but Robert Hall McCormick III, part of the dynastic Chicago family, and his wife, poet Isabella Gardner, lived in the Elmhurst house until 1959. Another family moved in after the McCormicks.
The house is now part of the Elmhurst Art Museum, and Chicago-based artist Claudia Weber is the latest occupant. Weber is living in one wing for two months, researching the house and creating rotating exhibitions in the space.
Weber is staying in what was considered the children’s wing of the house until April. In the parents’ wing, Israeli-born artist Assaf Evron created collages that capture landscapes from Germany and the Middle East.
The German-born Weber said the idea for the “live” exhibition is to blend the public with the private.
“I live in a museum so I put life on display. At the same time, I’m proposing this as a concept,” Weber said. “The concept is constantly interrupted and challenged by daily chores and encounters and surprise visits.”
Weber said the project was born when she saw other exhibitions at the McCormick House and overheard people ask questions about it. She said there was no one on hand to answer those questions.
Weber’s said the goal of the exhibition is provide some of those answers: “I thought if I live here and exhibit here and work here … it’s interesting for me as an artist, but it also helps to communicate the history of the house, talk about the residence.”
Besides sitting and talking with Weber, who offers brewed coffee on the dining room table, visitors can sort through oversized cards that tell the history of the house and its original residents.
Weber said the exterior of McCormick House, like many Mies van der Rohe designs, “looks kind of simple and minimal from the outside” but there are many elements to the design and its architect.
Weber’s and Evron’s exhibitions run until April 14.
Carrie Shepherd is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @cshepherd.