Chicago Art Schools – holy cow! Who wouldn’t want to go to art school there?! Chicago has everything: galleries, studios, art centers, museums, fine architecture, not to mention about 3 million people all crowding into 222 square miles and, according to Wikipedia, the third busiest airport in the world. Also there’s Chicago’s lovely weather (they don’t call it the Windy City for nothing,) and an organized crime syndicate that a Sicilian Boss would envy. Who couldn’t be inspired and motivated by that?!In all seriousness, third-ranked after New York City and Los Angeles are Chicago art schools, too numerous to mention. It should be noted that Chicago is also home to Columbia College, not to be confused with Columbia University in New York City, (where no one seems to remember a student by the name of Barak Obama – but that’s a whole different topic.) Columbia College boasts an impressive art department however, and a degree from Columbia on your resume should make a good impression, especially with anyone who doesn’t know the difference. (Your best bet for that would be pretty much any part of the country except for the east coast.)With a prevalence of art schools comes a prevalence of art centers and museums. I was particularly drawn to investigate River East Art Center, because I thought it a very clever way of playing on the notorious East River reputation…you know, where all the bodies get dumped.As it turns out, though, REAC, as it is known, is primarily an event center with an impressive collection and focus on fine art; specifically, sophisticated fine art. I’m guessing the addition of “sophisticated” on their website includes some art that the average person on the street might not appreciate. In the art world this is called “sophisticated”, whereas on the street it is often referred to as “crap”. It’s a very important distinction. That being said, I liked what I saw and REAC still looks like a really cool (if not expensive) place for an event.Chicago ‘s Lillstreet Art Center is one of several art schools for the “everyman”. Children and adults have access to hands on art training at a fraction of art school prices. And frankly, the student art samples rival those of Chicago art schools. This only confirms to me that dedicated art students everywhere bring passion to their craft regardless of how much they’re paying.Deciding whether or not you need the piece of paper with the impressive embossed school stamp on it really comes down to where, how, and possibly if you plan on making a living from your art. For some, the freedom to work their craft without the confines of employer parameters can be truly liberating…that is until the rent comes due. A day job may or may not solve that problem. With a day job, you’ve got an employer limiting the time you can spend pursuing art.While a degree from almost any of the Chicago art schools will make you a standout in the profession, you might consider how much happier you’d be, in the end, not having to deal with a boss OR rent, and there’s only one way I know of to do that – live at Mom’s. And that’s probably not the best choice.