Waukegan’s lakefront, marina and beaches are undeniably a major draw for residents; but the city is not just fun in the sun. The community has built a thriving art scene as well.
The city located along Lake Michigan midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, once a center of shipping and manufacturing, has reinvented itself in the post-industrial age.
A massive lakefront revitalization project included an Arts and Theater District and re-opening of the long-shuttered historic Genesee Performing Arts Theatre. The movie palace was built in 1927, sparing no expense in the hopes of drawing Chicagoans to the community. Despite its opulence and grandeur, competition from multiplex cinemas eventually led to its demise, forcing its closing in 1989. A decade later sale, the city purchased the building and investing $23 million to return it to its former grandeur, re-opening in 2004.
Artspace transformed the historic Karcher Hotel, which also had fallen on hard times and long stood vacant, into a mixed-use arts facility. The facility includes space for artists and their families, arts and nonprofit organizations, as well as retail and gallery space.
The city celebrates with a monthly “ArtWauk” which includes paintings, sculptures, dining, comedy and music. The community also celebrates the holidays with its annual “Holiday Wauk” event.
Waukegan has an airport in addition to its marina and industrial port. Waukegan’s Metra station offers commuters convenient service to downtown Chicago via Metra’s Union Pacific/North Line.