The institute is the cultural office of the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago and one of the five government agencies established in the United States by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in addition to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington). It was founded in 1985 to promote and improve awareness of the Italian language and culture. Over the years, it has become an important centre of cultural and academic initiatives, a school of Italian language and culture, a space for art exhibitions and a venue for film screenings.
The Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago offers the following services to the public:
- Courses in Italian language and culture at the ItalCultura school, which is located in the Institute building
- two annual exam sessions for Certificates of Italian as a Foreign Language (CILS) of the University for Foreigners of Siena to certify proficiency in Italian as a foreign language
- a library open to the public for consultation and loan of Italian books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, journals and newspapers
- information and documentation on Italian culture.
For musical, art, theatrical, cinematographic events and for all major events, the Institute works in collaboration with local museums and cultural institutions, such as the Art Institute, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Chicago Opera Theater, the Cinema/Chicago, the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Chicago, the Facets, the Fermilab, the Field Museum, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Goodman Theater, the Loyola University Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Newberry Library, the Shakespeare Theater and the Smart Museum.
The main festivals in which the Institute usually actively participates include the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, the European Union Film Festival, the Chicago Neighbourhoods of the World, the Chicago International Puppet Festival, the Italian Film USA Festival, the International Voices Project and the Chicago World Music Festival.
In addition, the Institute, together with the ICE Office in Chicago and ItalCultura, the provider of Italian courses at the Institute, participates in the main conferences on foreign language teaching in the area of competence.