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Grace Lai Collection

Identifier: nnhc-glc

Scope and Contents

The Grace Lai Collection consists of postcards with black-and-white reproductions of Grace Lai's work, cards and notecards with color reproductions, color photographs of her drawing of the CTA station and surrounding Asian American community at Argyle and Broadway, a signed color photograph of the cover of Dodge Construction News with an article her, and several copies of the article.


  • 1989 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Grace Lai (1927-2010) was an artist who was known for her watercolor sketches of Chicago's construction sites and the changing skyline. In 1985 she began her "on-site" series of watercolor sketches, which document "the fluid lines of construction crews at work and the changing angles of the cityscape." Her first drawing was of employees of the Turner Construction Company, builders of the high-rise at 190 S. LaSalle. She began the sketch in the early mornings while waiting for her classes at the American Academy of Art to start. The construction crew soon noticed her and invited her to join the crew. She later graduated from the Academy and drew other construction projects at 550 N. State, 35 W. Wacker, 400 E. Ohio, and 400 E. Ontario, among others. She also captured fine details in the changing Chicago skyline from various perspectives. She exhibited her work at the office of Chicago's building commissioner and at the Chicagoland Construction Safety Council.

Grace Lai was the daughter of Chinese immigrants and graduated from Schurz High School in Chicago. Before enrolling at the American Academy of Art she worked with her husband, Henry Lai, in their commercial art studio and served as the Sunday School Superintendent at Chinese Christian Union Church in Chinatown. She closed the studio she had run with her husband after his death in 1985 and began her work as an artist. She died in Chicago on March 16, 2010.

Source: Shelley Hawes-Biejcki, "Chicago's 'Amazing Grace' Chronicles City Construction Projects on Canvas," Dodge Construction News, October 25, 1993.


.25 Linear Feet (in 1 box)

Language of Materials



Grace Lai (1927-2010) was an artist known for her watercolor sketches of Chicago's construction sites and changing skyline. The collection consists of reproductions and photographs of her work and an article about her.


This collection is arranged in 4 series:

Series 1: Postcards, 1990-1993

Series 2: Notecards, 1989-1994

Series 3: Cards, 1989-1994

Series 4: Photographs and article, 1991-1993

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Grace Lai, Robert Krueger, and Marion Krueger.

Related Materials

Oral history interview with son Ed Lai about Grace Lai in Asian American Art Oral History Project, DePaul University Archives.

Grace Lai Papers at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago.



Guide to the Grace Lai Collection
Original author unknown. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Allyson Smally, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northside Neighborhood History Collection Repository

Sulzer Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
4455 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago IL 60625 United States
(312) 742-4455