This spring, patrons of cafes such as J. J. Java and Boocoo may be lucky enough to enjoy a little lagniappe – a bonus – of live music, visual artwork or even an improv sketch along with their food and drink.
Thanks for the extra gift belongs to a small group of Evanston Township High School students who founded an organization called the Alliance for Youth Artists.
Matias Añon, Reed Collins, Josh Lustig, Maddie Sommer, Nathan Stern and Olivia Wind came together last year as ETHS sophomores in Emerge, a leadership program conceived and run by Northwestern University students.
The 40 Emerge participants, divided into groups, were charged with applying leadership skills to community projects. The group of six identified their mission, Josh Lustig says: to incorporate ETHS artists into the Evanston community.
They hoped to stage an Evanston art festival modeled on the venerable YEA (Young Evanston Artists), but showcasing high school rather than elementary and middle school talent.
Funding the festival proved too difficult, Josh says. But the teens had gained valuable experience and made invaluable contacts. So instead of giving up, they changed their name and focus: They plan to function as a clearinghouse, matching teen artists with available venues.
They obtained the consent of Farns-worth and Hill Management to revive the Art Under Glass program. Soon ETHS student art will appear in the windows of vacant downtown buildings. They hope to stage a musical event at J. J. Java this month and to organize an improv and music program in late spring. They have talked with the City about exhibiting art in empty conference rooms.
Meanwhile, the group is in the process of applying for non-profit 501(c)(3) status and has a long-term vision. They “created the entity [the Alliance] so these opportunities will continue after we’re gone,” says Josh.