As Arts Week Evanston 2008 neared its close, the Evanston Arts Council hosted a legislative breakfast Oct. 16, at Boocoo, 1823 Church St., to discuss art in the Evanston community. Kathy Best, president of the Evanston Arts Council, discussed the Council’s active role in the Evanston community.

Ms. Best said the Community Public Arts Program initiates and funds community groups that “would like to have arts in their neighborhood.” She described “The Neried Beckson,” on the grounds of the Evanston Art Center, and the new mural in the Willard School cafeteria as examples of the program.

Mayor Lorraine Morton praised the efforts of the Evanston Arts Council, saying, “It is because of the leadership of the Arts Council that Evanston is an arts city. … I don’t think there is any place as artsy as Evanston.”

State Representative Beth Coulson said she was “excited to be able to support the arts in the State of Illinois.” However, she added, “This is a tough year to try and raise money, but that’s why groups have to get creative in their fundraising.”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky also acknowledged the economic troubles, while emphasizing the importance of the arts. “The arts are front and center – not some sort of side appendage that is expendable.”

State Senator Jeff Schoenberg emphasized the importance of the arts, specifically in education, saying that exposure to the arts increases the capacity of children to learn. Despite the economic downturn, Mr. Schoenberg said it is important to keep the arts alive in the community. “We have to be able to use every tool in the tool kit to embrace the arts,” he said.

State Representative Julie Hamos delivered what she called her “tough-love message,” telling the group the economic downturn means Evanston is facing “a rough couple of years.” She said that Illinois and Evanston legislators recognized the importance of the arts, but that hard economic times are making it impossible for them to give the funding they would like to local arts programs.

Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin acknowledged the economic problems, but appeared to take a more optimistic view of how the arts will fare in the face of a slow economy, saying, “In difficult times, it is the arts that carry us through. … The arts have made this a better community, and the arts will get us through this economic crisis.”

As the breakfast came to an end, Mayor Morton spoke of Evanston’s need for its own performing arts center and proposed a place for the center – Evanston Plaza, at the corner of Dodge Avenue and Dempster Street. It would be, Mayor Morton said, “the best place in the world to build a performing arts center.”