Open Studio opens minds to the world of art, providing students with blank canvases and allowing ink, paint and creativity to flow freely.

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Summer is an ideal time to learn a new skill. School is out, days are longer and energy levels are high. Thanks to the rich culture and diversity of this unique City, Evanstonians young and old can take classes in just about anything, from jewelry-making to scuba diving.

This article is one in a summer-long series titled “Where to Learn …” This week the RoundTable focuses on where to learn how to paint.

Evanston Art Center
            2603 Sheridan Road

The Evanston Art Center (EAC) first began as a local arts group in 1929 and has now become one of the largest community art centers in Illinois. Housed in a three-story mansion on the scenic shore of Lake Michigan, the nationally recognized art center consists of an art school, exhibitions and an outreach program. 

The art school serves up to 3,000 students of all ages and abilities each year and offers everything from metal sculpting to Japanese brush painting. The school’s 80 faculty members are highly skilled, practicing artists expert at helping beginning and experienced artists work toward their artistic potentials in a relaxed and supportive environment.

Paula Danoff, director of development and communications, says EAC’s program is unique because it specializes in visual arts.

“We don’t incorporate performing arts, so we are able to offer a wide range of visual arts classes,” says Ms. Danoff.  “We are also a not-for-profit organization, enabling us to offer classes at competitive prices because we rely on donors.”

The extensive course catalogue offers hundreds of classes.  Some of the unique painting and drawing classes available this summer include “Art as Spiritual Practice” where explorations in painting and drawing mediums are emphasized to reflect personal spiritual paths and “Watercolors at Lurie Garden,” a rare opportunity for students to surround themselves with summer perennials and prairie grasses in Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden, open to EAC students with special permission. 

Dedicated to making the visual arts an integral part of Evanston’s diverse population, EAC awards nearly 80 need-based scholarships each year. 

Open Studio Project
            903 Sherman Ave.

The Open Studio Project (OSP) was started in 1991 by three Chicago area art therapists with the intention of teaching clients to use art-making for personal transformation. Over the years, OSP developed and refined a unique art-and-writing process in an art studio on the north side of Chicago.

In 1999, the original Chicago studio closed. In June 2000, the Evanston studio opened with a goal of greater outreach to underserved populations.

Celebrating its tenth year in Evanston, OSP offers classes and workshops for kids and adults interested in connecting with their own creativity through art in a welcoming environment, absolutely free of criticism.

In all workshops and classes, participants and facilitators work together as fellow artists from the very start, a vital component to their art process. 

“Open Studio Project facilitators work alongside participants in our studio, allowing everyone to create without criticism,” says Erin Mooney, program director. “We believe that anyone can make art and the best place to start art-making is wherever you are.”

This summer students can choose from several classes including one just for kids aged 8-13 called “Create & Skate,” in which students will paint and explore a other materials to design their own skateboard. Skateboard decks and art materials are provided.

Artists Seeds
            1042 Wesley Ave.

The small studio located in a quiet residential neighborhood in southwest Evanston between Greenleaf and Main opened this past September. Local artist and teacher Jill King opened the art studio with the intention of both offering classes and serving as a refuge for artists and individuals wanting to tap into their creative selves.

Ms. King’s approach to art is rooted in the notion that all people are creative beings. 

 “It is not always the end result that matters, but how much we grow through the process that counts,” she says.

Classes are designed to assist students in “sowing, growing and realizing” their artistic passions and visions. Students can, for example, draw and paint to music, journal in paint or sculpt in a variety of materials.

This summer, Ms. King is offering an outdoor drawing and painting workshop for adults and teens.  The four-week class will meet Wednesday mornings at two outdoor Evanston locations: The Merrick Rose Garden and Elliot Park at the lakefront. Students will have the opportunity to develop and enhance painting and drawing skills through learning color theory and experimenting with chosen mediums.

In September, Artists Seeds will move just around the corner to 1402 ½ Greenleaf, where Ms. King will share space with another Evanston artist and teacher, Gay Riseborough.

Art Encounter at Noyes Cultural Art Center
            927 Noyes St., Studio #109

For art enthusiasts who would rather admire and appreciate the artwork of others than paint a picture themselves, Art Encounter can help. This nonprofit visual arts education organization was founded in 1978 with the mission to bring an appreciation of art and the creative process to people of all ages and backgrounds. 

“Art Encounter” refers to the interactive discussion method developed by the  organization’s founders 30 years ago. Art Encounter’s trained teachers share this learning process through classes taught in their studio. The process is also taught in schools, residences for the elderly, community centers and more.

By interacting with the group rather than lecturing to it, program leaders foster a lively dialogue that helps everyone understand the work.

“By bringing original artwork to all of our programs rather than slides and prints, we make the experience more meaningful,” says Founder and Artistic Director Joanna Pinsky.

This summer, Art Encounter is offering a class for artists, teachers and the general public called “How to Talk about Contemporary Art”.  The class will help participants develop a deeper understanding of contemporary art.  Students will explore a wide range of media and ideas at the Art Institute of Chicago and selected Chicago art galleries.