At the July 11 Evanston City Council meeting, it became evident that the Evanston Art Center (EAC) is in a position of losing both their facilities: 2603 Sheridan Road (the former Harley Clarke Mansion) and studio space at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Council members decided not to consider a Letter of Interest from The EAC, Piven Theater Workshop, Next Theater Company, and Actors Gymnasium to explore the idea of co-purchasing the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Instead, the Council Members authorized the City Manager to continue discussions with tenants on different models for future operation of the Noyes Street building and to explore options for the potential sale of the former Harley Clarke Mansion, EAC’s main facility for more than 40 years.
The EAC’s Board of Trustees did not take this turn of events lightly. They have developed a plan of action to permanently secure a home for the Art Center’s future, which will result in presenting new proposals to the Evanston City Council, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz for remaining at the 2603 Sheridan Road site and simultaneously continuing to pursue a possible collaborative purchase of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. An additional option of finding a suitable space in Downtown Evanston or a nearby community is also under discussion.
The EAC, a 501 (c)(3) organization, was founded in Evanston in 1929 and has enthusiastically carried out its mission to serve the community by making the visual arts an integral and accessible part of people’s lives. EAC has provided after-school arts programs in 12 District 65 schools, including ArtTech, which became part of the curriculum at Nichols Middle School. EAC has partnered with Family Focus, Youth Job Center, Senior residences, Evanston Township High School, Northwestern University, Citizens for a Greener Evanston, The Evanston Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Evanston on arts and internship programs over the years. EAC provides 70 need-based scholarships for art classes annually and supports other Evanston nonprofits with art class discount certificates. Evanston residents receive automatic class discounts.
EAC’s prestigious Art School offers more than 150 art classes annually in various disciplines, teaching over 2,000 students, from pre-schoolers to seniors. Art teachers can earn CPDU credit by taking Art Center classes. The Art Center employs over 60 professionally trained art teachers; many of them are Evanston residents. The exhibition program is nationally recognized. Artists’ talks, panel discussions, readings, performances, artist critiques, and social events all make the Art Center’s galleries an important destination for the visual arts, attracting individuals from many other communities to Evanston. The galleries are free and open to the public 7 days a week.
Over the years, EAC has dedicated considerable funds from its operating budget to upgrade and maintain the interior space of both facilities.
Since EAC’s establishment, community outreach has been at the core of its operations. The founding members believed the richness of a city should not be measured by economic success alone, but also by the vibrancy of its arts community. Without the presence of the EAC, the arts community in Evanston would lose a valuable partner and leader in the field of the visual arts.
The EAC board of directors, staff, faculty, students, and hundreds of other constituents ask the City of Evanston to reconsider its plans to possibly diminish the visual arts offerings in this community and to work along with the EAC to develop a more forward-thinking, comprehensive solution to the facility needs of the many arts organizations and artists who wish to continue to serve the Evanston community from an Evanston address.