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A proposal under which the City would lend the Piven Theater Workshop about $2 million in construction costs, and Piven would in turn renovate and take over about 40 percent of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center under a long-term lease and minimal rent, was officially tabled Monday night, July 22, as efforts led by Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, to create a downtown theater space gathered steam. Piven’s reaction, however, sounded circumspect at best and reflected frustration at worst.
In a press release issued by Piven shortly before the meeting, Piven indicated it was looking elsewhere. In the press release Piven Executive Director Leslie Brown said, “The primary importance for us is to find Piven a dynamic, sustainable home in the immediate future. … We have worked on a plan to improve our facilities in Noyes for more than two years, and while Piven is open to discussing downtown Evanston as a possible home, it is one of several exciting options, both in and outside of Evanston, that have become available to us.”
Describing the process that led to the Piven proposal, the release quoted Joyce Piven, founder and artistic director emeritus of Piven: “The City of Evanston came to us, and we gave them what we thought was a very solid proposal for Noyes. We have significant internal resources to do the same anywhere and we will find the right space for our professional theater and training center.”
“There has been no shortage of discussion in our community about the arts,” said Ms. Brown. “We look forward to exploring the possibilities with Evanston, yet remain realistic in the process.”
Ald. Tendam, who a few days earlier said that a group of three theaters, including Piven, was working with the City to generate funding for a downtown theater, announced the decision to table discussion about the proposal for Noyes at Monday night’s Council meeting. “The City is the catalyst in this,” he said. “The process is driven by the theaters.” He remained optimistic, despite the equivocal tone of the Piven statements. The downtown theater proposal, he said, “speaks to the future. … It all equals something very special downtown.”
The process continues, and as of July 30, Piven was still participating in it. But it seems abundantly clear that they are running out of patience.
Meanwhile, Noyes and its tenants sit and wait.