YEA! 2016RoundTable photo

YEA! (Young Evanston Artists) Festival will return this year under new leadership, once again transforming Raymond Park at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street into a community wonderland celebrating youth art and creativity. The festival, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 19, is free to the public.

After 30 years, YEA! founder Harvey Pranian has handed over the reins of the festival to a new board of directors led by local artist Hope Washinushi. Ms. Washinushi, a 25-year Evanston resident, is an artist and owner of Yasuko Design, which specializes in mural and mosaic work. Other board members include Lisa Degliantoni, Evan Finamore, Beth Goldberg, Sarah Laing, Geeta Maker-Clark, Alex Schulteis, Nan Stein and Baxter Swilley.

YEA! Festival, celebrating its 31st anniversary this year, typically draws more than 5,000 guests and features the work of more than 1,000 students from 50+ schools and teachers. All public, private and parochial schools, preschool through high school, are invited to exhibit students’ artwork in this inclusive, non-competitive art event. YEA! has grown over the years to provide a unique community experience offering live student performances, an exhibition of student work and hands-on creative workshops.

This year, attendance is expected to exceed 5,000, since WBEZ radio is sponsoring the 2018 festival and will run festival announcements and provide exposure beyond Evanston and the North Shore.

The crowd will enjoy student performance groups led by ETHS teacher Mary Theresa Reed, free art-making activities led by local art professionals and institutions, food truck offerings and a picnic-in-the-park atmosphere to create a destination for families to spend a fun and creative afternoon.

A local resident and business owner Mr. Pranian founded YEA! in 1987 out of a desire to show his appreciation for his community. He recruited his fellow business owners to join him in sponsoring an event that would give local kids the opportunity to show their art. The positive response of School District 65 art teachers was all he needed to fuel his determination to bring a Young Evanston Artists’ festival to life.