Over its 90-year history, the Evanston Art Center has proved good at adapting, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged EAC again to remain resilient and nimble in delivering services and programs.
Although it is not “business as usual” at 1717 Central St., the Art Center is again hosting its popular Winter Arts and Crafts Expo. From Nov. 20 through Dec. 20, 140 artisans creating works in ceramics, metal, glass, photography, jewelry, fiber, painting, and other genres will be lighting up the Art Center – and providing another easy and interesting option for Holiday shoppers.
“Keeping people safe is our first priority here in this time of COVID,” said Paula Danoff, CEO and President of the Evanston Art Center.
“When people come to our Winter Expo, we’ll have safety protocols in place, starting with separate entrance and exit doors, temperature-taking, hand-sanitizer stations, and required masks.”
In compliance with the state guidelines for occupancy during COVID, people will be admitted so as to not to exceed the exhibition space’s current safety limits.
“Our protocols also include visitors to Expo keeping possession of their coats, visitors being mindful of social distancing, and shoppers using our check-out procedures that include visitors wrapping their own purchases this year,” said Mrs. Danoff. EAC is currently opened seven days a week, and the website (evanstonartcenter.org) indicates daily hours of operation.
Adapting to the pandemic has meant, among many things, altering the physical environment where art instruction includes the use of specialized tools and materials.
“Between March 21, when Governor Pritzker announced the closing of all non-essential services in the state and when we re-opened in June, we had a lot to figure out,” said Mrs. Danoff.
“Before reopening, we installed important procedural signage reinforcing new safety protocols. We also reduced our class- and open-studio sizes by half, are requiring temperature temperature-taking before entry, and have made mask-wearing mandatory for students, staff, and visitors.”
EAC’s maintenance staff cleans bathrooms and other frequently touched building surfaces, and students are even required to use provided sanitary wipes to clean equipment and their personal workspaces at the end of class or open studio sessions.
Students are also encouraged to bring their own tools to reduce the risk of infection spread and to wash their hands upon arrival and before leaving the Center. She said, “Being an environment that is fundamentally hands-on, the Art Center has had to up its game. “
In dealing with challenges of the COVID 19 landscape, EAC has discovered an opportunity for sustainability and growth in online learning. Currently about 50% of EAC’s students are enrolled in remote classes.
“Some art forms that take very specialized equipment and work environments – such as woodworking and ceramics – aren’t as doable as remote options,” said Mrs. Danoff, “but we offer a wide variety of Painting and Drawing classes, as well as Collage, Mixed Media, Filmmaking, Floral Arrangement, Calligraphy, Film Appreciation and more.”
Online classes for youth, including Animation and Sketching and Journaling are offered and popular. People interested in the Art Center’s free monthly In Focus lecture series can register on the EAC website.
“From our necessary restructuring due to COVID, we’ve learned that there may always be a market for online art classes. We actually have some online students who are live in Europe and found our classes on the web.”
Despite changes, EAC is still serving more than 500 students, continues to offer need-based scholarships, hosts over fifteen exhibitions a year, and plans to remain one of the oldest operational art centers in Illinois.