The Evanston Arts Council, in a series of three consecutive Zoom meetings on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 13, made some budgetary decisions affecting two beloved Evanston landmarks, the Harley Clarke mansion and the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

A grant of $1,000 was awarded to Artists Book House, which in May 2021 won the lease for the abandoned Harley Clarke mansion at 2603 Sheridan Road. The building, which was the longtime home of the Evanston Arts Center, is owned by the City of Evanston.

Ken Gerleve presented the Artists Book House group’s ultimately successful request for the grant to support events related to its monthlong October art installation, “A House Haunted.”

Writers and artists will work collaboratively – writers will write scary short stories that artists will then interpret with art installations in the mansion. The grant will help to cover the costs of the community workshops on storytelling, story writing and art-making.

The Harley Clarke Mansion is seen decorated for Halloween in 2021. Credit: Artists Book House

There will be a workshop in “Writing What Scares You” and one for mask making for children, who will create their own masks from handmade paper. The workshops are planned at the Evanston Public Library at the same time as tours of the Harley Clarke mansion are given on Saturdays and Sundays in October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For weekday tours, registration is free. Information will be posted on the group’s website, www.artistsbookhouse.org.

The group hopes the programming will make more Evanstonians aware of its plans for the beautiful, empty mansion and that, perhaps, a benefactor – one or more – will appear with a million dollars to donate to the cause of restoring the magnificent building. The group still needs $9.5 million and has only five years to raise it.

Noyes Center sculpture

The second, larger budgetary decision at the Arts Council on Tuesday night was to raise the budget for the Noyes sculpture, a project that has seen several iterations over the five years it has been under discussion.

 The city’s Public Art Committee and the Arts Council had decided to proceed with a sculpture project on the south lawn of the Noyes Center, which has a typical city sign but no visual, artistic indicator that it is an art center. The sculpture was intended to signify such, but neither committee nor council had considered possible input from the artist tenants at Noyes.

The tenants, angry at being overlooked, have requested involvement and the council felt their request justified. As a result, the contract holder for the commission, Chicago Public Art Group, must now provide two community meetings and a possible redesign of the sculpture.

A view of the south facade of Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., at the intersection with Maple Avenue. The projected sculpture site would be at the east end of the facade, on the right. Credit: Gay Riseborough

The budget for the Noyes work has consequently increased from $10,000 from the original donor, to $24,000 with the addition of money from Public Art, to $29,700 due to the increased cost of plexiglass required, to $37,200 for tenant consultation meetings with the artists and the inclusion of new design fees. And thus, costs grow.

The meetings will be conducted soon and the sculpture is slated to be installed next spring.

Calling for new committee members

New Arts Council officers will be elected at next month’s meeting, the Chair and Vice-Chair. Two committee spots have opened up as well, as two members are not standing for a second term. (Terms are three years, with six years of service as the limit.)

This writer can speak to the satisfaction of serving on a civic committee. Any readers who are interested in serving can apply to the Mayor’s office: dbiss@cityofevanston.org.

Gay Riseborough

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.

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