Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct the spelling of Joyy Norris’ name.

There will be a new 38-foot mural at 1723 Simpson St. in Evanston late this fall. Deborah Morganfield, executive director of Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois (MOW), appeared at the March 21 Evanston Arts Council Zoom meeting to follow up on her application for a special project grant of up to $1,000 to help with a mural. Her application was approved unanimously.

A mural is planned to adorn the currently black wall of the Meals on Wheels building, 1723 Simpson St. Credit: Gay Riseborough

The program is in Evanston’s 5th Ward. Food preparation is done onsite. The organization has grown rapidly, with 5,032 meals delivered last February and 17,517 this February. Morganfield attributes their rapid growth to a number of factors, including quick and outstanding response to a fire in a similar facility on Chicago’s South Side, an aging population and a new Meals on Wheels café in Niles.

The mission of the organization is stated on their website: ”Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois fosters health and contributes to the individual well-being and independence by delivering nutritious meals and medically prescribed diets and by providing other supportive services to the home-bound, elderly, disabled and persons temporarily unable to care for their nutritional needs.”

In the new mural, Meals on Wheels hopes to feature portraits of their founding members, among them Hecky Powell, Delores Holmes, Sister Mary Alfreda Bracht from St. Frances Hospital and Lillian Fitzimmons. It is anticipated the mural will cost $12,000, the balance to come from a MOW capital campaign to begin soon.

Morganfield said they are eager for their neighbors to have input on the mural. Given the organization’s inexperience with mural projects, however, a member of the Arts Council was suggested as facilitator, to help with the Call for Artists, neighborhood input, wall prep and how to best involve neighborhood volunteers. Alfonso “Piloto” Ruiz offered to perform that role.

Also at the meeting, James Deeb, chair of the Public Art Working Group announced the final choice of location for the 3D Noyes public art project. It will be on the southeast corner of the property, visible from the street and from the development that sponsored it in the first place.

Deeb also announced that, contrary to rumor, there would be a public art budget for the coming year. The budget will be $30,000 although, in past years, it has been double that or more. It was his opinion that the rumor was due to clerical oversight at the city.

Over the next few months, Deeb will chair a thorough examination of who is responsible for what in terms of public art. For example, who is responsible for maintaining the city-commissioned murals? Who is responsible for the city-owned sculptures in the parks? Who is responsible for the valuable WPA artwork in the junior high schools?

Interviewed after the meeting, Deeb said, “There appears to be no standard operating procedure. And the public art working group is best positioned to develop one.”

It also was announced that a new cultural arts coordinator has been hired by the city. Joyy Norris starts work April 3 and officials said the public will learn more about her after that date. Her position is part-time, although Arts Council officers said they are planning to do their best to convince the city that such a position should be full-time.

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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