The Evanston Art Center plans to ask city officials to remain in the Harley Clarke mansion through next May, to be able to complete class sessions there before moving to new quarters on Central Street.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Art Center Executive Director Norah Diedrich said the center hopes to begin interior demolition work at the new building at 1717 Central St. within the next few days and have renovations completed by late Spring.

She said that since the group’s revenue is largely derived from fees for classes, it needs to be able to continue to offer classes this winter and spring at the mansion until its new space is ready.

Two Evanston aldermen at the event, Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and Jane Grover, 7th Ward, didn’t directly address the center’s request to stay over beyond its current January deadline for vacating the mansion, but they praised the center’s planned move to Central Street, saying the center would bring new life to that part of the neighborhood.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has said he’ll provide an update to aldermen next month on plans for the mansion — which most recently have included negotiations with the state about using it as a headquarters for the Coastal Management Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The center closed on the purchase of the Central Street building earlier this month, with $500,000 from its fundraising campaign and a $1.5 million mortgage loan from First Bank & Trust of Evanston.

Paula Danoff, with a diagram showing remodeling plans for the new building.

The art center’s director of development, Paula Danoff, said the group has raised $1.8 million toward its $2.5 million “See the Bigger Picture” fundraising goal — including a $750,000 anonymous gift and a $500,000 donation from Col. Jennifer Pritzker.

A rendering of gallery space planned in the new art center location.

Diedrich said the center has plans to greatly expand its programming in the new 20,000-square-foot space, including offering cooking classes in a new kitchen that, with movable walls, can be converted from a classroom to a catering kitchen for sit-down dinners for up to 120 people.

The new location will have three studios for youth art classes, a printmaking studio with adjoining darkroom, a new media and digital photography lab, as well as painting, sculpture, ceramics and jewelry studios, in addition to gallery space and a small cafe.

More information about the fund drive is available online.  

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. The answer is…

    The Evanston Art Center appears to do good work for some segment of the community. That’s great for them. But the taxpayers at large have subsidized this entity (with free rent and not insisting on required maintenance/upkeep) for far too many years.

    The entity has lots of money in its pocket and will be building what appears to be a very nice space. That new space will allow them to cater events and offer even more classes.

    “See the Bigger Picture”? Let’s do. The Evanston Art Center can stay if the City is paid at least $250,000 to pay for some of maintenance/upkeep that the art center failed to provide as required under the lease. That payment must be made in full 30 days before the current move-out date.

    Otherwise, the answer needs to be no.

  2. No, unless

    We shoud just say NO to the arts center unless the city can find a reliable buyer or renter of the mansion and are willing to pay a reasonable rent of 5 – 10 thousand per extra month trough 05-31-2015. This would more than fair,considering that the arts center has been an unreliabe renter for many years by failing to maintan the mansion over all those years.

    When I say reliable buyer or renter, I do not mean the IDNR or any other government organization. Illinois does not have the money, dos not need the space, and has pleanty of space for the IDNR in their own buidings in Chicago. Providing space to the state of Illinois would be paid for by the taxpayers.

    Go beg Pritzker to reinstate his original offer which will provide Evanston with $ 500,000 plus dollars per year into the future and increased access to th beach and lighthouse. 


  3. Say yes, and that will be $25,000 for another five months.

    Let me get this straight. The Arts Center for decades paid $1 a year lease in the lakefront Harley Clarke Mansion and was able to obtain millions to purchase another building and it wants to extend the lease another 6 months? And all that time in the mansion the Arts Center never made building repairs.

    6th Ward Alderman Mark Tendam was the lone vote last February against terminating the Arts Center contract.

    I find it interesting that Col Pritzker recently gave the Arts Center a half mil all the while she had her eyes to purchase the mansion. Pritzker could have given or loaned the Arts Center the $5 million needed to make the building repairs so that the Arts Center could stay in the mansion and still have billions left in her bank account.

    I say yes, let the Arts Center stay another five months but agree to a contract that would charge the Arts Center a market rate, say $25,000 for starters.

  4. Art Center

    Art Center Executive Director Norah Diedrich said (see above):

    "She said that since the group's revenue is largely derived from fees for classes, it needs to be able to continue to offer classes this winter and spring at the mansion until its new space is ready."

    Shouldn't the Class Schedule  already be available?  Is this the real reason fo wanting delay?

    Haven't they delayed this move out a couple times before?  I think its time they QUIT taking advantage of Taxpayers and MOVE OUT..

  5. Really is Amazing
    This is just amazing, EAC asking for another 6 months.

    I do hope the City vehimantly says NO to this request.

    My question is this for EAC – where was the forward planning and thinking to solve this issue of classes and revenues when you were coordinating your purchase move?

    EAC has blatently and I am sure gladly taken advantage of the City and the taxpayers paying $1 in rent each month is one thing.

    But to let the mansion fall into such disrepair, make NO effort to address these needs months / years ago (still paying $1 in rent) and make no concessions to underwrite these repairs today… a group that is flush with cash for their new building.

    I have lost a lot of respect for the EAC. This is not a very genuine organization and I do hope they do not think they can “hide” behind the monicker of Non Profit or Arts… passionate causes here in Evanston upheld by ethical organizations… EAC not being one of them.

    1. Grace period

      All new and renewed rental and loans/financing agreements should have an iron-clad clause that payments can be no more than one month in arrears [and that paid the next month] and that only once a year or the business will be foreclosed and payment due immediately. Organizations must have a bond that the Boards will be PERSONALLY responsible for any late payments and debt not recoverable from sale of the business/property.

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