City needs thoughtful arts planning

Viewpoint

Aldermen Tendam, Wilson and Fiske are to be praised for standing up and thinking outside the box on the Noyes/Piven plan.
The city has unfairly pitted its artistic children against each other for over two years -- and, worse, taken one's side, giving its time generously to forge an affordable deal for Piven but no time -- literally -- to the self-sustainability model proposed by the tenants' association.
The Piven model loses the city enormous amounts of money; but the tenants' plan makes the Noyes Center, currently a profitable City building, even more profitable.
The city, which said it lacked funds for Noyes' repairs and maintenance, has thankfully found means to cover many immediate needs. But officials still are advocating a Piven "solution" that ensures the building will never cover its costs again.

The idea of a shared downtown space makes great long-term sense: build a theater that many groups can share, as opposed to Piven managing and earning rent on a City-subsidized space.
Unfortunately two weeks may not be enough for Arts planning that should have been part of a more open and thoughtful process two years ago. (Why exactly was Piven's proposed 200-seat, $3 million theater plan isolated from the NEA or EvanstArts studies?)

If the current planning fails we need to be clear: Aldermen must vote against the proposed Piven plan. We are on the brink of losing the Harley Clarke mansion; we have violence and deaths that might be lessened with further community or police resources -- basically, we have many, many more pressing issues than giving a $26 million long-term subsidy to Piven, which must be required like other Evanston arts groups to be significantly self-sufficient.

The arts make us a better society and I applaud the city's investments in the arts. But it is thoughtful planning, not one-off projects, that will ultimately build us great things.

Speak to the Aldermen: Say no to the Piven plan.
Julie Phelan is an Evanston resident who lives near the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

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