Evanston has been awarded a $50,000 federal grant to plan for development of a performing arts center in the city.

The Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts is one of 51 awarded nationwide and the only in Illinois.

The NEA describes the Our Town program as its latest investment in “creative placemaking,” in which public and private sector groups come together to strategically shape the social, physical, and economic character of an area around arts and cultural activities.

In a statement, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said the project is designed to build capacity for existing arts organizations and “continue the transformation of downtown Evanston into a vibrant, 24-7 urban environment.”

She said the performing arts center would offer flexible spaces that would let multiple arts groups thrive in the heart of the city.

The mayor said Evanston has long been home to cultural arts organizations that have put down roots in our community, train artists and are a vital part of the local economy.

But as some groups have grown, they’ve outgrown their performance speces, forcing them to relocate outside of Evanston.

The new grant is designed to build on a recent city-funded study of the possibility of transforming the former Varsity Theater downtown into a performing arts center.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said the grant brings the vision of a performance arts complex in the heart of Evanston a step closer to reality.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. arts in Evanston

    Let's take the grant and look at building a new facility while ignoring what we have at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center that houses 4 long-standing and successful theaters: Piven, Next, Actors Gymnasium and Zarko.

    And while we're showing such support for the arts, let's close the Art Center so that we can sell it to someone to convert to a B & B. And let's hire an architect to look at the coachhouse to renovate it for a small fortune so we can rent it for $3000 a month. Oh, hey, no, we already did that.

    Makes a whole lot of sense to me, all of this.


  2. New Leadership in this Town Desperately Needed

    Didn't I just read that a private investor is looking to build a theater in the Tom Thumb building? 

    Why doesn't the city use that grant money to fund the programs that we ALREADY have and can not fund with the Noyes Street Art Center!     

    What happened to the $100,000 feasibility study already put into the Varsity Theater?  How much money is needed to study whether or not a place can make money?  Why not just give that Tom Thumb developer all his permits and see if he can take the risk himself?

    1. More studies is what public officials and staff favor!

      Common sense is not a word you hear much at city council.  You are very correct about why are we spending more money on useless studies. 

      What is troubling council and the public is not given access to the studies, in a easy manner, then staff quotes the studies as if they are fact and has at times misuse the studies for their political purposes.

      Robert Crown the city is now spending $50,000. on two studies a Marketing study and soil study – both of questionable value.  Weren't we citizens told the new Robert Crown would be of no cost to tax payers?

      I recently asked someone on staff, the numbers don't add up that is the revenue stream to the cost of building the facility don't make sense,  I was told we never said the city would not have to help pay for the new facility. ( interesting)

      Also what was more interesting at the last council – they were saying we are building a new Robert Crown.  Very interesting with no one to build it? and no numbers for cost?

      Also another new piece of nonsense, the city medical clinic grant – the Mayor is pushing- they claim they may need to use the civic center for a temporary clinic, what a joke – the old clinic space is a total dump. and has serious code problems not to mention the fact there is health problem due to the mold in the basement.

      They have been claiming in public this grant is no cost to the taxpayers – here again when I asked a staff member they stated they had some Civic Center funds to take care of this!

      We have some very serious issues with the budget and Mayor and council appear to be in la la land adding more problems on top of the mess were are in,

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.