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Council OKs study of Evanston’s arts needs and wants

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Evanston aldermen Monday night approved spending $25,000 on a study aimed at building consensus about what the community needs and wants from the arts.

The project is also receiving $5,000 in funding and some staff support from the Evanston Community Foundation.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the team working on the project, including the co-chairs of the Evanston Arts Council, will start this summer by researching similar efforts in other communities and conducting about a dozen interviews with key stakeholders.

Then this fall the group will hold five focus group sessions with artists, arts organizations, members of the arts audience, educators and various business groups.

Among other things, the group hopes to learn whether arts groups see being in Evanston as a plus for their activities, the role the arts play in the civic and economic life of the community and what community members would like to see offered as part of the city's arts and culture scene.

The results of the focus group meetings would be presented at two public meetings which would generate feedback to help prepare a final set of findings and recommendations by early next year.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, questionned the need for the study, saying he didn't see why the city needed to spend $25,000 "to have someone organize our people."

But Bobkiewicz said he believes it's an excellent investment for the city's future and that it's important to have the study's finding soon as the City Council moves ahead with plans for properties it owns that are now used for arts programs, including the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and the Hadley Clarke mansion.

The new study is designed to look at the arts across the entire city, while an earlier project, focused on the potential to create a performing arts district downtown, funded by a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant, is nearing completion.

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