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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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Unreal

    Absolutely a huge waste of money. 

    The arts have thrived in Evanston for decades, and it is an arts rich community today.

    Why on earth do we need a study?

    Focus should be directed towards our city's economic and budget shortfalls.  Not on the arts.

  2. Here We Go Again

    Wally, if you keep spending the taxpayer's money on your special interest projects, Evanston may not have much of a future. We know that you came here from Santa Paula, California. We all know how fiscally sound California is. Maybe you can make Evanston into a microcosm of California. 

  3. Hiatus for arts

    The city has spent so much on the arts and junk sculputres over the years—now we need a hiatus.

    Until the city can gets its finances—including all the funding [gifts] of businesses with no need of in the city—penson problems, overstaffed government, we should stop all public funding of arts. 

    If and when the city gets back on a responsible financial condtion, maybe we can again funds some arts—but on a reformed basis where it is not junk and not the items that only a few of the pseudo-art connoisseurs who have no objections to tax payers paying for their interests.

  4. Money well spent

    I am not a fan of excessive studies – but will accede to the value of planned knowledge. Simply viewing this expenditure as just that is an excellent example of looking throught the wrong end of the telescope.

    The arts are NOT thriving in Evanston. Two little theaters tucked away in a corner of residential Evanston and a few fine artists scattered here and there is not thriving.

    Theater, galleries and the arts in general may not be huge drivers of economic development – however they are often the impetus for services that expand around them.

    We desperately need more live theater in the heart of Evanston, more galleries, more music spaces. Not only will they draw visitors who will pour money into the economy here by eating and drinking in our town, they will enhance the quality of our lives by adding artistic diversity to what used to be a community of individuals.

    Evanston is rapidly losing it's distinctiveness, its uniqueness by continuing to add chain stores. Mass products for a mass market who have no loyalty to location. Chilis in Evanston is the same as Chilis in Galveston. As convenient as an 18 screen moviplex is – it is no different from any other movieplex. Few people travel any distance to go to a chain store.

    However – create unique experiences, from retail to the arts, and people will travel there because it is unique. We are losing so many of the elements that made Evanston travel worthy – Bookmans Alley, Mindscape, Offishl Sports, Travel in the Main, Northlight Theater…..

    The arts is an excellent place to build an unique local distinction for Evanston. Build support, build consensus, build focus for the arts that draws people to us to enjoy the arts.

    Money well spent this time – but only if it delivers results and becomes what it should be – a study that creates a roadmap AND timetable to action.

    1. Have they never heard of NU?

      I find it funny [really sad] that all these people complain about the lack of arts in Evanston and that we have to support more and more groups, theater, etc.–who really only serve a very small number of pseudo-art patrons.

      Have they never heard of NU? It is rated very high for a number of arts programs [they place far too much emphasis on these in fact instead of education] and constantly has performances.  Do these people ever attend? 

      Get over the North Shore snobbery.  We are in a financial hole and the last thing we need is more money drained off.

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