Teaching artist Courtney Reed with two students from Darwin School. (Alyce Henson photo)

Art as education. Art as a value. And even art as therapy.

Those are the types of things the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal arts funding organization, wants to see in the winner of a grant.

Two such groups headquartered in Evanston have just been recognized in the latest round of NEA funding.

Art Encounter was given $25,000 to help expand ARTiculations, an in-school art and writing program.

While Art Encounter is entering its 45th year, this is the group’s first-ever NEA grant.

“This is big news for us!,” said Executive Director Lea Pinsky, in an email to Evanston Now.

The organization’s mission statement says Art Encounter’s purpose is “to educate, empower, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds through interactive encounters with art.”

Teaching artist Leslie Luning with Haugan School students at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo provided by Art Encounter.

While the current grant is for an Art Encounter program in the Chicago Public Schools, the Evanston-based organization also provides activities and learning opportunities throughout the region, including in the group’s home town of Evanston, where local artists are frequently involved.

Pinsky said Art Encounter has “brought arts programs locally to every school in Evanston/Skokie District 65 as well as ETHS District 202,” along with many senior citizens’ housing complexes.

Artist Brett Whitacre puts finishing touches on Art Encounter mural at Main and Custer in 2022.

Art Encounter also runs the Evanston Mural program, turning bland and uninteresting walls into colorful pieces of art.

The NEA category where Art Encounter received its grant awarded 1,251 such grants nationwide, for a total of $28.8 million.

The other Evanston organization to receive NEA funding, the Open Studio Project, was given a $10,000 grant in a different category called Challenge America, which specifically targets groups working with underserved communities.

According to an Open Studio Project release, “This grant will help support social emotional learning and visual arts programs with a focus on serving children and adults of Evanston’s 5th Ward.”

The grant will also provide minority high school students “the chance to assist in our summer camps.”

As with Art Encounter, this is the first NEA grant for Open Studio Project.

Open Studio was one of 262 grantees nationwide in the Challenge America category, which distributed $2.62 million.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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