City officials, working with the Evanston Community Foundation, are trying to build a “roadmap for the arts” in the city.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz Monday night said that, among other things, the project is designed to:

  • Agree on an “arts vision” for the city and recommend programs, policy and infrastructure.
  • Settle space and facilities issues for arts groups in city-owned buildings.
  • Examine possibilities for an arts district downtown.
  • Recommend ways to increase the economic impact of the arts.
  • Identify components of a supportive climate for Evanston arts businesses.

He said the next steps in the process are to reach out to artists and arts organizations and to local residents.

He said wants to learn from the artists whether they think Evanston has a vibrant arts community now, and if not, what needs to change to make it vibrant. He’s also seeking to learn what artists see as the value of working in Evanston and how artists and arts groups can give back to the community.

The study seeks to learn from residents what role they see the arts playing in the civic and economic life of Evanston today and in the future.

The community foundation’s last major involvement in the arts area, Bobkiewicz said, came in a 2006 report that saw Evanston as having the potential to be “an extraordinary arts community.”

But the study concluded that there was an underappreciation of the economic impact of the arts on the city. It estimated that 25 arts organizations generated an average of $1 million each in economic impact in Evanston.

Top: City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. Above: Arts Council Co-Chair Heidi Bloom.

Heidi Bloom, the new co-chair of the Evanston Arts Council, said members of the mayoral-appointed panel are very excited to be working on the project with the community foundation and helping to organize some of the listening sessions to develop community input.

Bobkiewicz said plans for the city-owned Noyes Cultural Arts Center are moving forward, with another meeting set for June 1 with the tenants to review plans for the Piven Theatre to take a long-term lease on about a third of the building and construct a new black-box theater space inside.

He said that by moving the cultural arts staff back to city hall, the city should be able to find space at Noyes for all the existing artist tenants while moving ahead with the Piven expansion project.

He said the city has issued a request for information from potential buyers of the Harley Clarke mansion on the lakefront. He said the mansion’s current occupant, the Evanston Arts Center, has identified at least one facility in town that it believes will meet its needs.

“This is a partnership move,” Bobkiewicz said, “We’re working closely with EAC so they’re not dislocated.”

The plan to relocate Chicago’s CityLit Theater to Howard Street is moving forward, Bobkiewicz said, and he promised an update on that for the June 11 City Council meeting.

The city manager said most arts groups in town have been “so busy doing their own work that they don’t spend a lot of time collaborating with each other.”

To try to address that, he said he’s set up a lunch club at which arts group leaders can get together and talk in an informal way.

In two meetings so far, he said, they’ve discussed their needs and the potential for joint marketing and promotion efforts.

Several aldermen said they supported the efforts, and some, including Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the effort might require expanding the city’s arts staff.

She suggested, “Where we are on arts staffing is where we were three-and-a-half years ago with economic development. We didn’t have the capacity to do the job, because there just weren’t enough people.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. ‘Arts’ Revenue vs. Income

    "But the study concluded that there was an underappreciation of the economic impact of the arts on the city. It estimated that 25 arts organizations generated an average of $1 million each in economic impact in Evanston."


    Is this documented ?  Net income or just gross revenue ?   Given the wild economic benefits Chicago projected for NATO conference vrs what experts said would be the much smaller even in gross revenue let alone net income, these 'glowing' stats. must be examined.

    The few in Evanston who keep wanting to multiply all the arts projects keeps talking about how more is needed but neglecting what is already available at NU—-once again ignoring the obvious and thumb their nose at NU.

  2. Community arts vision for the City of Evanston

    Evanston is a strong arts community with more arts-related organizations, arts activities, and artists than possibly any city of its size in the United States.

    As Project Director of Young Evanston Artists (YEA!) for 25 years, we have experienced  first hand how important the arts are (in all its forms, shapes and colors) for the Evanston community.. Our Steering Committee and Board of Directors would be very interested in being involved in the vision expressed above. We believe that the arts should be a major component of the fabiric of a community and of its public and private educational systems.

    Please count us in as this vision moves forward.

    Harvey Pranian

    Young Evanston Artists: Project Director

  3. Of the making of arts groups there is no end

    We seem to have a new arts group or plea for creating one every week. Then there are those who think they know art and want to use taxpayer money to put up new sculptures all over the place.

    Have they heard of Northwestern?  Maybe they should start attending NU performances [I'm sure they could use the revenue] and at least collaborate with NU and maybe save some money and get professional help.

    They will say the money comes to them only for the arts.  They can refuse it and hopefully someone will put it to better use and get the idea after awhile that forcing ill conceived and junk art on taxpayers is not wanted.


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. Required fields are marked *