Art education, community connection for youth through the Evanston Art Center
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
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Founded in 1929 by civic and cultural leaders, namely Alice C. Riley, the Evanston Art Center (EAC) has been supporting diverse artists and enriching the community for more than 80 years, which makes it one of the oldest and most accessible art centers in Illinois. Beyond teaching, public lectures and art exhibition endeavors, the EAC, a nonprofit organization located right on the lake at 2603 Sheridan Road in Evanston, is also involved in various outreach initiatives.
“Our ArtReach program served the community at Evanston’s Family Focus for a number of years,” said Norah Diedrich, executive director at Evanston Art Center.
Family Focus is an advocacy organization that offers education, mentorship, social activities and support services to low-income families.
“Our community outreach is a priority, and the Evanston Art Center will continue to provide high-level afterschool programs and visiting artist opportunities,” said Diedrich.
Offering complimentary arts activities, the EAC participates in neighborhood events such as: Ethnic Arts Fair, Fountain Square Arts Festival, Citizens for a Greener Evanston Weekend and a weekend-long celebration of street arts and hip-hop.
Recent programs where kids had the opportunity to get involved include: High School Week, a program that allowed kids to build their artistic portfolio in an intensive one-week studio experience at the end of the school year, and Evanston Public Library Collaboration, a summer initiative that promoted visual literacy and helped kids to become better readers.
“This past summer the Evanston Art Center offered several new classes for its Youth Arts Camp,” said Diedrich. “Classes like Mathematics in Art, Toy Making and Architecture were over-subscribed. These classes ran alongside the usual favorites of Gaming, Observational Drawing and Fashion Design. It was such a joy to visit these classrooms and observe how creative these young artists are at such an early age, especially knowing that recent research tells us early exposure to the arts translates into a enjoying the arts as an adult.”
“Over the course of the Evanston Art Center’s history, many free programs and projects have been provided to public schools and community organizations throughout the communities we serve,” said Diedrich.
Needs-based scholarships are given to youth each session. EAC allows free access to all galleries and is open to the public every day of the week. Arts administration internships are also offered to kids through Evanston’s Youth Job Center-a career training, placement and support center for young adults.
Diedrich goes on to say that for many young adults, the arts increase self-esteem, self-expression and a feeling of accomplishment.
“Young creative minds are nourished and challenged at the Evanston Art Center with classes in various mediums taught by an experienced faculty of teaching artists,” Diedrich said.
For more information on how to better the world by making art a part of your life, visit www.evanstonartcenter.org.