Evanston Art Center identifies building as new home

A city committee has directed the city manager  to pursue negotiatons with a state agency to lease the  Harley Clarke Mansion, putting the the Evanston Art Center on notice to vacate. | Bob Seidenberg/Sun-Times Media
A city committee has directed the city manager to pursue negotiatons with a state agency to lease the Harley Clarke Mansion, putting the the Evanston Art Center on notice to vacate. | Bob Seidenberg/Sun-Times Media

The Evanston Art Center has identified a building in Evanston to serve as the center’s next home, its executive director announced Monday night.

The center, facing a deadline to vacate the city-owned Harley Clarke Mansion at 2603 Sheridan Road, has found a site at 1717 Central St., executive director Norah Diedrich told members of the Evanston City Council.

The building “at this excellent location will help us take the Evanston Art Center to the next level,” she said.

While visual arts will remain the center’s primary focus, the center plans to add complimentary programming at its new building to include culinary classes, design, film, movement, music and many other areas, she said.

Also in the center’s plans are a digital fabrication lab, artists and residence studios, and a coffee bar, said Diedrich.

The site would accommodate all the center’s programs except for a metal sculpture studio. Diedrich said the center would seek a satellite location for that program, she said.

She said a dedicated parking lot, elevator service, and close proximity to public transportation, shops and restaurants also add to the site’s appeal.

Art Center officials signed a contract on the space July 8, giving them 60 days to perform due diligence on the property, Diedrich said.

She said the plan is to purchase the building this fall and begin renovation work right away. She said the center hopes to open its doors to a “vibrant and inclusive center for arts and culture,” in spring of 2015.

In order to sustain the future arts center and solidify its role around the theme of “where creativity meets community,” the center will need to raise $2.5 million, Diedrich said.

She said the center has already adopted a theme for the campaign, entitled “See the Bigger Picture,” about the importance of art engaging the surrounding community.

The Art Center plans to soon have information about the campaign on its website, evanstonartcenter.org, she said.

The center’s presence in Evanston dates back to 1929. A longtime occupant of the Harley Clarke Mansion, center officials were notified earlier this year that the center would have to vacate the mansion, which is in need of substantial life safety improvements.

The city is in talks with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources about the state agency renovating the building and locating its Coastal Management Program at Harley Clarke.

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