Study charts road map for the arts in Evanston
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:27AM
A top city arts official, closer collaboration with Northwestern University and repositioning arts as key to K-12 education, are some of the recommendations growing out of a new study that seeks to establish a “roadmap for the arts” for Evanston.
The city, Evanston Community Foundation and the Evanston Arts Council collaborated on the study, released Monday, which looked at ways to tap the economic development potential of the city’s arts community.
A senior staff member is needed, “capable of galvanizing public and private sectors into an effective coalition to advance arts development,” said project consultant Amina Dickerson, reading from the report.
Over the past year, officials have increasingly looked at tapping Evanston’s many arts groups to make it an arts hub throughout the North Shore.
The city named the arts as one of its six target business sectors that could drive economic development. An earlier report commissioned by the city identified three possible sites for a downtown performing arts center.
The evanstARTs Working Group study introduced Monday night, was based on public input from roughly 750 people gathered during open listening sessions, an online survey, stakeholder interviews and focus groups between September 2012 and January 2013.
The city is home to “10 times more artists and residents employed in arts-related work than the national average,” the report found.
A sampling of 47 of the city’s 85 non-profit arts organizations revealed that they contribute nearly $20 million in household income to residents, support 683 full-time jobs and deliver $2.64 million in state and local revenue, said Dickerson.
“Yet while many of the city’s artists find Evanston a comfortable place to live and raise their children, they do not find employment here. They find it in Chicago,” the group’s study said.
A number of local arts organizations are “struggling to maintain their operations,” Dickerson said.
The report found 14 of 85 arts organizations with budgets under $100,000 she said.
With budgets small, the groups lack the means for fundraising.
“You have to have the tools to ask for money,” she said.
A major need is a central facility. Respondents to a study, said ”if they build it I will come. I will support it through my attendance,” she said.
Someone in a lead position could advocate for the arts, facilitating the permits and zoning part of putting together projects, she said.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th, was one of those who spoke in support of some of the findings. She said that in her recent effort to bring a theater to Howard Street, there were questions within the city about who was going to do it.
Among some of the other recommendations, the report found Evanston should:
• Look at national models of civic arts management, art district structures and funding mechanisms for the scale and size of Evanston;
• Conduct a gap analysis on regional arts activity to identify a potential niche or unique offerings Evanston can provide.
Some of the community members recommendations, meanwhile, included a stronger partnership with key collaborator Northwestern University, and repositioning arts as key to K-12 education.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the city will respond to some of the findings at the April 16 City Council meeting.