Editor’s note: The following is one of many educational explorations from the Roundtable on Evanston’s municipal government and how it works. Call it Evanston Arts Council 101.
The Evanston Arts Council is a citizens’ committee that promotes the arts in Evanston. It is made up of 12 people, appointed by the mayor, after consulting and agreeing with the municipal council. The Arts Council reports to the Human Services Committee, made up of five City Council members who, in turn, report to the wider City Council – a bureaucratic hierarchy that actually works.
A member of the Arts Council must be an Evanston resident or employed in Evanston. The term is three years and the maximum one can serve is two terms. The council meets monthly at the Civic Center, but during the pandemic meetings were conducted over Zoom, which proved effective but not as fun.
The board met virtually in July but canceled its August meeting, as is tradition. “Most members would love to be back in person, but there’s a genius rule that if the meeting is hybrid, only those in the room count as a quorum – so hybrid isn’t a good option for us. “, said Toby Sachs, current president. .
Zoom details are still posted with the council’s agenda on his city’s website.
Five years of current and past meeting agendas, minutes and information packets on agenda items are also posted there.
What types of funds are there?
The Arts Council has an annual budget of $50,000 from the General Fund for grantmaking and programmatic expenses. The Public Art Task Force has its own budget of $30,000 from general operating obligations for construction. Sometimes this budget fluctuates because it depends on capital improvement projects.
Of the $50,000 Arts Council budget:
- $30,000 has traditionally gone to Cultural Fund grants,
- $15,000 for Special Projects, formerly known as the Neighborhood Fund, and
- $5,000 to Bright Night for the Arts.
Through The American Rescue Plan, government funding to offset economic damage caused by COVID-19, the council received $150,000: $15,000 goes to administration costs and $35,000 is to go to arts organization grants of Evanston.
A city of Evanston ordinance sets out the council’s purpose in the city code (#55-0-75). But the band rewrote it recently, going beyond the prescription and setting standards. Grant applicants are encouraged to show alignment with these issues in applications:
- Objective: The Evanston Arts Council nurtures and builds an inclusive community where creative expression thrives and the arts flourish. We empower and amplify artists and arts organizations as community builders and agents of change. We support diverse forms of expression and provide equitable access to the arts.
- Vision: We envision the arts as central to an equitable and sustainable city where authentic and diverse creative voices are accessible to all; and where artists are supported, prospered and recognized as essential to a healthy and engaged society.
- Values: We maintain that art is for everyone; it should be a catalyst for inclusiveness and equity. We support the decolonization of the arts and all forms of creative expression. We value the voices of artists to enrich lives and advance society. We believe the arts are a vital reflection of our humanity.
The most important functions of the Arts Council, within the framework of the above, are:
- distribute funds and
- maintain the public art collection.
This year, instead of the usual small grants of $30,000, the Arts Council received an additional $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Illinois Arts Council, and Northwestern’s Good Neighbor Racial Equity Fund. . It distributed $70,000 in Cultural Fund grants to 20 qualified artists and arts organizations.
Yes, the subsidies are new, but the the biggest news is the hiring of a new cultural arts coordinator. This is Rosie Roche, a native Londoner who moved to Evanston 15 years ago and “brings an international perspective to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the arts”.
Roche’s job is only part-time, unlike those of his predecessors. This position, highly recommended in the 2012 EvanstARTS report, was created in 2013 and Jennifer Lasik was hired. Since October 2018, it is empty. Lasik reported directly to the City Manager with an office in the Civic Center.
It was difficult without a city manager, as young administrative assistants with little arts knowledge had to step in to help, in addition to their usual duties.
Sometimes the Arts Council commissions a work of art or simply consults on the commission, the latter being the case in the creation of ‘Inclusiva’, the large sculpture in front of the new Robert Crown Center.
The last mural commissioned by the council was Piloto Ruiz’s ‘You Are Brilliant’ on Foster Street, west of Green Bay Road, which was a special project by Jennifer Lasik. It has been badly graffitied, has efflorescences and needs attention.
This month, the Council approved $1,000 for a proposal by Melissa Blount to create a citywide “Fairy Door” event and installation, hoping to bring “a bit of magic to the community, encouraging citizens to travel to different parts of Evanston and cheer up everywhere.
The board also approved a $1,000 contribution to the Evanston Cricket Club, a non-profit organization in Evanston since the late 1960s, made up of cricketers, families and supporters, mostly of Jamaican descent.
Renee Stone, who presented the proposal, told the council that this year marks the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. The funds granted will promote the cultural experience, artists and performers during the independence event.
A mural design has been approved for Curt’s Café on Central Street. And a budget increase has been announced for an outdoor artwork at the Noyes Cultural Center, due to the cost of an engagement program the commissioned group (Chicago Public Art Group) has to set up with the artists. – tenants of the Noyes Center. A proposed art park idea for the Mulford Street underpass (to Chicago Ave.) was briefly discussed.
Over the past few years, the Town of Evanston, City Council and all committees and commissions have worked hard to ensure representation on Council is fair and representative of the City.
The twelve members of the Arts Council come from diverse backgrounds and represent the diversity of the citizens of Evanston, with half of the members of the BIPOC board. They are all involved and experienced in the arts in one way or another – music, theatre, visual arts, literature, curating, coaching, arts marketing.
If you are interested in serving on the Arts Council, email Mayor Daniel Biss, let him know your interest and qualifications.