In 2012, Evanston named the arts one of six target business sectors with the potential to drive economic development. In the same year, the City won a coveted NEA grant to explore the possibility of a downtown arts district. Also underway were reviews of city-owned structures including the Noyes Cultural Center and the Evanston Arts Center, emerging plans for housing arts organizations, and a community-led effort to expand and bolster the role of the arts in the City's District 65 school system. Collectively, these events presented a unique opportunity to explore the potential for growth in Evanston's art sector as it related to economic development and the city's livability.
The City reached out to the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) and leaders of the Evanston Arts Council to gauge residents' interest in the arts. Supported with funds from the City of Evanston and ECF, evanstARTs, a community-wide outreach project was launched. Arts consultant Amina Dickerson, with assistance from cultural geographer and Evanston resident Amanda Carlson, was retained to conduct the community engagement process, supported by a small committee known as the Working Group whose assignment was to facilitate the consultant's work and ensure broad participation. Over six months, more than 750 people representing all the City's wards than 750 people representing all the City's wards participated in an on-line survey, public listening sessions, sector focus groups, and stakeholder interviews.
The charge for evanstARTs was to frame a strong vision for the arts in Evanston and to outline steps that will elevate the prole of the city's arts community. The underlying objective was to determine Evanston residents' commitment to securing and investing resources to make the arts truly integral to civic life. The evanstARTs participants -- patrons, seniors, youth, parents, business leaders and artists, (approximately 1% of the population) -- expressed a strong desire for the arts to be recognized as a core community asset in Evanston. This report gives an overview of the current arts scene in Evanston as well as challenges and recommendations.