In the context of an Arts Economies seminar, a group of SAIC Arts Administration and Policy graduate students, with professor Adelheid Mers, were invited by the Evanston Art Center to study the arts ecology of Evanston. A goal was to better understand the roles that art centers play in their home communities, navigating a complex set of interests and serving multiple publics.
Over six weeks, the students conducted interviews with Evanston based artists, arts administrators and educators. Those interviews were facilitated through mapping and diagramming activities, which were further developed and presented publicly as the Evanston Art Center became a lab for two weeks, beginning on September 9.
Saturday, September 21, a roundtable discussion was conducted, with Evanston Art Center Executive Director Norah Diedrich and Director of Education Keith Brown.
- Adelheid Mers, Associate Professor, Chair, Arts Administration and Policy
- Gabrielle Burrage, MA Arts Administration and Policy
- Cassie Carpenter, MA Arts Administration and Policy
- Jenni Groot, MA Arts Administration and Policy
- Raven Falquez Munsell, MA Arts Administration and Policy & MA Art History,
- Gan Uyeda, MA Arts Administration and Policy & MA Art History
Many thanks to:
- Joshua Allard, Artistic Associate, Piccolo Theatre
- Jon Arndt, Managing Director, Next Theatre
- Brenda Barnum, artist
- Keith Brown, Director of Education, Evanston Art Center
- Leslie Brown, Executive Director, Piven Theatre Workshop
- Amina Dickerson, President, Dickerson Global Advisors, LLC.
- Norah Diedrich, Executive Director, Evanston Art Center
- Christina Ernst, Co-Artistic Director, Evanston Dance Ensemble
- Rick Ferguson, Director, The Musical Offering
- Michael Gonzalez, Intern, Evanston Art Center
- Justin Hart, Midwest Clay Guild
- Ariel Hartman, Front Desk Receptionist, Evanston Art Center
- Alicia Hempfling, Administrative Coordinator, Boocoo Cultural Center and Cafe
- Mie Kongo, artist
- Michael Miro, Executive Director, Mudlark Theater Company
- Adriana Poterash, Midwest Clay Guild
- Béa Rashid, Dance Center Evanston, Director
- Faiz Razi, artist
- Tim Rhoze, Artistic Director, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre
- Dino Robinson, Jr., Shorefront Legacy Center, Founder
- Karla Rindal, Open Studio Project, Facilitation Director
- Matthew Runfola, artist
- Tess Stevens, Evanston Art Center, Intern
A little more context:
Evanston has a long history of supporting and discussing the arts. Recently, there have been surveys and other cultural planning activities. Worldwide, the arts are being reconsidered: as economic drivers, as part of urban planning efforts and as sources of a more broadly understood creativity. These considerations can be highly controversial. They require critical perspectives. As our economies are changing, they should not be ignored. The Evanston Art Center has long been part of these conversations, while it has also undergone a number of incarnations.
We set out to examine arts organizations of Evanston based on a model of cultural ecology. In an ecology, entities try to survive in an environment by competing against each other or working together towards common goals. Those that are successful reproduce their practices and those that are not fall away. Looking beyond the internal structures of the arts groups, we wanted to see the ways that opportunities and restrictions within the cultural environment shape how the arts are offered in the city.
The diagrams displayed here are conversations made visual. Engaging community participants in dialogues about art, culture, education, and politics in Evanston, we tracked the conversations as they unfolded through collaborative mapping. These conversation maps helped to guide discussion and track important points and trends. In turn, we re-interpreted the maps as three line diagrams that organize the big ideas and highlight the central relationships of each conversation.
Our findings are not scientific, and they are not definitive. Rather, they open onto new conversations about the fluidity of organizational identity and the navigation of legacy and potential. This exhibition is built upon the immense generosity of the individuals who shared their time and ideas with us, and we thank each of them for their contributions and kindness.
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