History & Mission
The Evanston Art Center is dedicated to fostering the appreciation and expression of the arts among diverse audiences by offering extensive and innovative instruction in broad areas of artistic endeavor through classes, exhibitions, interactive arts activities, and community outreach.
To be widely recognized as a dynamic art education and exhibition center that encourages freedom of artistic expression and enriches cultural life. To be the hub of artistic endeavors, a passionate advocate for the arts, and a valuable partner for arts initiatives.
October 28, 1929: Alice C. Riley sponsored an afternoon tea at her home on Sheridan Road with the purpose of discussing how to memorialize the contributions of longtime Evanston arts teacher, Julia Ferguson. We're not sure what was in the tea that afternoon, but by the end of the meeting it was decided that the City of Evanston needed a cultural arts center. And that's how the Evanston Art Center was created. Despite the previous week's stock market decline, the Art Center went forward with its Gala Opening Benefit held at the old Evanston Public Library.
The Art Center's original purpose was as "a civic agency for the enjoyment and study of all of the Arts."
1930: The Evanston Art Center's sets up its first home in the lower level of the Evanston Public Library. An impressive collection of fine art books were on hand for library visitors to use.
1941: a group of Evanston artists formed the Evanston Art Market which worked and exhibited from a former Barber Shop in the 500 block of Dempster Street. Lingering scents of Lilac Vegetal and St. John's Bay Rum blended with those of pigment and turpentine.
July 1942: The Evanston Art Market and Art Center joined forces and was incorporated as a charitable nonprofit organization operating out of the Dempster Street building. By 1944 a formal schedule of classes was established and School of the Art Institute teachers were involved.
April 1946: Art Center members learn that they would be out on the street by June 15. A home of their own was called for. A full-out fundraising effort commenced to raise the $25,000 cost of the building. In 60 days all but $9,000 was in hand.
October 1946: A successful, community-wide fundraising effort resulted in the purchase of 800 Greenwood. In 1948, elebrated artist and beloved teacher Paul Wieghardt joined the Art Center faculty.
1966: As class registrations and programming grew, once again the Art Center needed more space. Katie O'Neil and Dorothy Bohnen, among others, were on the look out for a new building. The City Council supported the Art Center's move to the former Harley Clarke mansion, a City-owned building, located at 2603 Sheridan Road.
1980's: The Art Center rents additional studio space at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center
June 2015: We moved into our new facility at 1717 Central Street in Evanston and quickly began expanding our programming to meet the growing demands of our larger space. More than 30,000 people from all walks of life, representing over 100 Illinois zip codes use the Art Center, viewing one of our 26 exhibitions in our 4 galleries or participating in one of our 400 classes with more studios. We expanded our programming to include 3-D printing and digital fabrication in our Maker Lab for teens and adults and a new woodworking studio for adults and youth.