Local festival highlights youth art, performances

Eunice Lee

Tumblers, sculptors, painters and singers showcased their talent Saturday at the 21st annual Young Evanston Artists festival.

Hundreds of Evanston residents crowded the sidewalks on Chicago Avenue and Dempster Street, where tall screens and tables displayed student artwork from 42 schools and programs.

Sally Rutherford, an art teacher at Willard and Orrington elementary schools, said her students spend up to 12 weeks on their pieces of artwork. Her pupils created intricate pop-up books, pottery and water-color paintings that were shown at the festival.

“This festival is one of the best community art shows for children, probably in the nation,” she said.

The festival was created to offer a showcase for student artwork that is non-commercial and non-competitive, founder Harvey Pranian said.

“It’s really a thrill for the students that they can have this public forum in which they might have their parents and grandparents and friends standing there looking at their artwork,” he said. “It’s a self-esteem builder.”

Choruses, dancers and a jazz band were part of the performing arts segment of the event. The performing arts portion has grown tremendously, Pranian said.

Community members and businesses volunteered resources and time to the event. Pranian said participant numbers have grown over the years.

“I think it’s extremely important because it involves every sector of the community,” he said. “That’s why it’s been so successful, because it touches everybody.”

Mary Olsen, an art teacher at Walker and Orrington elementary schools, said the event helps students have pride in their work.

“I think Evanston has always appreciated the arts, and it starts with the youth,” Olsen said. “If they’re excited about showing their work, it starts an appreciation early.”

Olsen’s students created shields with stitching and beading to accompany a unit on American Indians. Sand paper paintings and weaving works were also on display at their station.

Rutherford said students’ favorite part of the event is when they receive a certificate for their participation. These certificates, passed out every year to the student artists, are signed by their art teacher and Mayor Lorraine Morton.

Art teacher Karen Kopka, whose classes at Kingsley and Willard Elementary Schools have participated in the festival every year, said that it is a community building event.

Kopka will be retiring after this year and received a constant stream of visitors for her last show.

“It’s an end of the year celebration,” she said. “It means everything to the students to display their art to the community. As you can tell by the crowds, everybody plans to be here.”

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