Evanston Art Center educates community on street art

Sophia Bollag, Copy Chief

The Evanston Art Center hosted presentations on slam poetry, hip-hop and graffiti over the weekend in an effort to educate the community on street art.

Keith Brown, the center’s education director, said he had looked forward to carrying out the program since assuming his position a little more than a year ago.

“This is something that I’ve long wanted to do,” Brown said. “It’s just an opportunity to give the Evanston community a taste of what hip-hop and graffiti culture is like.”

The program, titled “Street Arts as Public Pedagogy: Learning From the Margins,” began Friday with a screening of “Louder Than a Bomb,” a critically acclaimed documentary telling the story of a Chicago poetry slam for teenagers. The center, 2603 Sheridan Road, also hosted a hip-hop education day Saturday and a graffiti writers art presentation and an educators panel discussion Sunday.

A major focus of all the events was to educate the Evanston community on the artistic motivation behind street art, Brown said.

Andrew O’Brien, a 15-year-old Evanston Township High School student who attended the art presentation Sunday, said residents typically are not exposed to graffiti as an art form.

“Graffiti’s frowned upon, generally,” O’Brien said. “I guess there isn’t really too much space for it (in Evanston).”

Many Evanston residents do not appreciate the difference between graffiti created as art and graffiti that is simply vandalism, said Jordan Nickel, one of three graffiti artists at the Sunday presentation.

“Gang graffiti is very different than graffiti art and the graffiti that we do,” said Nickel, who goes by his graffiti name POSE.

The presentation was part of the center’s efforts to engage a broader segment of the Evanston community, especially young people, said Norah Diedrich, the center’s executive director.

“Sometimes they feel like it’s not a place for them, even though it is, and this programming is working to reach out to a broader audience,” Diedrich said.

Teenagers as well as older residents attended the events this weekend, which Diedrich said is unusual.

Ciara McCarthy contributed reporting.