Evanston names first cultural arts coordinator

Patrick Svitek, City Editor

As the director of cultural arts and events for Kemmerer, Wyo. — a small city in the southwest part of the state — Jennifer Lasik’s job description was straightforward.

“It was taking a town that was primarily coal mining and ranching and introducing them to the arts,” she said Tuesday evening.

One of her responsibilities, Lasik added, was “just teaching them it was OK to love” the arts. She will likely have no problem convincing Evanston to embrace the arts as she starts Nov. 18 as its first cultural arts coordinator, a new position approved this summer by City Council amid a full slate of hot-button issues on the arts scene.

In Kemmerer, Lasik oversaw the start of a new cultural arts center, as well as arts events and programs. She also sat on the Wyoming Arts Council, a governor-appointed position.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz on Tuesday afternoon praised Lasik’s “outstanding track record” of working with the community.

“Her work in Kemmerer brought people together from all walks of life and involved them in the arts,” Bobkiewicz said in a news release. “Jennifer has an enthusiasm and passion for her work that will be contagious throughout Evanston.”

Lasik will report to Bobkiewicz, who has suggested her role will come with a heavy workload from the get go. Lasik’s hiring comes as the city weighs the future of the Harley Clarke Mansion, which houses the Evanston Art Center but desperately needs at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in various repairs. The city is also looking to fill a nine-member task force that will explore the possibility of a performing arts center in downtown Evanston.

Lasik said she hopes to use her “innate curiosity” about other people to tackle these and other issues. Her first goal: to sit down with not only arts groups, but also the city organizations that promote them, including Downtown Evanston.

Lasik said she also plans to brush up on the evanstARTs community arts roadmap report, which details what the city could do to bring together its wide array of arts groups. Lasik acknowledged the organizations can become “isolated” as they pursue their own mission, but she hopes to change that and create a more cohesive community of Evanston artists.

“Part of my job is to help them get and stay on the same page so they can work toward their own goals as common goals,” Lasik said.

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Twitter: @PatrickSvitek