Arts task force looks to find model for downtown arts center

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

The Mayor’s Downtown Performing Arts Task Force on Thursday evening considered ways to move forward with its investigation into creating an arts center in downtown Evanston, bringing in an attorney to discuss a possible financial model.

The task force is made up of several people from various art fields, business and other sectors. The committee is investigating the feasibility of creating a downtown Evanston performing arts center and will relay its research and findings to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and City Council. Thursday’s meeting focused on updates from two members who talked to local arts centers to see those center’s models and a potential financial model brought forth by a lawyer.

“What kind of space it is is very, very important,” cultural arts coordinator Jennifer Lasik said. “It’s really important ahead of time to know what the space is going to be.”

The task force has already investigated two locations that could serve as inspiration for an arts center in downtown Evanston: Stage 773 and the Logan Center at the University of Chicago. Stage 773 notably has a large, liquor-based source of income, that Backstage Evanston producer and committee member Penny Rotheiser brought up, saying the extended bar has contributed in large part to the total generated revenue. Logan Center’s model differed in that it was set up in a university setting.

The board also plans to reach out by phone to more places that could serve as models for the Evanston center to look at their business structure.

In addition, the task force heard a talk from attorney Marc Lane on the concept of a L3C financial model. Lane showed the members a presentation on the Low-Profit Limited Liability Company, commonly called L3C, a business model that aims to benefit both non-profit and profit organizations and to shift “economic risk from charities.”

Several members of the task force were absent from the Thursday meeting, which prompted some of those present to speak out about the importance of attendance at the meetings.

“We need to have the whole team here if we are going to have these meetings,” Evanston economic development coordinator Paul Zalmezak said at the meeting. “I really do think we have a possibility of delivering something here. The economy is at … an upturn. Nobody knows how long that will last.”

Two members have stepped down from the task force. One has stepped down because of health related issues, while another stepped down because of a conflicting schedule. Lasik said the mayor has looked into filling these spots.

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