Evanston showcases local youth art at annual festival


Alice Yin/The Daily Northwestern

A woman photographs art created by local students at an Evanston festival Saturday hosted by the Young Evanston Artists foundation. Known as YEA! Day, the annual event showcases the work of about 1,000 students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Alice Yin , Reporter

Evanston’s streets were packed Saturday with colorful paintings, drawings and sculptures created by local youth in an annual art festival held by Young Evanston Artists.

YEA!, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating artistic talent in Evanston’s children, displayed the work of 1000 students on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Dempster Street near Trader Joe’s from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival, YEA! Day, has been Evanston tradition for 27 years, with more than 40 schools, from pre-kindergarten to high school, in the area participating and more than 4,000 people attending each year, according to YEA!’s website.

“I think the biggest part of art is having people be able to see it,” said Marisa Hernandez, an art teacher at Oakton Elementary School who helped organize the showcase. “I always tell my students that no one’s going to dig in your sketchbook … so you’re going to have to learn how to display it and be confident.”

Boards of colorings and self-portraits stood at the intersection, attracting the interest of pedestrians in the Chicago-Dempster business district. Attendees admired paintings hanging from clotheslines as they listened to music from live performers. A section of Dempster Street was blocked off to make room for tables of merchandise, shelves of student-made pottery and an instrument set.

The preparation for the showcase was a yearlong process, in which students maintained portfolios and selected their favorite works to display. The process was geared toward ensuring the students would understand “what being an artist in the world would be like,” Hernandez said.

About 500 kids also participated in a performing arts element of the festival, in which school orchestras, choirs, dance groups and other performance groups displayed their talents at scheduled presentations.

“It’s just really great to see all this celebration of art that it seems like Evanston is really valuing,” said Glenview resident Jane Enis. “The humanities … (are) an important part of our culture and unfortunately a lot of schools are cutting this. That’s a real mistake because kids really learn from this.”

This year, YEA! plans to increase its community impact by being a beneficiary for Whole Foods’ One Dime at a Time fundraiser, providing summer arts programming in Evanston. YEA! also plans to work with Blick Art Materials to help teachers underwrite art supply purchases.

The festival also included a raffle drawing and raised money through silent auctions, concession stands and donations from local businesses. Volunteers from Northwestern, Evanston Township High School and other neighboring schools helped facilitate the event.

“I think it’s beautiful,” said ETHS freshman Ayanna Flores, who volunteered at the festival. “It’s so nice to see all the creativity going on in young minds.”

Hernandez said the festival was a good opportunity for the students to showcase their talent.

“They are famous for the day,” she said.

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