Evanston helps artists find spaces in places of worship

Stephanie Kelly, Reporter

Roughly a quarter of Evanston’s churches have agreed to offer their unused space to artists and art organizations.

The city has partnered with Partners for Sacred Places to offer local artists performance and work spaces. The city hopes to accommodate more artists, given that most of the space in Evanston is already in use. After finding more than 150,000 square feet of available space in Evanston, the project’s organizers have begun surveying artists.

“Churches also serve, in addition to being places for spirituality, as community centers,” said Mariam Thiam, project manager for PSP’s Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places initiative. “So the arts program is another aspect of which that church brings important services to the community.”

A national nonprofit organization, PSP has worked in Philadelphia, Chicago and other major cities and their neighboring towns. Thiam said their locations vary by the demand for space, which is why they chose to partner with Evanston.

“I think we have a growing number of artists in Evanston, and the spaces we currently have are being filled at a rate that’s not possible to build new venues as soon as people are demanding them,” said Meghan McSchan, an intern for the Evanston’s economic division.

Any artist can apply for the space. Mostly performance artists have sought the space so far, McSchan said.

“We have a situation where there are artists who are here and who would really like to stay here,” McSchan said.

The project began in September, when McSchan and other key figures began looking for places of worship that would participate in the initiative. Now in its second phase, the project will expand to include the artists. Evanston and PSP will match the spaces with the artists.

In order to determine compatibility, the mission of the project and the mission of the place of worship have to align, McSchan said. Practicality is also taken into account, with scheduling and space availability being important factors.

McSchan said both the artists and the places of worship will benefit from this program.

“We hope to make matches and really find performance space or whatever space is needed for an artist, as well as helping some of our houses of worship connect better with the Evanston community,” McSchan said.

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