Evanston artists honored for their work in community


Jennifer Ball/Daily Senior Staffer

​Residents gathered Thursday night at the Rotary International Building, 1560 Sherman Ave. The event was held in celebration of the artists of the year in Evanston, whom guests including the mayor honored for a night of food and presentations.

Jennifer Ball, Assistant City Editor

An arts event Thursday evening honored two Evanston men for their contributions to the city’s arts scene.

The event, “A Bright Night for the Arts,” brought about 100 people together for a night of food, art and music at the Rotary International Building, 1560 Sherman Ave. After speeches from Jack Weiss and Mike O’Mara, who were the two men honored for their contributions to the arts, the event allowed five minutes for five art groups to promote their work in the community.

The groups included S.I.T.E. Festival, a Northwestern pop-up theater production, Red O Hat Productions, Mudlark Theater, etc. Music School and Percolator Films.

After graduating from Yale in 1967, Weiss moved to Evanston and began pursuing graphic design. Weiss is president of Design Evanston, a nonprofit that awards architecture in the Evanston area. NU has been honored by the organization, he said. He has also led numerous other graphic design and architectural preservation projects in the Evanston and Chicago areas, including founding a historical committee.

His projects included the McGaw YMCA’s multi-million dollar marketing campaign, the design for the Evanston Art Center and the design for Optima Horizons apartment complexes, according to Weiss. Additional clients included NorthCare, Evanston Theater Company, and Presence Saint Francis Hospital, he said.

Similarly, O’Mara has focused his life on music. O’Mara said he discovered his love for music in high school when he was involved with visual arts and music.

“Music never got old,” O’Mara said.

After over a decade teaching music in the Evanston area, O’Mara said he decided to fulfill his dream of opening his own music school. He opened etc. Music School, a school for high school students to socialize and learn about music, in Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. One of the tenets of the school is that the class is only as strong as its weakest student, so much of the school’s philosophy is based on mentorship, according to the website. He said that the school itself and its repertoire are very unique.

Weiss and O’Mara both said they were honored to receive the Mayor’s Awards for the Arts. Weiss said he broke into tears, and O’Mara said he was shocked to receive the award because the school had only been open since August 2013.

The Rotary International Club is an international nonprofit promoting world peace with an Evanston location on Sherman Avenue. The event was hosted by the Evanston Arts Council and was part of the Arts and Humanities Month in Evanston.

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