Evanston arts organization seeks revival after founder’s retirement


Ryan Wangman/Daily Senior Staffer

Artist Nicholas Barron paints at a fundraiser. The fundraiser for Young Evanston Artists aimed to support putting on YEA! Day for a 31st year.

Ryan Wangman, City Editor

After the founder of a local arts organization retired following 30 years at its helm, Evanston residents were unsure if the group — which hosts an annual art exhibition day for children — would go on.

Inspired by community reactions through email and on Facebook, Hope Washinushi, the group’s new board chair and a member of the city’s Arts Council, took over in the position this year for Harvey Pranian — who founded Young Evanston Artists. The group, facing a slim budget as the result of a funds transfer, held a fundraiser on Tuesday night at Five & Dime to support putting on YEA! Day for a 31st year.

“It’s kind of refreshing in a certain way where you’re not just handed money,” Washinushi said. “We’re really working and we’re really kind of earning our keep, (so) to say.”

Sarah Laing, this year’s event chair, said the group had a lot of conversations about the future of YEA! after Pranian retired, and they rolled over the money to an honorary YEA!/Harvey Pranian Legacy Fund for the Arts to the Evanston Community Foundation. The fund will be part of ECF’s “responsive and rolling grant cycles,” according to the group’s website.

As a result of the funds being transferred over, Laing said the group started with a slim budget for the 2018 YEA! Day event, and that they have a very quick turnaround to raise money for the year. She said the night’s fundraiser was a chance to re-energize people and get them invested in the program, and that they were hoping to create the same level of support as in years past to produce 2018’s event.

“(YEA!) is very well-regarded in the community and it has a big public presence,” Laing said. “What excites me most about YEA! is it’s the one organization in town that is doing such a great work in terms of building community engagement and partnerships.”

Laing said the group came into the night of fundraising having met about 50 percent of their target fundraising goal, and that they were doing the best they could given their short time frame. She added that it helps that the new board didn’t have to invent the idea from scratch, and that a lot of the “intellectual property” was transferred from Pranian.

The group is looking to expand opportunities to get Northwestern students involved in the event, Laing said. Volunteers at the event would help in three different blocks, starting with getting a “massive amount of art” up, then with art workshops and then in taking the exhibition down, she said.

Washinushi said the experience could be positive for relationships between students and the community.

“It’s great for the Northwestern students to interact with the families of Evanston and make that connection,” Washinushi said. “It makes a stronger bond for both communities.”

Amy Boyle, who has two daughters that have had work showcased at YEA!, said it was exciting to get notes from art teachers when her children’s work was displayed at YEA! She said that she thought YEA!’s inclusivity made it unique to Evanston.

Boyle added she was glad that the program was still staying afloat in the wake of Pranian’s retirement, and thinks there is now room for the program to evolve.

“I want to support version two of whatever YEA! Is going to be,” Boyle said. “It’s a great Evanston institution to support.

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