One River School serves Evanston arts community


Source: Humberto Saldana

Parents and students attend the biannual art show. The One River School of Art + Design has been open for seven months and has over 100 students.

Maddy Daum, Assistant City Editor

The One River School of Art + Design has only been open for seven months, but it’s already helped over 100 aspiring artists explore the creative industry.

One River provides weekly two-hour classes open to all ages, which focus on contemporary art and encourage students to create their own individual pieces. In order to show the school’s youngest students that art is accessible to them, assistant director Jessalyn Bertone said One River emphasizes contemporary art.

The school has undergone an entire staff changeover as some members moved to other One River locations or to other art schools.

Many of the instructors are working artists or graduate students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The teachers guide students — often beginners — through projects that are four to six weeks long. All of the classes concentrate on 2D arts such as painting, drawing and digital design.

Lisa Degliantoni, the school’s director, said that classes are offered to students from ages “four to 104” but the majority of artists are teenagers.

“(The adolescent) part of human development is where learning who you are is the most troublesome for humans,” said Degliantoni. “Art seems to be a very organic and natural step for people to take. So we are finding that our biggest population and attraction is from teens. But we pretty much need everybody to try out an art class.”

Students usually hear about the school through word of mouth and peer-based reviews, Degliantoni said. The school also hosts free art workshops and speaks at community events to help get the word out.

Bertone spearheads the marketing campaigns, relying on a grassroots approach through referral campaigns and social media.

“People (in Evanston) put a lot of weight into social proof,” Bertone said. “My hope is that people will start to see faces that they recognize (on) our social media, kind of giving validation to the fact that other kids in the community are starting to really connect with One River.”

The school hosts a biannual art show to help students see their work displayed and to get them excited about the prospect of being artists. Through curating art for the gallery show and working to establish the school’s community, Director of Education Humberto Saldana said he hopes to develop a comfortable environment for students.

“Curating our artists in our gallery space, (we choose) artists that best represent the community here in Evanston and Chicago but also one river’s philosophy in style,” Saldana said. “We work to show what (the school) wants the community to see as their representation of our school.”

Saldana also works to further improve the curriculum and support teachers, to make sure that the school can continue to grow and guide more artists in Evanston. As a creative town, Degliantoni hopes that the school can help further enhance the Evanston arts community.

“We have a population of humans (in Evanston) who value creative endeavors,” Degliantoni said. “I would love for this school to continue to help all of the creative waters rise in this town and to be a resource for if somebody wants to dabble, try it out or even teach a class.”

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