2020 Cultural Fund Grant recipients discuss plans amid the pandemic


Courtesy of David Cao

Students perform for each other at an Evanston Young Artists performance before the pandemic. EYA is one of the 2020 recipients of the Cultural Fund Grant, which aims to create a more inclusive and vibrant arts community in Evanston through supporting local organizations.

Laya Neelakandan, Reporter

Musicians, museums, theatres and visual arts organizations make up some of the recipients of the 2020 Cultural Fund Grant Program awarded by the Evanston Arts Council. As arts-focused organizations pivoted their plans in response to the pandemic, the Cultural Fund Grant stepped up to support local organizations in creating a more vibrant and inclusive arts environment in Evanston.

For recipient Evanston Young Artists, the grant means they can provide more opportunities for their students during the pandemic. Founded by David Cao (Bienen ’20), EYA strives to make music accessible to children in Evanston, especially those from low-income, underserved communities and communities of color.

“We don’t want our students to ever think that they can’t succeed in classical music just because it’s a White-dominated industry,” said Patricia Tang (Weinberg ’20), the director of development at EYA.

The group plans to use the grant money to invite artists from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to speak with the students, and provide opportunities for the students to perform in their own communities and be “cultural ambassadors,” Tang said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, EYA has not been able to have in-person classes with their students.

“It’s a special thing to learn music one-on-one, and that’s difficult on Zoom,” Cao said. “But because of Zoom, we’ve been able to make it more accessible to anyone who wants to join.”

Cao and Tang said EYA finds the grant especially helpful because the organization is a “grassroots, student-run nonprofit,” and this is the first grant they have applied for and received.

Another grant recipient, Evanston Made, a nonprofit group aimed at uniting Evanston artists, had to find creative ways to give their members a platform for their artwork.

“It was a lengthy process in March to figure out which events we could make virtual,” Co-Director Liz Cramer said. “We had to be really creative in how to bring in Evanston artists and give them a voice virtually.”

To continue bringing art to the Evanston community during the lockdown, Evanston Made started a YouTube channel where they featured Evanston artists, professional development and guest speakers, Cramer said.

The organization also launched creative ventures like “Art Under Glass” and a Google map for residents to make stops throughout the city to see art. They have also had pop-ups and other outdoor events like the Maker’s Market for the community.

“It really was a nice relief for people who’d been unable to see art for a very long time other than through a glass window or on the computer screen,” she said.

Evanston Made Board Member Evan Finamore explained that they will use the grant to create a robust professional development series specifically for artists of color.

Currently, of the 310 members of Evanston Made, only 5% are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, according to the website. Finamore said that the grant will help the organization to engage not only the arts community, but also the broader community as a whole.

“The professional development workshops will focus on ways to market their work, ways to monetize their artwork to make a living, how to photograph artwork and more,” Finamore said.

She also added that this grant is not a “one-off grant” and that it is part of a larger ongoing effort to increase diversity and inclusion.

“This is part of a broader initiative that we are embarking on in earnest to make our organization more inclusive,” Finamore said. “This grant is just one part of the journey.”

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