Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston organizations support, encourage emerging youth artists

Photo Courtesy of Valerie Kahan
One of the artist studios on the second floor of Art Makers Outpost. The seven visual artists and three musicians rent 24/7 access to the space and use it to create and collaborate.

For David Cao (Bienen ’20), the founder of Evanston Young Artists, the story of the nonprofit has been one of growth.

Founded in 2018, the organization aims to provide kids from underserved backgrounds with free music lessons by connecting them with students at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. 

Evanston Young Artists is just one group working to support young and emerging artists around Evanston. In recent years, organizations across the city have come together to offer unique opportunities and resources for the city’s budding artistic community. 

Since Evanston Young Artists was founded, the nonprofit has tutored around 50 students, and currently has 18 students working with 16 volunteer tutors, according to the current co-presidents.

While the program’s curriculum is intense, as it’s modeled off of both Bienen studies and the popular Suzuki method, it’s also highly specific to students. The kids span a wide range of instruments, skill levels and tutoring needs.

“One hour, I’m teaching my youngest student, and then I have to immediately switch over to the advanced players,” Cao said. “It’s a different way to speak to them, a different way to explain things.”

Mentorship is key for Evanston Young Artists’ mission, Cao said. One of the group’s goals is to pair one student with the same tutor over a long period of time, allowing them to develop a musical relationship. 

One student, who Cao said he started tutoring through the program three years ago, was recently accepted into Bienen. 

“It’s really fulfilling to see them implement some of your own suggestions,” Cao said. “They have multiple different perspectives they can then draw on to make their own sort of story.”

Art Makers Outpost offers similar opportunities for Evanston artists. The store didn’t have the easiest opening, cutting the ribbon on its south Evanston location the day before the U.S. declared COVID-19 a public health emergency. 

Yet, according to Co-founder and Creative Director Valerie Kahan, it has remained dedicated to its mission to support young artists.

“Creativity fuels everything in life,” Kahan said. “Having the freedom to create is the basis for having the freedom to imagine a world that’s different from this one.”

The store offers art programs and camps for kids, with no-questions-asked limited scholarships and a focus on sustainability, Kahan said. It also rents out spaces for 10 professional artists, providing unique opportunities for collaboration.

“With kids, we have to kind of reimagine how we talk about our art,” Kahan said. “I feel like the inspiration goes back and forth.”

This summer, the store plans to offer a new course teaching kids how to market and sell their own art. According to Curriculum Director Trinity Collins (Weinberg ’23), the program came about due to a lack of resources for “underserved artists,” as well as a desire to dispel “starving artist narratives,” which portray struggle as an inherent part of being an artist.

“It’s not ‘grind culture, capitalism, how do you make the most money off of your art?’” Collins said. “But rather, ‘how do you survive, and how do you help your community survive?’”

The local nonprofit Evanston Made has also stepped up its efforts to connect emerging artists. Scott Greenberg, an artist and Evanston Made member, said the organization has held mixers for almost a year to introduce new artists to one another. 

While the organization includes a separate emerging artist section at its Maker’s Markets, the group has also held separate events for BIPOC and Indigenous artists, with artists receiving all of the proceeds.

Regardless of skill level or experience, Greenberg said meeting other artists and learning from them is key.

“Even if the piece isn’t 100% perfect, it’s never going to be 100% perfect — every artist will tell you that,” Greenberg said. “So connect with the community and try and showcase your stuff. That’s the only way people get to see it.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jackververis

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