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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City Council supports Noyes Center renovations, yet timeline remains uncertain

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
City Council indicated its support for upgrades to the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

After hearing from impassioned arts advocates Monday, City Council signaled its support for extensive renovations at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center’s 19th-century building.

Originally built in 1892 as a school, the Noyes Center now faces a litany of maintenance issues, according to city officials. For the art groups that use the space for everything from gallery to theater, the updates couldn’t come sooner.

“It is a gem, and we must protect it,” Murphy Monroe, executive director of The Actors Gymnasium, said at Monday’s meeting.

The Noyes Center currently hosts 23 tenants, of which all but two are Evanston-based. They represent a variety of artistic expressions, including photography, performing arts and jewelry, among others.

Now, the center requires an overhaul of its air ventilation system, city engineer Lara Biggs said. The system has not received a major upgrade in decades, and the building also has several accessibility and code issues.

Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson told councilmembers that failing to renovate the Noyes Center could negatively impact more than just the current tenants. The Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre — located within the center — features four different productions each year that provide opportunities for experienced and novice performers alike, she said.

Thompson added that without renovations, other programs offered by the Noyes Center could also be in jeopardy, including 12 to 16 art galleries hosted each year. The center also offers a wide range of programming for children, including childhood education arts programs and spring and winter break summer camps.

“Noyes Center has a special place for my family,” Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said. “My daughter has been in plays there from a very young age.”

The city proposes spending nearly $23 million on a two-phase ventilation system overhaul and energy efficiency boost for the building. About $725,000 of the spending would go toward making the Noyes Center compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But councilmembers were uncertain about when the city would be able to dedicate funds to the renovation. Biggs said the city should pursue renovations of the Noyes Center within the next three to five years. 

“I don’t like to hear the term ‘putting band-aids’ on our cherished public facilities,” Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said. “Every building, you have to plan for upgrades (for) many years and that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

Arts advocates, including Monroe and independent artist Adriana Poterash who works at a studio in the Noyes Center, called the center an artistic hub with a global impact. The center’s programs have left an incalculable impact on Evanston, they said.

They called on the city to commit funds swiftly to complete the proposed renovations.

“Art improves humanity,” Poterash said. “If anything, we should defend artists who are giving themselves because honestly, we’re not making money. We’re just doing (art) out of the depths of our hearts.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @realShunGraves

Email: [email protected]

X: @pavanmacharya

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