An Interview with Paula Danoff, Executive Director of Evanston Art Center

Each week CGN interviews a local art-industry professional to discuss the ins and outs of running a space in the city of Chicago. This week we caught up with Paula Danoff of Evanston Art Center.


Age: Guess!

Current Position: President  & CEO

Hometown: Evanston, IL

Previous Occupations: Fundraiser and Banker


5 favorites from the past week:

Restaurant: Tanoshi
Shop: Ross Discount
Read: Who has time to read!
Neighborhood: River North
Music: Karen Carpenter


CGN: Tell us about your background and how you originally connected with Evanston Art Center?

PD: The Evanston Art Center was founded in 1929.  I was not there when it was founded, but I did take classes there when it moved to its location on Lake Michigan in 1966. I had a career in Banking, lived in Japan for 6 years and became an Ikebana Sensei in the Sogetsu school of Japanese Flower arranging. I returned to start a Career in Fundraising for Non-Profits.  In 2007, I was offered the opportunity to return to the Art Center in the role of Director in Development and Communications.  In 2015, I was offered the position of President & CEO and have been here in this position ever since.


CGN: Share a typical day in the life.

PD: COFFEE and more COFFEE- and a doughnut from Firecakes Donuts, whenever possible! The Art Center is a constant BUZZ of activity ranging from hanging shows to greeting students, meeting with Board members, artists, event planners and the public. 


CGN: How would you sum up your experience during your time with the Evanston Art Center? 

PD: My time at the Art Center has given me the opportunity to expand the mission of the Art Center to encompass all arts and fulfill the needs of a larger and more diverse audience.  When we moved to the new location in 2015, we gained 5 gallery spaces and greatly expanded opportunities for artists and outreach to the community.  I have learned how to appreciate the value in dealing with different points to view to move the mission forward.


CGN: Share some successes as well as challenges this year.

PD: This year we kicked off our second Artwork in Residency program with Shape of Now, a fashion focused one-of-a-kind residency featuring 6 talented designers curated by Katrin Schnabl.  We have established two new disciplines this year in our school for Woodworking and a Maker Space.  Our outreach to the community continues to grow with programs serving low-income students in Evanston. 

The challenge continues to fund all these amazing programs.  We continue to reach out to donors, foundations, and business to sponsor and support the Art Center. 


CGN: How have you seen technology directly affect/alter the art world?

PD: Yes!  In new and exciting ways.  Our Maker lab translates 2-D into 3-D with a laser engraving machine and 3-D printing.  We have artist interpreting their work in ways not possible a few years ago.  This has been a huge growth area for our school.  We work with youth in these areas to unleash the creative process into the next generation.


CGN: What do you want to tell a young person considering this business?

PD: We have a very robust Internship program for young people ages 15-30.  All are looking for a career in the Arts.  I advise them to take the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT tests as soon as they graduate, because that is when you are the smartest.  This will open any opportunity for your future.  I advise all young people to get as much experience with volunteering and internships in the Arts, so that they can make decisions based on experience and not emotion.


CGN: One piece of advice you would send back to yourself when you started out?

PD: Don’t worry, the best is yet to come!


CGN: Favorite cultural pursuit outside of the art world?

PD: My favorite place is the Chicago Botanic Gardens!  I find the Japanese Gardens meditative in their simplicity and grandeur.  It is a unique place in all of Chicago where you can experience the beauty of nature.


CGN: What should we expect to see next from the Evanston Art Center?

PD: Here is a listing of all the exciting exhibitions in the next few weeks!

Current Exhibitions:

Nelli Bar and Paul Wieghardt Gallery, The Fair brings together independent fashion designers artisans and collectives to present their current spring/summer collections in a unique sales event.  As a part of the ongoing SHAPE OF NOW fashion residency series curated by Katrin Schnabl, the public will have the opportunity to shop a curated selection of fashion, accessories and objects created by the participating designers and guest artists at THE FAIR, a unique art-meets-fashion pop-up showroom. 


Second Floor Gallery Space. Lindsay Olson, an artist with a science-based practice, is known for her unusual art projects. As Fermi National Accelerator’s first artist in residence, Olson’s work sheds light on the fascinating world of subatomic particles. Her love of science and technology grew out of her work with Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the world’s largest wastewater treatment facility. She uses her training to create art about the hidden realities of our world, shedding light on both the smallest frontiers and the structure of the universe: the subatomic realm of neutrinos, quarks and leptons. As a part of this exhibition, Fermilab docent Anne Mary Teichert will give a talk on Sunday, March 18 from 2 - 3pm.


Studio Exhibition: Students of Duffy O’Connor. This multi-level course, Intaglio, taught by Duffy O’Connor, invites beginners to work alongside experienced printmaking students as they explore the tradition of Intaglio printmaking.  The basic processes of intaglio printmaking of etching (line, aquatint and softground) and drypoint are taught with primarily black and white imagery; color printing is also explored by students beyond the beginner level. 


The Radical Visibility Collective creates performance that awakens queer crip futurism. The collective will showcase their work in an ongoing installation at the Evanston Art Center throughout March as part of their Shape of Now residency. They will also create a music video that encapsulates the space and performance so that people can continue to experience their vision for radical visibility.


Paula Danoff is the Executive Director of the Evanston Art Center. For more information about the EAC please visit: Evanston Art Center.