History & Mission

Our History and Mission
At Art Encounter, we believe that art is a powerful vehicle to better understand ourselves and the world around us. Founded in 1978 by three artists– Joanna Pinsky, Ellen Kamerling, and Bonnie Hartenstein– our mission is to educate, empower, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds through interactive encounters with visual art. Our founders developed a unique interactive discussion method that helps people discover artistic concepts while sharing individual perceptions. There is no other organization in the Chicago area like Art Encounter, by our commitment to make art accessible for all people.

Our broad menu of programs serves a wide range of participants from Evanston to Englewood, from elementary age students to elders, across a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.  Our three streams of programming are our Community Outreach Programs for students and seniors, Art Tours and Travel Programs for the general public, and the Evanston Mural Arts Program for our home community at large.

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH PROGRAMS serve students and seniors. For students, we offer three main in-school arts integration residency programs designed for elementary students- ARTiculations (for 3rd-4th graders), MathART (for 5th graders), and The Language of Art (for 1st-5th graders), which cumulatively serve up to 10 schools and over 2000 students every year. Our after school programs work with Y.O.U. sites and PTAs to bring art enrichment to six District 65 schools each year. For seniors, we bring two residency programs to local nursing homes in the Chicago area, Hats Off to Art and Picturing Thoughts, as well as our long-term art class at Evanston’s Dobson Place. For mixed ages, our annual intergeneration program Linking Generations pairs Evanston teens and seniors to collaborate on art projects each spring. The total sum of people we serve in our outreach programs annually is about 3000.

ART TOURS AND TRAVEL PROGRAMS serve the general public and create opportunities for artists to engage with new audiences. These discussion-based programs help us achieve our mission by serving active adults seeking lifelong learning experiences. Expanding Visions leads weekly art education programs at artists’ studios and private art collections. Gallery Walks, Winter Museum Series, EXPO and SOFA tours, and Bus Tours tour local major art districts and special events, while YOUTIME focuses on highlighting the cultural assets and artists of Evanston. Our Art Travel program takes groups to important art destinations in the US and abroad for close cultural art encounters.  Annually, over 800 people participate in these programs.

EVANSTON MURAL ARTS PROGRAM is our new community-based public art initiative, aimed to beautify and uplift our hometown. In this program, we work with local community groups and the city to curate public murals by professional artists as well as youth. This program is central to our organization’s vision to build community through improving access to quality art. In our first two years, we have overseen the production of 11 large-scale murals in seven different wards, with 28 partners such as the Evanston Arts Council, Evanston Art Center, Main Dempster Mile, Downtown Evanston, Evanston Girl Scouts, and Y.O.U,

We believe in the power of art to bring people together. To learn more about how we can bring art to your community, email us at info@artencounter.org