Founded in 1987, YEA! was the brainchild of local resident and Dempster Street business owner, Harvey Pranian. With a deep appreciation for the community he served and a heartfelt desire to show it, Harvey decided that it was time for the businesses in the area to band together and give back to the community. He recruited his fellow business owners to join him in sponsoring an event that would serve as a venue for local kids to show their art. Next he met with District 65 art teachers and their overwhelmingly positive response was all he needed to fuel his determination to bring a Young Evanston Artists’ festival to life.
The early years were not easy as Harvey had to literally build the festival from the ground up and pound the pavement, appealing to every person, business and agency he could, asking for their support. Soliciting donations – financial and in-kind – became a key component to pulling the event together, but Harvey’s panache served him and the festival well. And with each year YEA! grew and evolved both in audience and content. Four years in, performing artists joined the mix and a stage was added. The board of this new non-profit grew, as well, as did its reputation and now YEA! is recognized as the North Shore’s premiere children's art event.
For the first 27 years YEA! came to life in the Dempster/Chicago Avenue business corridor with a fantastic array of art displays presented in the streets and on the sidewalks. In 2015, as the number of participants and attendees continued to grow, the festival relocated to Raymond Park in an effort to consolidate the event into one location, reduce congestion, and better insure the safety of the children. That is where it remains today.
In 2017, as Harvery approached his 80th birthday, he and the board decided it was to time for YEA! to come to an end. A number of the board members had served for many years and everyone, including Harvey, was ready to retire. After several failed attempts to find a good partner or parent organization that might consider bringing the festival into its program portfolio, they came to the difficult conclusion that perhaps the event had run its course and the 30th anniversary was an excellent note on which to end. Once word got out into the community that YEA! was over, a diverse and highly motivated group of community members came together and offered to take the reigns. The former board was delighted to see the festival find new life and in January 2018, the new board officially began stewardship of the organization -- with Harvey, of course, as a trusted advisor.
From the beginning, Harvey was guided by a core principal that YEA! should be a welcoming and inclusive arts event that would resonate in all corners of our community and attract everyone who lives here. The new board remains committed to building on his legacy and fulfilling the same mission. This little idea that he conjured as a thank you to a community he loves has grown and blossomed into a gift for which we, as a community, should be thanking him. Thank you, Harvey. May it last another 30 years, hopefully more.