The philosophy of Evanston’s Curt’s Café is to “dine with purpose,” and the purpose got even broader as customers began noticing a silent, emerging Buddha sculpture in front of the café’s door. “People came in and asked, ‘Why is it here?’” says Susan Trieschmann, the café’s owner. Located on Evanston’s northwestern side, Curt’s Café is a nonprofit organization that provides training in food service and life skills for at-risk youth in Evanston. Whereas most organizations turn away youths who’ve had contact with the criminal justice system or appear to be headed in that direction, Curt’s Café deliberately seeks them out for employment and training in subjects ranging from computer literacy to job readiness to food history. When Trieschmann heard about the Ten Thousand Ripples project, she approached Indira Johnson to request a sculpture. The goal was to communicate a strong message about the values of the café and the community at large.
Beyond the café, Evanston residents were breaking down barriers in other ways. In northwest Evanston, the Bridge Street Project’s goal was to foster peace by crossing racial and cultural barriers among people and organizations around Bridge Street. Diverse organizations collaborated to provide workshops aimed at community intermingling, while workshops put on by Family Focus led residents through storytelling, poetry writing, and collage-making activities.
A day-long event at Grey Park organized by Open Studio Project helped open conversational doors between residents of Albany Care, an intermediate care facility for people dealing with chronic mental illness, and other residents in the neighborhood. The unfamiliarity and misunderstandings between these two groups inspired the theme “We Are One Community.” Janet Beals Orejudos, president of the Open Studio Project, took the lead organizing a day-long event in Grey Park. Neighbors, residents, and families had the opportunity to interact with each other while weaving a fabric bridge that celebrated diversity—co-creating a visual dialogue of colors and textures.
Students at Dewey Elementary School wrote a poem welcoming the sculptures to their community, and Evanston residents created a web to symbolize their interconnectedness and participated in a drum circle at an event in Twiggs Park.
Meanwhile, the at-risk students at Curt’s Café learned the ins and outs of the project in communicating it to customers, developing on the café’s purpose to help them build a positive future for themselves. “One way to end violence is dialogue,” Trieschmann notes. “I think the Buddha speaks to that.”