Straight outta Evanston

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“You’ll never make it.”

Any student who seeks to pursue a career in the arts has probably heard this at some point in their high school career, thinly veiled in the concern of a well-intentioned parent, glaring from the top of a “Top 10 Most Useless Degrees” list, or through the sneer of a condescending peer. The echoing sentiment heard time and time again is that pursuing a creative career is somehow looking for failure.

But what about the people that DO make it? As ceramics teacher Marla Seibold explains, “People think becoming very famous is really a crap shot. Just like pro athletes, only a few artists can attain any sort of fame.”

After adding that fame is not the only measure for success, Seibold continues, “That’s why it’s so important to look at people in our community in the arts who describe themselves as successful,” she explains. “ Having a career in the arts can be fulfilling and lucrative even if you don’t become a household name or don’t end up on TV.”

And it’s true. Success doesn’t necessarily mean becoming the next Christopher Nolan, John Cusack, or even Ezra Furman, all former ETHS graduates. Besides, every artist has to start somewhere. And some of them even started right here, at ETHS. Here are a few:

Daniel Sinker founded Punk Planet in 1994, creating arguably one of the most influential alternative music magazines in Chicago. The zine reached a readership of well over 16,000 and ran for 80 issues between 1994 and 2007, providing music reviews, insights on punk subculture, and relevant social commentary. Sinker now works as an author and publisher, as well as running the famously satirical Mayor Emanuel twitter account.

Gwen Macsai, class of 1997, wrote screenplay for a popular sitcom titled What about Joan before working for NPR. She is now hosting a podcast series titled Re:sound and has published a collection of her own essays, titled Lipshtick, according to head of the ETHS Alumni Association David Futransky.

Lauren Lapkus, who participated in YAMO during her time at ETHS, has most notably been in the blockbuster hit Jurassic World and in Orange is the New Black in addition to productions such as The To Do List and Are You Here, starring alongside Amy Poehler and Owen Wilson.

Charlie Engman, known for his slightly surreal and incredibly diverse images of his mother, is a photographer who has worked with Opening Ceremony, Vivienne Westwood, Adidas, and Hermes to name a few. His images are whimsical and peppered with collage effects, often incorporating heavy use of clean, graphic lines and texture.

Ken Arlen is a musician, mostly saxophone, who played at both President Obama and President Clinton’s inaugurations. He now directs his own orchestra and has an independent music production company, Arlen Music Productions. His daughter Jessie Arlen, also an ETHS grad, works as a vocalist under the pseudonym iDA Hawk.

And for the students currently enrolled in the curriculum, seeing possibilities for their future can help motivate them to pursue their own ambitions. Mo Macsai-Goren, senior, describes his experience meeting Workaholics cast member Anders Holm,

“When he was my age, (Holm) was doing everything I’m doing. And now, he’s doing everything I want to do in the future.” Mo explains, “Seeing him reminded me it’s possible to actually have a career in comedy coming out of ETHS.”

According to Seibold, “The Evanston community attracts people who are interested in the arts, so it’s not just one aspect of the business, we have an entire community that draws people into the arts. Then of course they have kids.” She adds, “What we offer (at ETHS) is a robust fine arts curriculum. We have a lot of visual arts, theater, stagecraft, music, vocal: we have the kids who already have the propensity and then we have the curriculum to help foster them.”