EVL represents one of the oldest art and engineering collaborations in the United States. It was founded in 1973 by Tom DeFanti (then of the UIC Chemistry Department, later Computer Science) and Dan Sandin (of the Art Department). The lab was originally known as the Circle Graphics Habitat, in reference to the then-name of UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. DeFanti and Sandin have served as Co-Directors of the lab since its founding. Later in 1987, they were joined by Maxine D. Brown as Associate Director.
1981: The Z Box hardware and ZGRASS software (based on DeFanti's prior GRASS programming language), an early graphics system for the Bally home computer. This system featured NTSC video output and was used by a number of computer graphics artists of the time.
The members of EVL have been involved with the SIGGRAPH organization and conference ever since its inception. DeFanti has served as Secretary (1977-1981) and Chair (1981-1985) of the organization, and 1979 conference chair. Brown has served as Vice Chair for Operations (1985-1987) and Secretary (1981-1985), and chaired the 1992 conference. According to Jim Blinn, the popular Electronic Theatre "started out as a bunch of people crowding into Dan Sandin’s dorm room to watch videotapes."  In 1979, DeFanti established the SIGGRAPH Video Review, which EVL has continued to supervise. At SIGGRAPH '92, EVL organized the "Showcase" event, where researchers demonstrated 35 projects in state-of-the-art computational science and scientific visualization. At SIGGRAPH '94, EVL organized the VROOM event, demonstrations of the state of virtual reality technology.
In 1998, Brown received the first ever SIGGRAPH Outstanding Service Award for her contributions to the organization. In 2000, DeFanti and EVL alumna Copper Giloth also received the Outstanding Service Award.
^Sturman, D.J.; Zeltzer, D. (January 1994). "A survey of glove-based input". IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. 14 (1): 30–39. doi:10.1109/38.250916.
^Cruz-Neira, C.; Sandin, D.; DeFanti, T.; Kenyon, R.; Hart, J. "The CAVE: Audio Visual Experience Automatic Virtual Environment". Communications of the ACM. 35 (6): 65–72. doi:10.1145/129888.129892.
^DeFanti, T., Foster I., Papka, M., Stevens, R., Kuhfuss, T. "Overview of the I-WAY: Wide Area Visual Supercomputing". International Journal of Supercomputing Applications. 10 (2): 123–130. doi:10.1177/109434209601000201.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^Blinn, J. (1995). "How to Attend a Siggraph Conference". IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. 15 (4): 86–88. doi:10.1109/38.391503.