NIU to host art for social justice event to paint Black Lives Matter at the university’s entrance

NIU to host art for social justice event to paint Black Lives Matter at the university’s entrance

The Northern Illinois University Center for Black Studies and the College of Visual and Performing Arts are hosting an art for social justice event, “Art and Soul.”  The event will be held Thursday, October 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the main entrance of the university on Castle Drive. The Huskie Bus Line buses will be rerouted from noon Thursday until Friday morning.

The entire community is invited to join together to help paint “Black Lives Matter” on Castle Drive.  Paint, rollers, and brushes will be supplied.

Participants will be limited to 50 at any one time, but attendees may join in at any time throughout the afternoon to make their mark and show their commitment to social justice.

Safety measures will be followed. Masks must be worn. Wipes will be used to clean the brush handles and rollers after each use.  Safety protocols will be facilitated by members of the Center for Black Studies and students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

In addition to the group painting, there will be performances and speakers throughout the event, including the NIU Black Choir, jazz ensembles, percussion ensemble, dance improvisation, and readings from a variety of texts.

“The paint used is water-based and non-toxic,” said Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “It is expected to last through the rest of the fall semester. Though the image may fade, our commitment to social justice and to a strong Huskie community will remain vivid and strong. We believe that one answer to a hateful act is an act of affirmation of our values. It is in that spirit that this event is being held—to testify and signify to all that NIU holds an unshakeable belief that Black Lives Matter.”

For more information, contact the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Donee Spizzirri at dspizzirri@niu.edu.

Art and Design’s Kryssi Staikidis publishes book on Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology

Art and Design’s Kryssi Staikidis publishes book on Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology

Kryssi Staikidis, Professor and Head of Art and Design Education in NIU’s School of Art and Design has recently published the book, Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology: An Evolving Collaborative Painting Ethnography with Maya Artists Pedro Rafael González Chavajay and Paula Nicho Cúmez by Brill.

Staikidis Book CoverTo expand the possibilities of “doing arts thinking” from a non-Eurocentric view, Artistic Mentoring as a Decolonizing Methodology: An Evolving Collaborative Painting Ethnography with Maya Artists Pedro Rafael González Chavajay and Paula Nicho Cúmez is grounded in Indigenous perspectives on arts practice, arts research, and art education.

Mentored in painting for eighteen years by two Guatemalan Maya artists, Kryssi Staikidis, a North American painter and art education professor, uses both Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies, which involve respectful collaboration, and continuously reexamines her positions as student, artist, and ethnographer searching to redefine and transform the roles of the artist as mentor, historian/activist, ethnographer, and teacher.

The primary purpose of the book is to illuminate the Maya artists as mentors, the collaborative and holistic processes underlying their painting, and the teaching and insights from their studios. These include Imagined Realism, a process excluding rendering from observation, and the fusion of pedagogy and curriculum into a holistic paradigm of decentralized teaching, negotiated curriculum, personal and cultural narrative as thematic content, and the surrounding visual culture and community as text.

The Maya artist as cultural historian creates paintings as platforms of protest and vehicles of cultural transmission, for example, genocide witnessed in paintings as historical evidence. The mentored artist as ethnographer cedes the traditional ethnographic authority of the colonizing stance to the Indigenous expert as partner and mentor, and under this mentorship analyzes its possibilities as decolonizing arts-based qualitative inquiry. For the teacher, Maya world views broaden and integrate arts practice and arts research, inaugurating possibilities to transform arts education.

The book can be purchased in hardcover, paperback or .pdf through Brill’s website.

NIU Sculpture Visiting Artist Talk – Heather Mekkelson

NIU Sculpture Visiting Artist Talk – Heather Mekkelson

Heather MekkelsonThe sculpture area of the NIU School of Art and Design is hosting a virtual Zoom presentation by visiting artist Heather Mekkelson, Thursday, October 8 at 5 p.m.

Mekkelson is a sculptor and installation artist based in Chicago. She has had several solo exhibitions at chicago galleries such as 65GRAND, 4th Ward Project Space and STANDARD.

She has exhibited in group shows in galleries and institutions nationally since 2001. Mekkelson’s work has been featured in Art Journal, Art21 Magazine, Artforum.com, Artnet, Flavorpill, Hyperallergic, Newcity, Time Out Chicago and others.

She has been the recipient of several fellowships and grants, including the 2012 Artadia Award, and the Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Sculpture in 2020.

The event is open to the public. To join in, log into your Zoom account or go to zoom.us. The Meeting ID is 921 8632 1445 and the passcode is 539303.

River Weaving walking tour rescheduled for Oct. 3 and 11

River Weaving walking tour rescheduled for Oct. 3 and 11

UPDATE: The River Weaving walking tour has been rescheduled for two dates, Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 11. Both will be held at 2 p.m. and attendees can pre-register for free at go.niu.edu/riverweaving. The walking tour and discussion will begin at the “River Weaving” site on the College Street bridge near the east side of the Music Building.

Thirty-four years ago, John Siblik was an NIU art student drawing up a concept for an environmental sculpture to be placed in the Kishwaukee River where it flows past the lagoon and the Music Building. Now, Siblik finds himself standing in that same river, in that same spot with a team of students and alumni installing that very same artwork.

Siblik is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, and this is the sixth time he’s created and installed a version of this project. It is the second time in Illinois. The first was in Lockport’s I&M canal in 2014. But this current version is particularly special. “River Weaving” is part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary year-long celebration, and a chance for Siblik to complete the vision he first had in 1986.

“The project commemorates the Kishwaukee River as an important feature of the landscape that helped influence state officials to select DeKalb as the site for NIU prior to its founding in 1895,” Siblik says. “Earl W. Hayter, in his history of Northern Illinois University ‘Education in Transition’ tells a wonderful mythic tale of the residents of DeKalb going without water for two days so that the city’s water supply could be diverted into the Kish and have it appear to the commissioners that the Kish was in fact a mighty river. For those of us that are alumni of NIU it’s been stated that if you dip your toe in the Kish you will never leave, at least in our hearts.”

The installation features 90 elements placed in the water made of willow, steel and stone. Each is six to eight feet in length and placed onto a base that is four feet wide and two to four feet tall.  The design is flexible and portable to adapt to different rivers, and strong enough to hold up to flooding and currents.

“The most basic way to think about this piece of environmental art is that it is weaving as sculpture,” Siblik said. “The wood elements make the warp and water flows through and creates the weft, and that’s what makes ‘River Weaving’ a fitting title. The environmental significance is that the piece reminds the viewer that we cannot think of the environment as disconnected from ourselves. It serves as a reminder that all aspects of nature and society are connected and interwoven.

“As the water level in the river rises, “River Weaving” is activated and serves as a filter collecting litter and debris. Some of the items collected so far include a mattress, tire, shoe, fishing pole, COVID-19 mask, as well as several bags, wrappers, bottles, and cans., It starts as a beautiful, elegant sculpture. Then, after a heavy rain, River Weaving reveals that we dump too much trash into the water.”

But while installing the sculpture in the Kishwaukee River, Siblik said he was encouraged. “The water quality appears to be improving, and we found delicate arrowroot plants, crayfish and mussels, signs of a healthy waterway.”

His team includes Myel Simmons, an NIU art student and illustrator who is serving as the project manager, Jose Vazquez, an environmental science major, and business student Jared Norton.

There are also three alumni helping with the project. Arin Whitmore is a 2020 BFA drawing graduate, Mark Mattson, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s in English from NIU is the business development manager at Creative Therapeutics in DeKalb, and Ken Olson holds a degree in physical therapy from NIU and is a physical therapist and principal partner with Northern Rehab in DeKalb.

Support for the project has come from the NIU 125th Anniversary Committee, as well as material support from local businesses. Dimco Steel and Metal in DeKalb donated more than 3,000 pounds of rebar. Wagner Aggregate provided more than 14,000 pounds of locally sourced limestone from a quarry in Fairdale which is used to weigh down the sculptures, and R&B Services in DeKalb hauled and delivered the stone.

Siblik estimates the sculpture installation will be in place until Oct 15, 2020, depending on weather. 

River Weaving walking tour rescheduled for Oct. 3 and 11

As NIU celebrates the 125th Anniversary, River Weaving affirms its commitment to sustainability and the environment

Thirty-four years ago, John Siblik was an NIU art student drawing up a concept for an environmental sculpture to be placed in the Kishwaukee River where it flows past the lagoon and the Music Building. Now, Siblik finds himself standing in that same river, in that same spot with a team of students and alumni installing that very same artwork.

Siblik is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, and this is the sixth time he’s created and installed a version of this project. It is the second time in Illinois. The first was in Lockport’s I&M canal in 2014. But this current version is particularly special. “River Weaving” is part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary year-long celebration, and a chance for Siblik to complete the vision he first had in 1986.

“The project commemorates the Kishwaukee River as an important feature of the landscape that helped influence state officials to select DeKalb as the site for NIU prior to its founding in 1895,” Siblik says. “Earl W. Hayter, in his history of Northern Illinois University ‘Education in Transition’ tells a wonderful mythic tale of the residents of DeKalb going without water for two days so that the city’s water supply could be diverted into the Kish and have it appear to the commissioners that the Kish was in fact a mighty river. For those of us that are alumni of NIU it’s been stated that if you dip your toe in the Kish you will never leave, at least in our hearts.”

The installation features 90 elements placed in the water made of willow, steel and stone. Each is six to eight feet in length and placed onto a base that is four feet wide and two to four feet tall.  The design is flexible and portable to adapt to different rivers, and strong enough to hold up to flooding and currents.

“The most basic way to think about this piece of environmental art is that it is weaving as sculpture,” Siblik said. “The wood elements make the warp and water flows through and creates the weft, and that’s what makes ‘River Weaving’ a fitting title. The environmental significance is that the piece reminds the viewer that we cannot think of the environment as disconnected from ourselves. It serves as a reminder that all aspects of nature and society are connected and interwoven.

“As the water level in the river rises, “River Weaving” is activated and serves as a filter collecting litter and debris. Some of the items collected so far include a mattress, tire, shoe, fishing pole, COVID-19 mask, as well as several bags, wrappers, bottles, and cans., It starts as a beautiful, elegant sculpture. Then, after a heavy rain, River Weaving reveals that we dump too much trash into the water.”

But while installing the sculpture in the Kishwaukee River, Siblik said he was encouraged. “The water quality appears to be improving, and we found delicate arrowroot plants, crayfish and mussels, signs of a healthy waterway.”

His team includes Myel Simmons, an NIU art student and illustrator who is serving as the project manager, Jose Vazquez, an environmental science major, and business student Jared Norton.

There are also three alumni helping with the project. Arin Whitmore is a 2020 BFA drawing graduate, Mark Mattson, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s in English from NIU is the business development manager at Creative Therapeutics in DeKalb, and Ken Olson holds a degree in physical therapy from NIU and is a physical therapist and principal partner with Northern Rehab in DeKalb.

Support for the project has come from the NIU 125th Anniversary Committee, as well as material support from local businesses. Dimco Steel and Metal in DeKalb donated more than 3,000 pounds of rebar. Wagner Aggregate provided more than 14,000 pounds of locally sourced limestone from a quarry in Fairdale which is used to weigh down the sculptures, and R&B Services in DeKalb hauled and delivered the stone.

Siblik estimates the sculpture installation will be in place until Oct 15, 2020, depending on weather, and he is planning a walk tour to view and discuss “River Weaving” at the site starting at the College Street bridge near the east side of the Music Building at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, September 24.