Douglas Boughton to serve as Director of the School of Art and Design

Douglas Boughton to serve as Director of the School of Art and Design

Doug BoughtonDouglas Boughton, Ph.D., who had been serving as Acting Director of the NIU School of Art and Design since the fall of 2020 has accepted the position on a permanent basis. It is Boughton’s second stint as director of the school. He also served in the role from 2008 to 2014.

Boughton is also Professor of Art Education. He has served in significant international leadership roles as World President of InSEA (International Society for Education through Art), and Chief Examiner Visual Arts for the International Baccalaureate Organization. He was Foundation Director of the National Art Education Research Council of the Australian Institute of Art Education, and Consulting Professor in Art Education to the Institute of Education in Hong Kong.

He is a member of the Council for Policy Studies in Art Education (USA), is Chair of the Distinguished Fellows of the NAEA, an honorary life member of the Australian Institute of Art Education (now Art Education Australia) and the South Australian Visual Arts Education Association. He has won the NAEA Higher Educator of the Year Award (2017) and the Illinois Higher Educator of the Year (2015). In 1997 he won the Studies in Art Education Invited Lecture Award for consistent contributions through published literature to the direction and scope of the profession, in 2006 he won the USSEA Edwin Ziegfeld Award for his outstanding contribution to international art education.

Boughton has close to a hundred publications including articles and book chapters, a monograph, and three co-edited books on the topics of art education curriculum policy, assessment, and multiculturalism (including books and articles published in nine languages, (Chinese, Hungarian, Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch, German, Greek, and Slovenian). He has given keynote addresses and invited lectures in twenty-five countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America, North America, South East Asia and the Pacific regions.

His research interests include: assessment, curriculum, risk taking and the creative process, and international issues in art and design education.

Graduation Stories: Angie Redmond, MFA Paining, Museum Studies certificate

Graduation Stories: Angie Redmond, MFA Paining, Museum Studies certificate

Angie Redmond received her MFA in Painting with a museum studies certificate, and was one of many NIU students who were able to attend an in-person graduation ceremony over the weekend. Angie’s story was featured in the master’s degree commencement video.

Also featured in commencement videos were Music’s Izabella Gieron and Theatre and Dance’s Jill Belluomini.

NIU students partner with WNIJ reporters to tell stories with data

NIU students partner with WNIJ reporters to tell stories with data

A collaboration between public radio station WNIJ and students in NIU’s data visualization courses helps to build student portfolios and improve reporting in the region.

In 2020, NIU graduate student Bharat Kale prepared graphics to accompany WNIJ reporting in collaboration with the ddiLab joint effort of the Department of Computer Science and School of Art and Design

In early 2016, local public radio station WNIJ obtained a data set related to overdose deaths in a northern Illinois county. WNIJ reporter Jenna Dooley (who has since become the station’s news director) recognized that the data was important but was unsure how to make sense of it and use it to inform the station’s reporting on the issue.

“Since we’re located here on NIU’s campus, I decided to draw on our connections with the university. I contacted Michael Papka, who specializes in data visualization, to ask for his help,” says Dooley. “We met several times over the course of the semester to explore the data, and I used that to inform the questions we asked during the newsgathering process.”

This semester-long collaboration resulted in a series of on-air reports, accompanied by a digital presentation of user-friendly graphs, maps and other data visualizations. But even more importantly, it marked the start of a partnership between WNIJ and the data visualization courses first taught in NIU’s Department of Computer Science, and later in the School of Art and Design, as well.

Taught by Joe Insley (School of Art and Design) and Michael Papka (Department of Computer Science), these interdisciplinary courses teach students to transform data into images, applying programming, art and design skills across a wide range of domains. The partnership with WNIJ allows students to use their knowledge in a real-world setting and build their professional portfolios.

“Working with Jenna and her team of reporters has been a great experience for our students,” says Insley. “They get to see their work have a positive impact in a professional setting. Not only do they see how their final visualizations provide insight to the reader, but also how their exploratory visualizations can help inform the reporters as they are developing the story. Contributing to an interdisciplinary team is a valuable real-world experience.”

Speaking of real-world experience – it turns out that working with real data can be a complicated and messy process.

“The stories Jenna (and now a wider WNIJ team) bring us are timely and contain all the things we expect our students to see when doing data visualization outside the classroom,” says Papka. “This means the students see how messy data can be, how it can be formatted wrong or be incomplete. They can see that the answers are not known in advance, and that unexpected results can guide the news team but also require verification that the results are correct.”

In recent years, students have worked with WNIJ reporters on a wide range of stories that are enhanced by the use of graphics. Topics have included local voting trends, video gaming revenues and traffic stops. During the course of the semester, students are given a project outline and a data set. They develop graphics, and the WNIJ reporters and students explore the data together. WNIJ shares the students’ final products on the station’s website, crediting the students so the work becomes part of their professional portfolio.

While the NIU students gain real-world experience, learning to communicate effectively and see a project through from start to finish, WNIJ also benefits from the collaboration.

“The marriage of data visualization and journalism increases accuracy and makes the story more relevant,” say Dooley. “The ‘why’ is often the most compelling aspect to the narrative version of the story. Data visualization helps identify the ‘what,’ which enables the reporter to ask their sources ‘why’ the topic matters in their lives.”

For example, in the spring semester of 2021, WNIJ Reporter Chase Cavanaugh reported on the loss of revenue many Illinois cities experienced due to the closure of video gaming terminals during the pandemic. NIU students put municipal revenue numbers into graphics that showed just how dramatic this decline was. Cavanaugh joined the virtual class on several occasions to offer feedback on the graphics and then shared with the students what he had learned after interviewing several local officials, who described how this affected their bottom lines.

The finished product hit the airwaves on March 16 and included a digital slideshow featuring the student-produced graphics.

“Although traditionally public radio is an audio medium, more and more listeners are coming to us through our website and mobile app,” says Dooley. “This data visualization partnership allows us to make better use of all the tools at our disposal to communicate clearly with our audience.”

The partnership also includes the NIU Data, Devices and Interaction Laboratory (ddiLab), where art and computer science students work side by side on data visualization projects, and it has influenced the Journalism 354 class Dooley teaches in NIU’s Department of Communication, where she shares the data visualizations to show students how to use data to inform stories and better communicate with audience members.

Dooley and Papka both emphasize journalistic ethics and standards of accuracy in their teaching because, in the words of Papka, “Data visualization provides a way to convey a lot of information in a condensed and concise way, but also provides an opportunity to mislead people.”

“If a visualization seems too good to be true or includes too far an outlier, it is incumbent upon the reporter to double check for accuracy,” Dooley tells her students. “Maybe there is an explanation for the outlier and that becomes the focus of the story. Just as often, a piece of the data is incorrect or missing and needs to be updated in order for the visualization to be correct.”

WNIJ 89.5 FM is one of two non-commercial public broadcasting radio stations managed by Northern Public Radio, the broadcast arm of Northern Illinois University, and provides independent, local, national and international news. The mission of Northern Public Radio is to enrich, inspire and inform adults in northern Illinois through programs and services that share ideas, encourage thought, give pleasure and create community.

Learn more at

This story originally appeared in the May 18, 2021 edition of NIU Today

Exhibits and conversations promote Belonging in DeKalb

Exhibits and conversations promote Belonging in DeKalb

While the pandemic has been keeping people apart, the City of DeKalb, Northern Illinois University and a collection of local agencies have been working to bring the DeKalb community closer together through the Belonging initiative.

The initiative to develop a belonging community was sparked by a virtual conversation in October 2020, led by Dr. john a. powell, who leads the Belonging Institution at U.C. Berkley. Joining the city and the university in the effort are Family Service Agency, the Ellwood Museum and the DeKalb County History Center.

Aided by a $30,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in January 2021, and a $5,000 donation from the DeKalb County Community Foundation, those organizations have been working on a variety of public art and engagement activities designed to examine issues around race in the community. The goal is to make DeKalb a more welcoming, inclusive place that embraces diversity.

“We are delighted to be in partnership with the City of Dekalb and our community partners on such an important endeavor,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden,  vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion /Chief Diversity Officer and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer at NIU. “The positive support received from the entire community has been wonderful. We look forward to co-creating a community where all members are seen, valued and respected is a community where all members can live and more importantly can thrive.”

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas is equally enthused about the program.

“The social justice movement that has positively energized the dialogue about racism in our country and in this community since May 2020 has also helped us engage one another in finding what unites and humanizes us,” Nicklas said of the project. “It is our hope that this initiative will encourage our diverse community in the further exploration of how we can better embrace one another as we work, learn and live together.”

Projects funded by the IDHS grant have come to fruition this month, creating opportunities for members of the community to explore issues that create division and potentially motivating them to find ways to tear down those barriers and make DeKalb a place where all can feel they belong. See below for information on each project.

Faces of Belonging

The Faces of Belonging project is a traveling exhibit that promotes “belonging” among individuals who live, work and study in DeKalb. It highlights the rich network of diverse individuals who make up the community through their unique photographs, perspectives and varied life experiences. The portraits capture individuals that work to create a sense of belonging for others in the community. Each shows a person in a place in DeKalb that creates a sense of belonging for that individual. The photographs are accompanied by excerpts from interviews with the subjects of the photographs, sharing insights into what belonging means to them and how to create a sense of belonging for everyone.

The project was created by Jessica Labatte, an associate professor in NIU’s School of Art and Design, and two of her photography students, Amy Fleming and Jacob Rivera. The photographs can be seen on Huskie Line buses. The exhibit can be viewed online at

Arts in Action

Developed by the DeKalb County History Center and the Ellwood House Museum, Arts in Action investigates the history of race relations in DeKalb County with the assistance of nine visual artists. Their work touches upon the themes of fear, exclusion, community and hope.

Arts in Action is designed to be a platform for community members and artists to tell their stories, especially for those whose voices have not always been heard. The project goal is to build a stronger community by sharing, listening to and understanding the stories of everyone in the community.

A virtual exhibit launched March 31 and can be viewed on the DeKalb County History Center Website.

Hateful Things

Northern Illinois University’s Pick Museum of Anthropology, in collaboration with the Center for Black Studies, is hosting the traveling exhibition, “Hateful Things.” Created and circulated by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, the exhibition represents nearly 150 years of anti-Black/racist memorabilia and imagery, each embodying the terrible effects of the Jim Crow legacy. This powerful exhibition lifts objects from their original purposes to serve as reminders of America’s racist past and challenges present-day images and systems of oppression. It is a representation of racial stereotyping with the aim of stimulating the scholarly examination of historical and contemporary expressions of racism, as well as promoting racial understanding and healing. The exhibit is open to the public for in-person and virtual tours through April 9, and reservations are required. A virtual tour is available online.

 Diversity Dialogues

The Diversity Dialogues series at NIU was created to allow participants to understand and discuss a wide range of topics from local and global perspectives. It focuses on participants enhancing their awareness, becoming comfortable in engaging in informed conversations and expanding to social justice actions to create positive change and solve problems. As part of the Belongings initiative, Dr. LaVonya Bennett led a virtual session March 25, co-sponsored by Target, to provide participants an understanding of the historic and current lived experiences of people of color and how trauma is caused and influenced by racial identity.

Belonging Council Formation

The grant has also supported work to create a community Belonging Council to guide such activities going forward. A team from NIU‘s Center for Governmental Studies has facilitated a series of formation discussions with a steering committee of community members working collaboratively to create foundational documents and a vision for a Belonging Council within the City of DeKalb. To date, the steering committee has created a working draft of the Belonging Council’s mission statement, a list of guiding values, and undertaken an analysis of the operating environment. The steering committee will work on the development of short- and long-term organizational and mission-driven goals along with an action plan for the remaining workshop sessions, which are planned to be completed in early April.

For more information about Belonging, visit

Header photo: One of the many striking images from Faces of Belonging, view them all online

NIU Printmaking exhibition at ARC Gallery Chicago

NIU Printmaking exhibition at ARC Gallery Chicago

Students in the Printmaking Area of the NIU School of Art and Design are exhibiting their work at the ARC Gallery in Chicago, 1463 W. Chicago Ave.

Plucked & Gleaned opened on March 6 and runs through March 27. It is a group exhibition of fine art prints. The work on display touches on themes of identity, Midwest culture, place, and personal ecosystems. All of the works in the exhibition are by print artists living and making art in northern Illinois and the Chicagoland area.

Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday noon to 6 p.m. Sundays noon to 4 p.m.

Plucked and Gleaned posterExhibiting Artists:
Wes Beeler
Rachel Beer
Sasha Bitzer
Alex Bridges
Marco Camacho
Zoë Couvillion
Mikey Crotty
Jayden Dale
Jan Gerenstein
Nathanial Gilchrist
Christina Kang
Greg Padgett
Nick Phan
Sixing Qi
Saffron Williams

ARC Gallery is an internationally recognized exhibition space that has been an integral part of the Chicago art scene since its inception in 1973. Founded during the women’s movement as an alternative to the mainstream gallery system, ARC is one of the oldest co-ops of its kind in the country. As a non-profit, woman artist-run cooperative, ARC continues its feminist tradition by providing exhibition opportunities for professional and emerging artists working in all media based on excellence of artwork, without discrimination toward gender, race, age, class, physical/mental ability, sexual, spiritual or political orientation.

Visiting artist lecture on Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage, March 17

Visiting artist lecture on Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage, March 17

Christine Ballengee MorrisJoin Dr. Christine Ballengee Morris, professor in arts administration, education and policy development and director of American Indian Studies for The Ohio State University for a free, open to the public virtual lecture, Wednesday, March 17 at 5 p.m.

Several thousand years ago, building earthworks was a central feature of the public architecture of many Indigenous cultures in the world. Gaining community support, building economic development strategies that included the arts and American Indian tribes, and consideration of Earthworks as World Heritage sites are topics explored in this presentation.

Ballengee Morris is co-author, with NIU School of Art and Design Professor and Head of Art and Design Education Kryssi Staikidis, of the book Transforming Our Practices: Indigenous Art, Pedagogies and Philosophies published in 2017.

Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage: Cultures, Sites, Tourism and the Arts
Wednesday, March 17, 5 p.m.
Free, open to the public
Zoom link

Sponsored in part by the NIU Arts and Culture Fee.