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.

Art and Design’s Olivia Zubko honored by the International Sculpture Center

Art and Design’s Olivia Zubko honored by the International Sculpture Center

Olivia Zubko, a May graduate of the NIU School of Art and Design has been honored by the International Sculpture Center in their 2020 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award program.

This year 217 students from more than 100 college and university sculpture programs in North America were nominated. The jury consisted of María Carolina Baulo, art historian curator and arts writer-critic (Buenos Aires, Argentina); Angel Cabrales, artist and educator (El Paso, Tex.) and Peyton Scott Russell artist and arts instructor (Minneapolis) deliberated over 570 images of sculptural works to select 12 award recipients and 10 honorable mentions.

Zubko was awarded a 2020 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Honorable Mention. She will be recognized in the November/December issue of Sculpture magazine, on the new ISC web site that launches in September and given a one year membership to the ISC.

Zubko and her work were featured on the Arts Blog in a senior spotlight in June.

Art and Design adds a pair of top five program rankings

Art and Design adds a pair of top five program rankings

The nationally renowned School of Art and Design at NIU has earned a pair of new top five rankings.

Animation Career Review has announced their 2020 Graphic Design School Rankings. More than 700 schools with graphic design programs across the nation were evaluated and NIU has placed a pair of programs in the top five.

This is the second year that Animation Career Review has ranked illustration programs, and NIU’s is ranked third in the state.

For the sixth year in a row, Animation Career Review has ranked graphic design programs and NIU’s visual communication program is ranked fifth in the state.

The School of Art and Design is no stranger to recognition. US News and World Report has ranked the illustration program in the top 20 nationally, and ranks the school’s Master in Fine Arts program in the top 125 in the nation. and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities ranks the school 35th in the nation.