MFA grad Geoffrey Todd Smith featured at Western Exhibitions

MFA grad Geoffrey Todd Smith featured at Western Exhibitions

Chicago based artist Geoffrey Todd Smith, a 1997 MFA graduate of the NIU School of Art has a solo exhibition currently running at Western Exhibitions, 1709 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago.

Sordid Orchestra is Smith’s sixth solo show at Western Exhibitions. The gallery describes this show as “new vibrant and nervy multi-media paintings on paper and on panel.”

The exhibition can be viewed online or by booking an appointment for groups of one to four people to view Sordid Orchestra in person.

Geoffrey Todd Smith’s work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Hallmark Inc., Fidelity Investments Corporate Art Collection, the Jager Collection in Amsterdam, Soho House Chicago, the South Bend Art Museum in Indiana, and Harper College in Illinois and has been shown at Luis de Jesus Gallery and Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles; Hyde Park Art Center, the Union League, DePaul Art Museum and Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago; The Hughes Gallery in Australia; The Green Gallery in Milwaukee; The Front in New Orleans; Illinois State Museum, and the Elmhurst Art Museum in Illinois. He has been written about in New City, The Seen, New American Paintings, Bad at Sports, art ltd, Juxtapoz, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Magazine. Smith is represented by Western Exhibitions and he lives and works in Chicago.

Art and Design Professor Todd Buck’s work featured in Doctors Without Borders publication

Art and Design Professor Todd Buck’s work featured in Doctors Without Borders publication

Todd Buck, professor and illustration area coordinator of the NIU School of Art and Design created all of the illustrations in a new report published by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders titled “Overcoming Neglect” which calls for an improved global response to neglected tropical diseases.

Buck is an accomplished medical illustrator, who develops and creates medical and scientific illustrations for pharmaceutical and biotech advertising and marketing, medical and consumer publishing, as well as web-based patient education media. His illustrations have been exhibited in museums in the USA, Chile and Hong Kong. Just last year he was named one of the 16 medical illustrators doing groundbreaking work by Creative Bloom.

MSF offices around the world have begun using illustrations in the campaign to increase awareness in the diseases featured in “Overcoming Neglect,” with postings of the illustrations rolled out in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Sudan, India, Pakistan and other countries.

Buck said that he’s proud of the work he did in such a short timeframe. “The deadline was intensely short and had me stressed out the entire 36 straight days I worked on it,” he said. “Knowing the illustrations were for a worthy and important cause kept me at it. I was told I was hired because my portfolio demonstrates diversity in who I represent. I have long believed that representation matters and was excited when this project came along.”

More of Todd’s work can be found at his website,




Art and Design alumnus Joe Tallman advances in Pabst Blue Ribbon can design contest

Art and Design alumnus Joe Tallman advances in Pabst Blue Ribbon can design contest

Joe Tallman, a graduate of the illustration program in the NIU School of Art and Design is one of five finalists in Pabst Blue Ribbon’s contest to redesign their cans. Tallman’s entry was one of thousands submitted and he made the cutdown to the top 25 designs and has advanced to the final five.

You can vote once per day until midnight Pacific time on February 24 at All five of these designs will be commissioned by PBR over the coming year with cash prizes paid for second and third prize. The winning design will earn $10,000 and see their art on millions of cans all over the country starting this fall.

Tallman told Rockford’s WREX that the design he submitted to Pabst is inspired by Marvel comic book artist Jack Kirby, particularly the background which features Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles flying through space.

More of Tallman’s work can be found on his Instagram and website.

Art and Design Education’s Kryssi Staikidis honored by National Arts Education Associaton

Art and Design Education’s Kryssi Staikidis honored by National Arts Education Associaton

Kryssi StaikidisKryssi Staikidis, Ed.D., Professor and Head of Art and Design Education in the Northern Illinois University School of Art and Design has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the National Arts Education Association’s June King McFee Award.

The June King McFee Award honors “an individual who has made distinguished contributions to the profession of art education with an exceptional and continuous record of achievement in scholarly writing, research, professional leadership, teaching or community service.

Douglas Boughton, Director of the NIU School of Art and Design said not only is Staikidis well-deserving of this honor, it comes at the perfect time. “Kryssi’s work reflects the spirit of June King McFee’s scholarship,” he said. “McFee was known for advancing cultural understanding through the arts and was respected particularly for her scholarly reach across anthropology, sociology and psychology. Kryssi’s scholarship similarly provides incisive insights into issues of culture and diversity expressed through the arts, making her an appropriate and very timely awardee at a moment of history marked by our institution’s commitment to BIPOC issues.”

The award winner is selected after a review of nominations by the NAEA’s Women’s Caucus. In their announcement, Women’s Caucus co-chairs Kevin Jenkins and Adretty Perez Miles wrote:

The 2021 June King McFee Award recipient, Dr. Kryssi Staikidis, embodies McFee’s conviction that art is a conduit to build community. Staikidis’s writing, leadership, and teaching demonstrates a steadfast commitment to community, in particular as she notes, to “social justice orientations related to decolonizing, ethical, relational, Indigenous research practices and pedagogies, which use as their foundation inclusive inquiry and teaching strategies.” Staikidis’s decolonial arts-based research and inclusive strategies challenge epistemic violence and disrupt how such systems of privilege and oppression function and are performed by the Global North. In doing so, Staikidis not only widens the scope of what/whose work counts as art but also invests in art and education that are grounded in cross-cultural diversity, exchange, and dialogue.

Staikidis 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.

“This book attempts to address the needs of art educators and qualitative researchers who, like me, see themselves as responsible for challenging the parameters of a Eurocentric focus in art history, Western art teaching traditions, and research methodologies in higher education,” Staikidis said. “Hence, I discussed arts research from distinct perspectives.”

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

Staikidis has taught at NIU since 2004, and holds an Ed.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University, her MFA from Hunter College and a BS in anthropology and art history from Columbia University.

Photography students selected for publications and exhibitions

Photography students selected for publications and exhibitions

A number of photography students in the NIU School of Art and Design have had work selected for publications and exhibitions recently.

Mikayla Shuster’s “Cat Nap” was chosen for Analog Forever Magazine’s December “Love in all forms” exhibition:

Mikayla Shuster

Amy Fleming earned honorable mention in Float Photo Magazine’s “Annus Horibilis [Horrible Year]” exhibition for “This Is Not Real.”

The image was also selected for Don’t Smile’s exhibition, “Did that Just Happen?” An e-zine of the exhibition will be for sale soon. 

Amy Fleming

Daniel Koenig, Karl Bibler, Mikayla Shuster, Michael Allen and Amy Fleming all had work featured in Lens Scratch’s “The 2020 Favorite Photo Exhibition.”

Danielle Koenig

“Tangible Reflection” – Danielle Koenig

Karl Bibler

“Illinois Youth Center Juvenile Detention” – Karl Bibler

Mikayla Shuster

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” – Mikayla Shuster

Michael Allen

“Longing” – Michael Allen

Amy Fleming

“Will It Remember Me?” – Amy Fleming

Shuster and Fleming were chosen for East Window’s exhibition “Shame Radiant.” Pieces from the show will be displayed at Redline Art Center in Denver, Colo. in March. Pieces from the show will also be featured online at Femme Salee Salon and will also be printed as a book in March. 

Photography project among next steps to enhance ‘belonging’ in DeKalb

Photography project among next steps to enhance ‘belonging’ in DeKalb

Efforts by Northern Illinois University and local partners to increase racial healing recently got a boost from the State of Illinois in the form of a grant to foster efforts to create a Belonging leadership council and fund public art and engagement activities in DeKalb.

The $30,000 Healing Illinois grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services will fund local work being done by Northern Illinois University, the City of DeKalb, Family Service Agency, the Ellwood Museum and the DeKalb County History Center to advance racial healing. The DeKalb County Community Foundation contributed an additional $5,000 to support the initiative.

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas and NIU Chief Diversity Officer and Interim Chief Human Relations Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden have been spearheading discussions about issues related to belonging since January of 2020.

The concept of belonging was discussed in a recent community conversation with Dr. john powell, an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, housing, poverty, and democracy. NIU, the City of DeKalb and over 40 members of the community helped to plan the conversation, which included more than 500 community members.

“Dr. powell’s conversation with our community helped to create awareness and articulate the importance of belonging as well as the realities of othering in DeKalb. All of us involved in the conversation saw a hopeful path toward creating a culture of belonging in DeKalb. The Healing Illinois grant will allow us to drive that work forward,” said Edghill-Walden.

As part of the collaborative partnership, NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) is working with local leaders to aggregate local data for use in creating the framework and plan for a DeKalb Area Belonging Council. Plans are for a steering council to begin creating the council in late January, with a report due by the end of March. Regular updates and opportunities to engage with the work will be available at

The grant is also funding two arts initiatives that highlight local diversity and racial reconciliation. The Ellwood Museum and the DeKalb County History Center are launching an “Arts in Action” exhibit that will begin to interpret history and race in DeKalb County.

Jessica Labatte, who teaches in NIU’s School of Art and Design, and two of her photography students, Amy Fleming and Jacob Rivera, will curate a “Faces of Belonging” exhibit. Both exhibits will be accessible virtually as of March 31.

This article originally appeared in the January 26 edition of NIU Today.