Kassel: In my city — A trip to After School Matters

Kassel: In my city — A trip to After School Matters

Paul Kassel, Dean, NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts

What do glass blowing, drum lines, poetry slams and jazz band have in common?  They are all programs in After School Matters, a Chicago Public School initiative that has been around since 2000.  Originally the brainchild of Maggie Daley and begun as an internship program at Gallery 37, ASM now offers 23,000 programs for 15,000 unique teens every year.

On October 11, I visited several of these programs, accompanied by Dr. Kryssi Staikidis (Art Education) and two of her students, Savanna Miska and Meagan Kirkwood.  We were hosted by NIU School of Music graduate, Randiss Hopkins, who is the Program Specialist for schools on the west side of town.

We began at the Phoenix Military Academy on Campbell Avenue, where we visited the Advanced Art program and the Major Adams Drum and Bugle Corps.

Teens in the Advanced Art Program at Phoenix bolster skills towards creating a professional portfolio in fine art and or design. Teens enrolled in AP Drawing or AP 2D design receive instruction and support towards completing the requirements laid out by the College Board to receive AP credits.

Teens in the Major Adams Hornets Drum and Bugle Corps develop skills through training in music, dance, marching and maneuvering.

Kryssi Staikidis and Randiss Hopkins

Kryssi Staikidis, Professor of Art Education at NIU and Randiss Hopkins, Program Specialist, After School Matters

The art students were working on 3D design on desktop computers coached by Daniel McElgunn and Jamal Williams.  They were working on a program designed to “melt” the picture they were working on.  What really struck me was that many of the pictures they were working on showed the artist engaged in some other art form.  One young man was “melting” a picture of himself playing keyboards.  A young woman was “melting” a picture of herself dancing.  I was really dazzled by what they were accomplishing and delighted at their love of different art forms.  Like our students in CVPA, they are boundless!

The teens in the drum line we visited were all raw (but very eager) beginners.  Their teacher, Bruce Wilkerson, was tough but inspiring. He is not only a teacher, but a working artist, playing drums and bass guitar for many rock bands and in recording sessions.  Mr. Wilkerson felt it was critical to pass his knowledge down to these young people and instill in them the discipline that is required in drum and bugle corps.  The teens then treated us to a short example of some rhythms they were working on.  Using just two drumsticks, the beat out a sophisticate rhythm on the back of chairs.  Art is where you find it and make it!

We headed out to Lake Street to visit Glassworks, an amazing facility where students get to work with molten glass with ovens heated to over 2100 degrees!  Students were being taught to “gather” glass from the ovens, with the goal of creating a bird paperweight.  It was astonishing how deft the artist was in handling molten glass, but more impressive was how game the teens were.  Glass-making is a beautiful art form, and After School Matters makes it accessible for any student who wants to give it a try.

NIU Visit to After Schoo Matters

My visit to
After School Matters

Savanna Miska, Undergraduate Art Education Major

On the evening of October 11, Meagan Kirkwood, another Art Education Major and I had the opportunity to attend the After School Matters program in Chicago with its outstandingly passionate and knowledgeable leaders Randiss Hopkins and Chris Nergaard as well as Northern Illinois University’s Dean Paul Kassel and Dr. Kryssi Staikidis.

After School Matters is a program that encourages students to pursue the joy of creating various types of art, such as language arts, music, and visual arts, after the school day is over. The program has multiple locations in Chicago and we were able to experience five of the wonderful classes at four of the locations.

We began our journey at Phoenix Military Academy where we discussed the academic goals of the students, such as building a professional portfolio, in Phoenix Advanced Art while students worked on projects in Photoshop where they learned about the significance of blurring areas of photographs and applied it to their own images as pieces to add to their portfolio as they worked toward developing the skills needed to attain AP requirements.

Then we traveled downstairs and listened to the MACC Hornets Performing Arts, a drum and bugle corps, perform their diligently practiced routine that displayed the students’ high level skills.

After feeling inspired by the students at the school campus, we traveled to the private studio Glassworks in the heart of the city where students were given the opportunity to learn how the glass-making process works by the studio’s passionate and engaging artists.

I have never seen glassmaking done in person and the experience took my breath away. Being surrounded in a studio space that truly warms your soul is invigorating.

Once we watched a demonstration about how to create a bird out of glass, we trekked to Leif Ericson School where we were all greeted by the student leader of Colored Girls are Cover Girls.

The student’s shared impassioned poems filled with energy and were constantly motivated by their peer’s ongoing support. Their poems were unashamedly passionate and told stories about issues related to inner-city teenage girls as a means to educate their peers and community members.

At our last stop of the evening, the Garfield Park Golden Dome, students with Berklee City Music played a song for us that they were learning. They use cutting edge curriculum formulated through Berklee PULSE which helps teens reach their goals to attended music programs in higher education. It was at this moment in the night where I became flooded by my emotions due to the hardworking students and struggled to introduce myself because I was so taken over by their inspiring efforts to achieve anything and everything imaginable.

Without an ounce of doubt in my mind, After School Matters is a program dedicated to assisting students achieve mastery levels and it was evident in my experience attending five of the classes offered by the program that it is effective.

This program has been rapidly growing in Chicago, and Northern Illinois University plans to create opportunities where future artists, musicians, art educators, and music educators can work with After School Matters to establish life long lasting relationships and professional career development.

Teaming with a program as passionate as After School Matters communicates to students at Northern Illinois University that valuing education and community is essential to growth.

From Glassworks, we headed over to the Garfield Park area, first to Leif Ericson School and the Colored Girls are Cover Girls group.  CGCG (and their male counterparts, Urban Sons Speak Life) are led by Patti Barnes, Anastasia Baker and Morris Garrett (MoeMentum) to work on spoken word performance.

Colored Girls are Cover Girls utilizes poetry, spoken word, theater, music and other forms of cultural expression as means to create change, impact lives, build relationships and stimulate growth among teenage girls of color. Teens learn to write creatively, passionately, powerfully and unashamedly and use their stories as valuable tools to educate their peers and communities on issues directly relating to inner-city teenage girls such as: violence, absent fathers, body image, adolescent sexual health and interpersonal communication.

Being a theater person, I introduced myself with the first four lines of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 162” (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds…”)  I was very proud to get some “snaps” for that.  But the real stars were the young people who shared their original work.  They opened up and revealed some intensely personal experiences—harrowing and heroic.  Two young men did a kind of duet, with the repeated refrain, “in my city.”  When they finished, there was a moment of silence and then the room erupted into applause and snaps.  But then their teacher did a spontaneous improvised response, using the same refrain.  When he finished, the teacher and the young poet he spoke to hugged and the crowd went wild.  We four visitors from NIU were deeply moved.

We ended our visit with a trip just down the block to the Garfield Park Golden Dome.  If you haven’t been to this building, go!  Originally administrative buildings for the West Park Commission, it now hosts a multitude of programs, including the Berklee Initiative/Business of Music.

Berklee City Music engages teens in a music education program designed to prepare them to pursue higher education and reduce specific music-related achievement gaps. This is achieved with the Berklee PULSE method, a cutting-edge curriculum centered around present-day music styles which teaches theoretical, listening, improvisational, and performance skills.

Howard Sandifer, Darlene Sandifer, and Wilbert Crosby led the students through a complex arrangement that included strings, winds, guitar, drums, and a vocal quartet.  We listened to them rehearse a particular passage until they got it just right.  I was invited to speak to the group and took a lot of great and probing questions.  What I learned is how hungry these students are for knowledge, how ambitious they are about their futures, and how ready they are to take the next steps.

After School Matters is an important and impressive program.  I came away quite moved by the experience, and excited to see how we can develop stronger partnership with their programs.  I am now in discussion about developing internships for our Music and Art education students, both during the summer and regular school year.  In addition, I’m hoping NIU and CVPA can help these ambitious and talented students realize their dreams and join our engaged, inclusive, boundless and strong programs!

Paul Kassel is the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University, which is comprised of the School of Art and Design, the School of Music and the School of Theatre and Dance.

Richard Jenkins tells Theatre and Dance students to believe you are enough

Richard Jenkins tells Theatre and Dance students to believe you are enough

“Be yourself.  There’s nobody else like you.  If you try to act like somebody else you can’t be yourself.”

If there was an over-arching theme in a 90 minute question and answer session between Oscar nominated actor Richard Jenkins and a crowd of more than 120 students at Northern Illinois University’s O’Connell Theatre, October 30, it was that.  The best actors have learned how to maximize the only part of the process they can truly control–their own talent.


Egyptian Theatre’s Richard Jenkins Film Series continues through Oct. 30

Egyptian Theatre’s Richard Jenkins Film Series continues through Oct. 30

Downtown DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre’s film series in honor of DeKalb native, and Emmy Award winning actor Richard Jenkins continues through October 30.  Jenkins hand picked nine of his favorite films that he has appeared in, and the Egyptian is presenting them on Tuesday night’s through October 30.  Jenkins will appear for a reception in his honor prior to the final film in the series, the 2018 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, “The Shape of Water.”  Tickets can be purchased through the Egyptian Theatre box office.

Tickets for the films are only $6 for students with a valid ID, two dollars off the regular price (more…)

2018-2019 College of Visual and Performing Arts Performance Schedule

2018-2019 College of Visual and Performing Arts Performance Schedule

Check out the 2018-2019 Arts Events Schedule from the Northern Illinois University College of Visual and Performing Arts.  Every year, the Schools of Art and Design, Music, and Theatre and Dance put on nearly 300 open to the public performances, concerts, exhibitions and lectures.

Highlights of the season include the return of the School of Theatre and Dance to the Stevens Building with new and renovated performance spaces for all to enjoy.  The School of Art and Design is celebrating their 50th Anniversary in Jack Arends Hall, NIU’s Visual Arts Building.  The School of Music has another incredible season of concerts in a variety of genres.

This arts events schedule also includes handy links to ticket information for performances in both music and theater.

School of Music

Fall Concert Schedule

School of Music Concerts

Jazz Series
presented by DeKalb Sycamore Cadlillac
World Music Series Choral and Opera Series Concert Band and Percussion Series Orchestra and String Series
presented by WNIU/WNIJ
Oct. 11 – Big Bands Jazz Concert, 8 p.m., BMCH Nov. 11 NIU Steelband, 3 p.m., BMCH Oct. 16 – Concert Choir and University Chorus, 8 p.m., BMCH Oct. 4 – Wind Ensemble, 8 p.m., BMCH Oct. 9 – Avalon String Quartet, 8 p.m., RH

Oct, 16 – Jazz Combo Fest, House Café, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 14, Chinese Music Ensemble,
6:30 pm, BMCH

Oct. 21 – Cor Cantiamo, 3 p.m., BMCH

Oct. 24, Wind Symphony, 8 pm, BMCH

Oct. 10, NIU Philharmonic, 8 pm, BMCH

Oct. 21 – Swing Dance Party, Ellington Ballroom

Nov. 19, Middle Eastern Music Ensemble,
3 pm, RH

Nov, 13, Opera Theater, 6:30 pm, RH

Nov. 12 Percussion Ensemble, 8 pm, BMCH

Oct. 22 – Composers Concert, 8 p.m., BMCH
Nov. 6, University Jazz, 8 pm, BMCH

Nov. 29, World Music Fusion, 6:30 pm, RH

Nov. 15, Opera Theater, 6:30 pm, RH

Nov. 29 – Wind Ensemble, 8 pm, BMCH

Nov. 5, Avalon String Quartet, 8 pm, RH

New Music Festival,
8 p.m. each night, BMCH
Nov. 7 / Nov. 8 / Nov. 9

Dec. 2, Holiday Choral Concert, 3 pm, BMCH

Nov. 14, NIU Philharmonic, 8 pm, BMCH

Nov. 13, Jazz Ensemble, 8 pm, BMCH

Locations: BMCH – Boutell Memorial Concert Hall // RH – Recital Hall
House Café • 263 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb

Nov. 15, Jazz Orchestra, 8 pm, BMCH

Tickets: $5 for adults and seniors
$3 for students

Nov. 25, Swingin’ in the Holidays, 3 pm, BMCH

Ticket information

Nov. 27, Jazztet, 6 pm, House Café

School of Theatre and Dance

Fall Performance Schedule

School of Theatre and Dance Fall Performances


The Flick by Annie Baker
October 3-7
Showtimes: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
October 24-28
Showtimes: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Fall 2018 Dance Concert
November 15-18
Showtimes: Thursday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday


Studio Series

True West by Sam Shepard
October 10-14
Showtimes: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Bakkhai by Euripedes, Translation by Anne Carson
October 31 – November 4
Showtimes: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

The Marriage of Bette and Boo by Christopher Durang
November 28 – December 2
Showtimes: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Ticket information


Exhibitions and Lectures in the School of Art and Design and Art Museum

School of Art and Design Fall Exhibitions and Lectures

Jack Arends Hall 50th Anniversary Events

NIU Art Gallery

August 28 – October 19
“Sweet, Golden and Delicious”
NIU School of Art and Design Alumni Invitational Exhibition

School of Art and Design Galleries

Jack Olson Gallery
September 4 to October 19
Golden: SoAD Arends Hall 50th Anniversary Juried Alumni Exhibition
Juror: Dan Silverstein, Associate Director of Exhibitions and Collections Logistics Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston (BFA 1991)

Annette and Jerry Johns Student Art Gallery
August 27 to October 19
Alumni Open Mail Art Show

VAB Second Floor West Hallway North Display Cases
September 4 to October 19
Alumni Salon

Reception for all three exhibitions, Thursday, September 20, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Jack Arends Hall.

Several works from all three exhibitions have been generously made available by participating alumni artists for inclusion in a silent auction with all proceeds benefitting the School of Art and Design scholarship fund. Auction concludes at end of exhibitions. Winning bids to be paid cash or check and works picked up at Olson Gallery upon receipt of payment. For winning bidders not able to pick up at gallery, a flat $50 handling fee will cover packing and shipping costs.

Exhibition Awards for the Juried Show will have been determined prior to the reception.

Jack Olson Gallery Exhibitions

September 4 – October 19
Golden: School of Art and Design Jack Arends Hall 50th Anniversary Juried Alumni Exhibition
Reception: Thursday, Sept. 20, 5 – 8 p.m.
Exhibition of work in all media by alumni of the NIU School of Art and Design.
Juror: Dan Silverstein, Associate Director of Exhibitions and Collections Logistics, Block Museum at Northwestern University (BFA 1991)

November 5 – 17
High School Invitational
Closing Reception and Award Presentation, Saturday, Nov 17, 3 – 4 p.m.
The High School Invitational exhibition features work by high school students from northern Illinois. The exhibition is partially underwritten by Blick Art Materials.

December 3 – 11
BFA Show
Reception: Thursday, Dec 6, 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Capstone exhibition showcasing works by students earning NIU School of Art and Design BFA Degrees.

Elizabeth Allen Visiting Speakers in Art History Alumni Series

Monday, September 17, 2018, Jack Arends Hall 100, 5 p.m.
Elaine King, Professor Emerita, College of Fine Arts, School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University
“A Cultural Capital Quagmire: How the Art Market and not Curators or Art Critics legitimatize cultural products today”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Jack Arends Hall 100, 5 p.m.
Thomas Russo, Associate Dean, International Programs; Professor, Art History, Drury University
“Defining Sacred Spaces: Sculpture in the Romanesque Church”

Tuesday, November 20, 2018, Jack Arends Hall 100, 5 p.m.
Alexandra Green, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Southeast Asia, the British Museum
“Image as information: materializing the Buddha in late Burmese art”
Organized by the NIU Center for Burma Studies

Visiting Artists and Scholars

Aaron Coleman
September 20, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Jack Arends Hall 100
Artist Lecture

Christian Ortiz
September 26, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., Jack Arends Hall 100
Artist Lecture: Immigrant Labor, Migration, and Displacement

Lisa Kay
October 11, 5 to 6 p.m., Jack Arends Hall 100
Visiting Scholar Lecture: “The Art and Science of Healing Art in Education”

Paul Erschen
October 18, 6 to 7 p.m., Jack Arends Hall 100
Artist Lecture

Valerie Wallace
November 15, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., Jack Arends Hall 100
Artist Lecture

NIU Art Museum

SWEET, Golden and Delicious…”Faculty-select and Museum-certified”

NIU Studio and Design Alumni Artists
August 28 – October 19, 2018
South and Rotunda Galleries, NIU Art Museum
An invitational exhibition of studio and design alumni artists recommended by current and former faculty, SWEET, Golden and Delicious… presents recent work by six dozen artists from five decades representing eleven areas of visual study. Artists needed to be actively practicing and showing their work. Works on view represent a variety of approaches to photography, sculpture, fiber, jewelry and metalwork, printmaking, illustration, ceramics, painting, drawing, graphic design, and time arts. In addition, there is a sound piece, and video documentation of an artist creating a lithograph, and of a large public art piece being made.

This exhibition is part of a larger School of Art and Design celebration of alumni as guest artists, scholars and educators. To learn more about this celebration please visit the School of Art and Design.

Imagery and Icons:

Former Tenure and Tenure-track Faculty exhibition
September 18 – October 19, 2018
North Gallery, NIU Art Museum
As part of the alumni exhibitions and anniversary celebrations this exhibition showcases work from former faculty in an intimate, salon style exhibition. Participating artists at this time include: Renie Adams, Walter Ball, Jay Paul Bell, Richard Beard, Dorothea Bilder, Robert Bornheutter, David Bower, Karen Brown, David Driesbach, Yale Factor, Larry Gregory, Andrew Liccardo, Ben Mahmoud, Ron Mazanowski, Philip Melnick, Ashley Nason, Mark A. Nelson, Jack Olson, Charlotte Rollman, John Rooney, Lee Sido, Doug Stewart, Ed Syrek, and Bruce White.

Transparency Exhibition Suite

November 15 – February 15, 2019 (closed university holidays)
Transparency in Form and Content
Examines the spectrum of interpretation of the word “transparency”; from the literal to the figurative. Artists who explore both the visual phenomenon of transparency and the concept of “transparency” in content, be that process, funding, idea or material. This group show is curated from a national call for entries.

Vanishing Art from Myanmar:
The Buddhist Reverse Glass Painting Tradition

November 15 – February 15, 2019 (closed university holidays)
Explores the complex Buddhist tradition as it is revealed through the work of some artists from the last village in Burma dedicated to the reverse glass painting technique and tradition known since the art form’s introduction to the region in the 18th century.

Curated by Dr. Catherine Raymond, Director, Center for Burma Studies and Professor of Art History and presented in conjunction with the International Symposium “Looking Through The Glass: The Asian Reverse Glass Painting Traditions” on November 16, 2018.

Raymond’s research was funded by a Rakow Grant from the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.


An electronic version of the 2018-2019 Arts Events Schedule