Artist/experimental psychologist Ellen Winner to lecture at NIU, Nov. 10

Artist/experimental psychologist Ellen Winner to lecture at NIU, Nov. 10

Ellen WinnerThe School of Art and Design at Northern Illinois University will host a guest lecture by artist and experimental psychologist Dr. Ellen Winner, titled “How Art Works: Five Puzzles.”

Winner is professor of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She directs the Arts and Mind Lab, which focuses on cognition in the arts in typical and gifted children as well as adults.

In her lecture, “How Arts Works: Five Puzzles,” Winner will discuss puzzles about the arts that have preoccupied philosophers as well as the general public. Can art be defined? Why do we seek out art that elicits negative emotions like sadness and fear? Why do we devalue a revered work once it is outed as a forgery? Is abstract art something “my kid could have done”? Does art enhance empathy?  As a social scientist, she has tried to answer some of these questions through interviews, observations, and experiments. What she and other psychologists have found reveals surprising answers to these artistic mysteries, and helps us understand how art works on us.

The talk will be held virtually, Tuesday, November 10 at 4 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Winner’s most recent book is also titled “How Art Works.”

How Art WorksIn it, she examines how psychologists have approached philosophical questions about the arts —

  • What makes us call something art?
  • Do we experience “real” emotions from the arts?
  • Do we believe aesthetic judgments have truth value?
  • ​Does engagement in the arts make us smarter?
  • ​Does reading fiction make us more empathetic?
  • Do beliefs about the artist’s process shape aesthetic judgments?
  • Is modern art something my kid could do?
  • ​What’s wrong with a perfect fake?
  • Is achieving greatness in art a matter of 10,000 hours of hard work?

Philosophers and laypeople have long puzzled about these kinds of questions. Psychologists have now begun to explore these questions empirically, and have made many fascinating discoveries using the methods of social science.

She has written over 200 articles and is author of four books and coauthor of three: Invented Worlds: The Psychology of the Arts (1982); The Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony (1988); Gifted Children: Myths and Realities (1996); How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration (2018); and co-author of Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education  (2007), Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (2013); Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educator’s Handbook

She has served as President of APA’s Division 10, Psychology and the Arts in 1995-1996, and received the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Research by a Senior Scholar in Psychology and the Arts from Division 10 in 2000. She is a fellow of APA Division 10 and of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. ​

Larissa Barnat wins Best Artist Video at Woodstock art exhibition

Larissa Barnat wins Best Artist Video at Woodstock art exhibition

Larissa Barnat, a third year Master of Fine Arts student in the School of Art and Design earned the “Best Artist Video” prize at the Dangerous Lullabies VI art exhibition in Woodstock, Ill.

The exhibition is being held at the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock, and opened on October 10. Artists were invited to submit work that explores the curious allure of things that frighten us–work of any medium designed to examine the beauty found in the ashes of terror or the magnetic pull of work that is disturbing, on-edge or dark.

Barnat’s MFA focus is on painting and she is working towards a certification in Museum Studies.

Her art has been exhibited internationally in London, and her work is part of a group exhibition in South Korea. Larissa double majored in painting and graphic design at Lewis University. She is a native of Burbank and attended Reavis High School.

Barnat’s video was titled “Black Eye.”



NIU NAEA Student Chapter presents an alumni lecture on interviewing and teaching during unexpected circumstances

NIU NAEA Student Chapter presents an alumni lecture on interviewing and teaching during unexpected circumstances

Chelsea CwiklikThe NIU Student Chapter of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) welcomes Chelsea Cwiklik, a 2020 MFA graduate of the School of Art and Design to their Invited Speaker Alumni Series. Cwiklik’s presentation, “Not A Normal Year: Navigating the Interview Process and the First Year of Teaching During Unexpected Circumstances” will be broadcast online, Tuesday, October 20 at 5 p.m.

Chelsea graduated from Columbia College in 2012 with a BA in Art Management. She worked in the talent management and hospitality industry before returning to NIU for the Masters in Art and Design Education program, graduating in the summer of 2020. Chelsea was hired during the government mandated shutdown in March and is currently teaching in-person at her new school as a middle dchool art teacher in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Visiting Artist Lecture: The Lettering and Calligraphy of WA Dwiggins, Nov. 4

Visiting Artist Lecture: The Lettering and Calligraphy of WA Dwiggins, Nov. 4

The School of Art and Design is hosting a visiting artist lecture by calligrapher, type designer and design historian Paul Shaw, on the words American graphic artist W.A. Dwiggins.

William Addison (W.A.) Dwiggins was a master calligrapher, book designer, and type designer. He began his career in Chicago working in advertising and lettering. He eventually moved to Massachusetts. He gained recognition as a lettering artist and wrote much on the graphic arts, his book Layout in Advertising was written in 1928 and remains a valuable reference still today.

Paul Shaw is a designer and design historian. He holds a BA in American Studies from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and an MA and MPhil in American Histoory from Columbia University. He has researched and written about the history of graphic design with a focus on typography, lettering and calligraphy.

Among his areas of interest are WA Diggins, George Salter, Morris Fuller Benton, Bartolomeo Sanvito, Andrea Bregno, blackletter and the signage of the New York City subway system.

Shaw’s lecture, “The Lettering and Calligraphy of W.A. Dwiggins” will be presented via Zoom, Wednesday, November 4 at 9:30 a.m.

Zoom information
Meeting ID – 845 8310 3425
Passcode – 504803



Community conversation “Belonging” with john a. powell, Oct. 22

Community conversation “Belonging” with john a. powell, Oct. 22

The City of DeKalb and Northern Illinois University present, “Belonging” a community conversation with Dr. john a. powell. It is a virtual conversation, from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, October 22.

john a powell

Dr. john a. powell

In January 2020, the NIU Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the City of DeKalb met to discuss how to bring their communities together and how all community members can feel a sense of inclusion and belonging in DeKalb. As a result, the two entities have worked together to hosting this city-wide and university-wide conversation on belonging with a national expert who has dedicated his academic and professional career to addressing racism, othering and how to build and unify communities around common principles of belonging.

“Belonging” is a discussion with internationally recognized scholar, Dr. john a. powell (Dr. powell spells his name in lowercase in the belief that we should be “part of the universe, not over it, as capitals signify.”) Registration is required to join the event at either or

Dr. powell is currently professor of Law, professor of African American and Ethnic Studies, the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion and the director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, all at University of California, Berkeley.  He has written extensively on issues of structural or systemic racism; racial justice; concentrated poverty; urban sprawl; opportunity-based housing; voting rights; affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil; racial and ethnic identity; spirituality and social justice; and the needs of citizens in a democratic society.

Dr. powell was formerly the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University and held the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law. Dr. powell also founded and directed the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota. He has served as director of Legal Services in Miami, Fla., and was the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he was instrumental in developing educational adequacy theory.