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As NIU celebrates the 125th Anniversary, River Weaving affirms its commitment to sustainability and the environment

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.

Five faculty earn rank of full professor in School of Music

Five faculty earn rank of full professor in School of Music

Five faculty members in the NIU School of Music have earned the rank of professor. JeongSoo Kim, Jui-Ching Wang and Marie Wang are the first females to earn promotion to full professor since Edna Williams became Professor of Voice in 1987.

JeongSoo KimJeongSoo Kim is Professor of Piano, and teaches applied piano, piano literature, and piano pedagogy. Kim received her bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University, her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, and her doctorate in piano performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where she worked as a piano class and applied piano teaching assistant and as a Graduate Award accompanist.  As an active performer and teacher, she has had numerous solo and chamber music performances throughout the United States and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Costa Rica, and has participated in the Aspen and Chautauqua music festivals.  Her recent performing activities include solo, chamber, and piano duo recitals at Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, Boston University, Philippine Women’s University, Sook-Myung University, Seoul City University, Kawai Piano Concert Hall, and Taiwan National Normal University.  As an active member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association), Kim serves as a Northwest District Chair for the Illinois State Music Teachers Association and has served as a co-vice president of ISMTA Naperville chapter.

Jui-Ching WangJui-Ching Wang is Professor of World Music and Music Education. She teaches music education and world music courses and coordinates world music ensembles such as the Chinese music ensemble, Indonesian gamelan ensemble, and Middle Eastern music ensemble.  Wang received her bachelor’s degree in music from Soochow University in Taipei, master’s degrees in piano performance and music education from Northern Illinois University, and her doctorate in music education from Arizona State University.  Prior to her studies in the United States, she taught music classes and directed choirs and recorder ensembles at a middle school in Taiwan.  While completing graduate course work at ASU and NIU, she taught courses in world music and music education and participated in several world music ensembles such as the NIU Gamelan ensemble, ASU Javanese Gamelan ensemble, and Marimba Maderas de Comitan.  To promote world music pedagogy, Wang organized the Teaching World Music Symposium at NIU in April 2015. As a clinician advocating the study of music as culture, she has provided training and demonstrations for in-service teachers and music students in the U.S., China, and Taiwan to help them expand their cultural horizons through music. A Fulbright Scholar, Wang studied traditional Javanese children’s singing games, tembang dolanan anak, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2016-17.

Marie WangMarie Wang is Professor of Violin and a founding member of the Avalon String Quartet, the NIU School of Music’s ensemble in residence. A native Canadian, she received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from McGill University in Montreal, and a master’s degree in performance from NIU. She also holds an Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School in Quartet Studies while she served as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet as a part of the Lisa Arnold Graduate Quartet Residency. Prior to her appointment at NIU, she was an Artist in Residence at Indiana University South Bend. The Avalon String Quartet has captured top prizes at the Concert Artists Guild and the Munich ARD international competitions. The quartet has been invited to perform at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie & Weill Halls, Alice Tully, 92nd St Y, Herculessaal (Munich),and the Library of Congress, among others.  Wang also has appeared at festivals such as Caramoor, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla, Ravinia, Bath, and Aldeburgh. Marie has collaborated with artists such as Gilbert Kalish, Juilliard and Pacifica Quartets and members of the Emerson Quartet. Her recordings with the quartet can be found on Cedille Records, Albany Records and on Channel Classics.

Blaise MagniereBlaise Magniere is Professor and Richard O. Ryan Endowed Chair of Violin, and first violinist in the Avalon String Quartet. An acclaimed chamber musician in the United States and abroad, he has toured extensively, including venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, Herculessaal in Munich, the Schneider Series at Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla Festival and the Caramoor Festival. His performances and conversation have been heard on BBC, CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia) and France-Musique. He has recorded for the Channel Classsics, Cedille, New Tangent and Albany labels, and earned the 2002 Chamber Music America/WQXR Record Award. A highly dedicated teacher, he has successfully prepared students for orchestral auditions and top graduate programs. As an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet, he coached chamber music at the Juilliard School. He was on faculty at Indiana University South Bend before coming to NIU.

Cheng-Hou LeeCheng-Hou Lee is Professor and Cellist in the Avalon String Quartet.  A native of Taiwan, he received both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. He also earned a master’s degree in chamber music at Rice University, where he was a founding member of the award-winning Gotham Quartet. He was a full-scholarship student at New England Conservatory, where he received his Doctoral of Musical Art. Lee has worked with world renowned artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Harvey Shapiro, Janos Starker, Mistilav Rostropovich, Zara Nclsova, Paul Katz, Steven Iserlis, Raphael Wallfisch, Gary Hoffman, Tim Eddy, and members of the Juilliard, Tokyo, and Alban Berg Quartets. He has won the Chi-Mei Foundation Award for Outstanding Talents, the concerto competition at the Manhattan School of Music, Tuesday Musical Club Competition in Houston and twice the National Cello Competition in Taiwan, and he has appeared on WQXR radio station in New York City, WFMT radio station in Chicago and many others in the US.  He was a recipient of a career grant from the Quanta Education Foundation, and he has made solo and chamber music appearances throughout the United States, as well as in Germany, Italy, Hong-Kong, and Taiwan.

Edna WilliamsAbout Edna Williams

Williams began her career at NIU as instructor of voice in 1965, and taught vocal lessons and classes and diction courses. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1969, associate professor in 1979 and full professor in 1987.

She studied at Wilson Junior College and earned her bachelors and masters degrees from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. She was internationally known as a singer and toured often.

Williams traveled to Austria to study German Lieder in 1959, and was listed in Who’s Who Among Black Americans 1980-81. Williams retired in 1991 and continued to give private lessons.