Where all the lights are bright: NIU artists decorate downtown DeKalb

gallery-215Corn Fest offered more than food, music and carnival rides. Attentive eyes might have caught the first glimpses of the “Downtown Initiative.”

Launched by a volunteer squad of undergraduate and graduate students from the NIU School of Art and Design, the project comes in response to NIU President Doug Baker‘s pillars.

Talk about Student Career Success and Thriving Communities: The students have learned valuable lessons from the world beyond campus by working with merchants, painting galleries and installing artworks around town.

They’ve also created fliers, cut consignment agreements and delivered catalogs of student work to three local merchants who have agreed to sell for no commission.

It’s the first step in a year-long art experience that will culminate with a grand May festival called Artigras, which NIU First Lady Dana Stover is working to create with Billie Giese, Cindy Hellyer-Heinz and others from the mayor’s office and the School of Art and Design.

“The students hope to make DeKalb an art destination, and have recently gotten the offer of another half dozen empty store fronts to show student work,”  said Mary Quinlan-McGrath, acting director of the School of Art and Design and professor of art history. “As I walked around at Corn Fest, and spoke with additional merchants, I realized there are many more who are interested.”

Photo of an art exhibit inside the Frontier windowCurrent locations include:

  • Gallery 215, at 215 N. Fourth St., host to the main show, will host an exhibition from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4. All are welcome.
  • Frontier Communications, 225 E Locust St., is providing a storefront. Two graduate student works are installed there.
  • At the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Hwy., a side window is set up like a living room with a TV monitor showing the video work of Time Arts students.
  • Cracker Jax, 118 N. Third St., has work on consignment (no commission taken).
  • Carter’s Cottage, 209 E. Lincoln Hwy., has work on consignment (no commission taken).
  • Sozo Market, 665 E. Lincoln Hwy., has work on consignment (no commission taken). Owner Despy Bales has committed the additional storefronts running west from her shop.

NIU students looking to spruce up their residence hall rooms or apartments are encouraged to browse the consignment catalogs and the stores, not only for art created by fellow Huskies but for works on sale at the hometown shops.

“When I was in college, I well remember how much I enjoyed getting off campus and poking around in the town near my school,” Quinlan-McGrath said, “a break from the limits of homogeneous age groups, a chance to see seniors and children and people of all ages and walks of life.”

For more information, call (815) 753-1473.

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