Artigras, a campus and community celebration of the arts, takes place this Saturday in DeKalb. Dana Stover is one of the organizers of Artigras. She says the idea for a celebration that would include everyone in the DeKalb area began at a student art reception that she and her husband, NIU President Doug Baker, held at their home last year.
“Many of the art faculty came along with students. And Billie Giese, one of the art faculty was there. And she and I started brainstorming about how to take this to an even bigger level than we had at our residence.”
Giese says the inspiration for Artigras was the result of a confluence of her meeting with Stover, but also Baker and other university officials. Giese says they all saw a need for a way to bring the university community and the City of DeKalb together. And they felt the two were ripe for such an event.
“Art is one of the great things that we do on campus that no one hears about. I think the community really wants to participate with us, and we want to meet them and share what we do.”
DeKalb Mayor John Rey says an event like Artigras has been on his radar for some time.
“I think it can transcend perspectives from each side of the area in order to focus on visual art, performing art. It really brings together minds from two different realms, the town and the gown communities, into one celebratory atmosphere.”
Stover wants people to know this event isn’t just for professional or academic “artists.”
“We would like young kids with their dogs, and decorate their dogs, or bicycles, or anyone who just wants to express themselves in a creative way. Through dance, or silly instruments – kazoos – so it really is for everyone.”
Stover and Giese say everyone is welcome to follow the parade from downtown to campus. There will be exhibits showing at several galleries, on campus and off, including the NIU President’s residence, with shuttles to take people to the different venues. There will also be music from the NIUkulele Ensemble and Community School of the Arts Steelband. Giese says she’s pleased with what the organizers of Artigras have managed to accomplish.
“I think it’s a nice balance between seeing student work and hearing music done by community members. I think that’s a beautiful start to a first year event.”
Stover says she wants people to have a good time, but she also notes Artigras, like other festivals in the area, is about that, and more. And that’s what she wants people to take from the event.
“A feeling of fun, of spirit, that we’re all part of this wonderful community. Strong communities have a creative, fun side.”
Rey agrees. He says, too often, people in the university and the town see each other as problems to be solved. But, he says, both contribute to making the area an attractive place to work and live, and this event helps highlight that fact.
“Artigras gives us an opportunity to focus on a common objective, of celebrating the quality of life that we enjoy across both communities.”