Museum w/o Walls Projects

Kurt Perschke's RedBall Workshop
April 4 -10, 2004

With the support of the Fine Arts Committee of the NIU Campus Activities Board, the NIU Art Museum invited native Chicagoan Kurt Perschke to bring his 15' inflatable RedBall to DeKalb. The RedBall Project, an ongoing site-specific installation piece, has previously been exhibited in Missouri, Rhode Island, Spain and Australia.

In DeKalb, the artist provided a slightly different opportunity to students and community members. Through a series of lectures and workshops, participants became engaged in the process of considering appropriate sites in the architectural landscape with which they were familiar. "For me," Perschke says, "that's the critical strategy of the work: using its formalism and its humor to communicate an enthusiasm about the sculptural interraction within an architectural environment." (quotation from an interview with Mary Jane Jacob, 2004)

An exhibit documenting the RedBall Project in Barcelona, Sydney and St. Louis was held at the NIU Gallery in Chicago from Sept. 10 through October 23, 2004

Between Reavis and DuSable Halls. photo: MS Just in case...
photo: MS
What you saw as you walked out of English class. photo: MS
RedBall groupies. To see a video, go here and select "Project Mayhem".
Closeup of the ball at Altgeld Hall. photo: PBO Altgeld aerial view. photo: PBO
At the Egyptian Theatre in downtown DeKalb. photo: PBO The artist talks with a passing cyclist. photo: PBO View from Lincoln Highway. photo: PBO

The DeKalb Farmland Project
And you must always begin from the ground…
October - November 2002

Installation component of a multi-phased environmental project led by internationally-exhibited
sculptor and installation artist Karen McCoy. The project used DeKalb County, Illinois as a microcosm
to examine issues of national and international relevance in regard to food production, soil
sustainability and housing development. Also known as The DeKalb County Farmland Project,
the installation transformed a large empty storefront in downtown DeKalb and included a projected
video component, walls painted in stratigraphic layers with local soil, text, and geometric rammed earth
forms rising out of furrows of black dirt. The installation also included a resource wall containing
reference books, soil core samples, maps and diagrams. For the video, compiled during the spring
of 2001 during the first phase of the project, McCoy interviewed individual members of the DeKalb
community including farmers, geologists and conservationists and worked with the DeKalb Farm Bureau,
the American Farmland Trust, the Garfield Farm Museum, the DeKalb Farmland Foundation and the
NIU departments of Art, Geography, and Geology and Environmental Geosciences. Cosponsored by
the NIU Art Museum and The Campus Activities Board Fine Arts Committee with support from the
Illinois Arts Council.

Installation view, including rows of soil, rammed earth forms and video projections. photo: LG Detail of text by Aldo Leopold and skeins of earth pigment. photo: LG

August through October 2002

Chicago/Bloomington sculptor Paul Sacaridiz installed a series of his cast acrylic “architectural ornaments” to the facades of various buildings throughout downtown DeKalb. The installation was accompanied by a self-guided tour and explanatory site map.

Crimson Day Community Arts Fest in Downtown DeKalb
Sunday, October 15, 2000

One-day multi-arts festival featuring storefront installations along Main Street; regional college
arts ceramics sale and dance performances by community and NIU dance troops at The Egyptian
Theatre; and both amateur and professional music recitals at The House in downtown DeKalb.
Co-sponsored by Main Street DeKalb, Inc.

Labyrinth Project

A multi-site, multi-phase project to explore the resurgence of the meditative labyrinth in
today’s society. The project began with a multi-disciplinary lecture series; followed by the
cutting and planting of a traditional turf labyrinth on the grounds of the NIU campus.
Finally, a brick, stylized Chartres pattern labyrinth was installed in historic Huntley Park
near downtown DeKalb.

The lecture series:

  • Daniel Connolly, Visiting Professor of Art History, Western Michigan University, discussed the
    labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral and its reshaping of the medieval pilgrim's world.
  • Wencke Hansen, Labyrinth Facilitator (replacing Andrea Molnar), spoke on the labyrinth as related
    to ancient initiation mysteries and to the Arthurian and Grail legends.
  • Paul Loubere, Professor of Geology and Environmental Sciences, Northern Illinois University,
    discussed the origins of the labyrinth pattern from the spiral form in nature.
  • Jeff Saward, Labyrinth Historian, Special Guest Lecturer from England, presented a short history
    of the labyrinth.
  • Avra Liakos, Associate Professor of Art History, Northern Illinois University, discussed the
    art historical and cultural significance of the labyrinth and related patterns in antiquity.
  • Laura Bird, Instructor of English, Northern Illinois University, discussed the labyrinth as spiritual pilgrimage.
  • Tari Rowland, Graduate Student, Department of History, discussed the meanings and uses of the
    medieval garden labyrinth.

The Labyrinth Lecture Series was made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council,
the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly.

DeKalb Community Labyrinth and Serenity Garden
Dedicated September 15, 2002

Paved brick labyrinth in a stylized Chartres pattern installed by nationally recognized labyrinth artist Marty Kermeen in DeKalb's Huntley Park. Once installed, the labyrinth was surrounded by a professionally landscaped serenity garden. Individuals and local businesses participated in the development of the surrounding Memorial Serenity Garden through the purchase of commemorative bricks, park benches and trees. This project was a collaborative endeavor between the DeKalb Park District, Marty Kermeen of Artistic Pavers, the Northern Illinois University Campus Activities Board Fine Arts Committee and the NIU Art Museum with additional support from the DeKalb County Community Foundation, the Illinois Art Council, the Rockford Area Arts Council and innumerable community members and local businesses.

photos: PBO

The NIU Living Labyrinth
Begun September 2000

  In the fall of 2000, a large-scale, turf labyrinth was installed on the NIU campus. Professionally configured by labyrinth specialist Marty Kermeen, the sod labyrinth was cut with the assistance of NIU students.

In honor of the new Millennium, the Living Labyrinth was planted with 2000 daffodils and ornamental grasses.

The NIU Living Labyrinth was a collaborative endeavor supported in part by the NIU Campus Activities Board Fine Arts Committee, NIU Art Museum, Artistic Pavers, Inc., The Rockford Area Arts Council, Midwest Ground Cover and Midwest Trading Horticulture of St. Charles, the NIU Grounds crew, numerous volunteers and individual donors.

photos: PBO

Crimson Day Arts Fest
October 10, 1999

Spectacular Celebration kicking off the NIU Art Museum’s Museum without Walls Program! Dedication of
the Mural in Memorial Park and the East Lagoon Arts Fest surrounding the Patrick Dougherty Sculpture.
Music! Dance! Drama! Food! Art Making! Merriment! And More! Co-Sponsored by the NIU College of
Visual and Performing Arts and Main Street DeKalb, Inc.

Patrick Dougherty Installation & Residency
September 20 through October 10, 1999

photo: DG
North Carolina artist Patrick Dougherty was in residence for three weeks while creating an outdoor sculptural installation fabricated solely from native tree saplings. Named "Owachi" from an ___indian word for ____, the work remained in place for approximately one year. This project was a collaborative endeavor supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the NIU Campus Activities Board Fine Arts Committee, the NIU Art Museum, the NIU School of Art, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum, JoAnn Aufdenkamp, Rental Services Corporation USA, Inc., and Mike Mooney, Inc.
The artist at work. photo: PBO Did you hear the one about the guy who traveled the world making sculpture out of tree saplings? photo: DSG
Owachi through the seasons:
photo: GT photo: DG
photo: PBO photo: DG

The DeKalb Community Mural Project
April - September, 1999

The DeKalb Community Mural project was a large-scale outdoor mural designed and painted by volunteers from the DeKalb community under the guidance of public mural artist Olivia Gude. The Mural, entitled Its Merits Recommend It… (from an old advertisement for barbed wire) tells the story of DeKalb’s unique history and heritage and received the “Award for Excellence in Downtown Revitalization, 2000” from the Governor of Illinois.

The design incorporates scenes from both DeKalb and NIU on "postcards" that float through the open space of the beautiful brick wall on the side of a building that once housed the DeKalb Chronicle newspaper (an old painted sign was left on the wall and incorporated into the design. Yearbook photos, from both DeKalb High School and NIU, can be found across the mural, as well as short descriptive texts which augment the painted imagery.

This inaugural Museum without Walls project was supported in part by the NIU Campus Activities Board Fine Arts Committee, the NIU Art Museum, Main Street DeKalb, Inc., Lois and George Christensen, Rental Service Corporation USA, Inc., The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, and The Rockford Area Arts Council with the assistance and support of innumerable local businesses and community volunteers. For more information, please visit
The outlines were projected on the wall at night.
photo: PBO
Scissor-lifts came in handy for those hard-to- reach spots. photo: PBO Caswell James works on the Kishwaukee River scenic postcard. photo: JB A detail of the freshly-finished corn and sky. photo: OG

DG = Dan Grych
DSG = David Groat
GT = George Tarbay
JB = Jo Burke
LG = Larry Gregory
MS = Melanie Scott
OG = Olivia Gude
PBO = Peter Olson