The Northern Illinois University Art Museum originated in the NIU School of Art during the 1960s as an exhibition center curated by the faculty. In 1970 Gallery 200 was established as a permanent exhibition space within the newly constructed art building. In 1979 the Art Gallery moved to larger quarters in Swen Parson Hall and began to acquire a permanent collection. In 1990 the Swen Parson Art Gallery became a separate academic unit within the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) and its name was changed from "gallery" to "museum" to reflect its growing permanent collection. In 1991 the NIU Art Museum moved into the 5000-square-foot former auditorium in historic Altgeld Hall. This space was closed in December 1998 as Altgeld Hall was prepared to undergo a major renovation project. The Art Museum reopened in 2004 in the remodeled Altgeld Galleries.

During the renovation, the NIU Art Museum offices moved to a temporary site off campus where the Museum staff oversaw its Museum without Walls program. While its main gallery was closed, the Art Museum collaborated with artists and local community ‘Partners in Art’ in the development, design and production of contemporary art installations, events and projects at various locations within the greater DeKalb area.

The NIU Chicago Gallery was founded in 1984 as an outreach unit located in Chicago’s River North gallery district. In this space, the Museum presented contemporary conceptual and installation art as well as the work of NIU faculty and students. In June 2006, facing tightening state funds, the Museum and University administration closed the NIU Chicago Gallery and reallocated resources supporting that space to the College.

The Jack Olson Memorial Gallery (formerly Gallery 200) generally shows two professional art exhibitions per year and six student group art exhibitions. The Gallery was renamed in 1996 to honor art professor and past gallery director Charles "Jack" Olson who taught at NIU from 1969 until 1994. The Olson Gallery was administered by NIU Art Museum staff from 1995 - 2004. Now, the Olson Gallery is run exclusively by the School of Art at NIU.


Year Event
2022 Museum becomes first Midwest satellite campus collection for the Brandywine Print Workshop and Archives
2020 Jerry and Annette Johns created the Friends of the NIU Art Museum Endowment Fund at the DeKalb County Community Foundation
2017 Museum prepares a five-year Institutional Plan for the period of 2018-2023
2016 University-wide Program Prioritization process commends the Art Museum’s outreach and partnering
2015 Museum files its second Program Review for the Illinois Board of Higher Education covering 5-7 years
2012 Calendar restructuring of Museum exhibits and programs from four to three units with extended run periods
2010 First Get-on-the-Bus Overnight Excursion
2009 Museum begins participating in the Illinois Cultural Data Project filing its financial and program data with records starting from 2007
2008 Museum begins regularly showing the Museum Studies ART 656 Exhibitions and Interpretation class capstone project
2007 Museum files its first Program Review for the Illinois Board of Higher Education covering 7-10 years
2006 Chicago Gallery closes; partial rental funds redistributed to the CVPA; Interpretive Plan for Museum Hallcase Gallery is developed
2004 Altgeld Hall reopens; Museum moves into new multi-room gallery space on the west end of the first floor; National Heritage Preservation Collections Assessment Program (CAP) review of the museum’s collections and building space
1998 Altgeld Hall closes for renovation in January; Museum begins its Museum without Walls public arts program phase
1995 Friends of the NIU Art Museum annual giving program started
1993 Full time Preparator position added
1991  NIU Art Museum moves into the second floor Auditorium of Altgeld Hall
1990 Swen Parson Gallery name changed to NIU Art Museum to reflect its growing collection
1984 NIU Chicago Gallery opens in the River North Gallery District
1979 The Art Gallery moves to larger space in Swen Parson Hall in the area that is now the Law Library
1970s Gallery 200 is established as a permanent exhibition area within the newly constructed art building
1960s  The Art Museum originated in the School of Art (then within the Stevens Building) as an exhibition center curated by the faculty

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NIU Art Museum
Altgeld Hall 116

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Gallery Hours

10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday
Noon - 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday
Noon - 3 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.

Closed university holidays and between exhibitions.