Current and Upcoming Exhibitions

Fall 2021
August 24 - November 12, 2021

"The Art of Surviving: The Journey of the Karen Refugees in Illinois
South Gallery

This exhibition is based on work done by NIU PhD and MA students who either lived within the refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border or who worked with Illinois Karen Refugee communities for the last 15 years. The exhibit looks at life in Burma, life in the refugee camp and life in the United States. The Karen, an ethnic group in southern Burma/Myanmar, has been in conflict with the government since 1949 first calling for an independent state and now representation in national government. During the decades-long conflict and violent military persecution many Karen escaped to refugee camps and/or resettled to a third country. The exhibition ties the minority Karen refugee experience to a global perspective, engaging visitors in a critical dialogue on forced migration and displacement and what visitors can do to advocate for local refugee communities.

Exhibition organized by the  Center for Burma Studies at NIU with financial support from a Luce Grant to conduct oral histories with recently resettled community members.

Image: Photograph of Karen Refugee Camp at the Thai Border by Darby Findley.

Refugee village with barbed wire

Refuge and Refugee
Rotunda and North Gallery

The work of ten artists including one from the Museum’s permanent collection are presented in an examination of the global humanitarian crises as displaced persons forced to flee their native countries attempt to find refuge elsewhere. The artists, moved by current events and news reports, express their shock, horror, and critique of government polices as well as compassion for those impacted by these measures. Several of the artists with immigrant backgrounds relate their own struggles with identity to the inner struggle of missing home and attempting to adapt to a new land.

Artists were selected from a national call for entry by the exhibition advisory committee and include: Luciana Abait, Karen Albanese Campbell, Yolanda del Amo, Tere Garcia, Judith Joseph, Rebecca Keller, Eddy A. López, Stephen Walt and Kathy Weaver.

Image: Luciana Abait, Black Sky, 2018. Photograph on cotton rag paper, from the Displacement Series. (30” x 40”).

Photograph of geographic map folded into mountainous terrain


Related Videos



Curator Talk: Making of an Exhibition

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum presents a hybrid presentation on the Making of an Exhibition.

Representing Refugee Experience - What's at stake? 

Panel discussion with artists Yolanda del Amo and Eddy A. López. Moderated by Heide Fehrenbach, Board of Trustees Professor, Northern Illinois University History Department.

The Declining Situation of Refugees in the World

As part of the Northern Illinois University Art Museum exhibitions on refugees, Dr. Laura Heideman of the NIU departments of Sociology and Nonprofit and NGO Studies, presented this lecture, "The Declining Situation of Refugees in the World."


Huskie Refugees at NIU

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum presents the panel discussion: Huskie Refugees at NIU, an event coordinated by the NIU Center for Burma Studies in conjunction with the art museum exhibition, "The Art of Surviving: The Karen Refugees in Illinois."

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Gallery Hours

Galleries reopen Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

Anticipated fall hours:
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday
Noon - 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday
Noon - 3 p.m. Saturday and by limited appointment.

Closed university holidays and between exhibitions.