DeKalb, NIU arts communities gear up for two-day ARTigras festival

May 3, 2018

DeKALB – Billie Giese, ARTigras coordinator and Northern Illinois University art professor, said the annual arts festival meant to bring the community together has only grown since the first one held four years ago.

More people have approached the event committee with more ideas since then, more NIU art students will be displaying and selling their work this time around, and the festival will span two days this year instead of one, Giese said.

“There’s so much talent here,” Giese said. “There’s so much to share.”

Giese said all of the events Friday are in downtown DeKalb, including a wine tasting and a variety show at the Egyptian Theatre. On Saturday, events will be held on campus and in downtown DeKalb.

Giese said most of the scheduled events for the festival on Friday and Saturday are free and open to the public. She said there are a few ticketed events, such as the wine tasting and the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert at the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the NIU Music Building.

Giese said the event idea came about in 2015 after former NIU First Lady Dana Stover and other NIU staff members at the time talked about DeKalb having an arts festival meant to bridge the university and city communities. To them, she said, it just made sense for DeKalb to have its own festival.

“It was just so exciting to kind of think about being able to get student work into the public eye,” Giese said.

Giese said the festival hosted a variety show instead of an art parade last year and will do the same this year.

She said the parade didn’t seem like the best fit for the community, but that it takes a while to build that kind of steam to figure out what works for DeKalb’s ARTigras.

NIU Art Museum director Jo Burke said the museum has been involved in the festival every year since it started, but it seems to be taking a different approach every year. Burke said she thinks ARTigras provides a nice back and forth between campus and town to celebrate the arts in the community.

“I think there’s more to celebrate than just sports,” Burke said. “We can celebrate the arts, too.”

Giese said members of the community who haven’t come to the annual arts festival should this year.

“I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to see all that’s here creatively in our community,” Giese said.

The Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra also will be performing its last show of the season as part of the festival on Saturday night. Tamara Farrell, spokeswoman for the KSO, said a festival like ARTigras helps raise awareness for the thriving arts community that DeKalb County has and its rich history of the arts.

“I think it’s being missed by some of the people in our area,” Farrell said. “They just don’t realize the wealth of opportunity that’s out there.”