High school students’ artwork on display for first day of exhibition


Bayan Abuihmoud

High school students from the northern Illinois area have their artwork on display in the Jack Olson Gallery. The exhibition runs from Nov.7 till Nov. 19, the closing reception. (Bayan Abuihmoud | Northern Star)

By Caleb Johnson, Lifestyle Writer

Young artists got a chance to let their work shine on Nov. 7, as NIU’s School of Visual and Performing Arts opened its annual High School Invitational in the Jack Olson Gallery.

Alexandra Dawe, a graduate art design education student and the gallery’s graduate assistant, said the gallery reached out to high school teachers and educators throughout Illinois and gathered a pool of artwork submissions to be considered for the exhibition. 

Dawe said that participants started submitting their work in September until the deadline in mid-October.

“Students who were chosen to be featured will also get an opportunity to win prizes and scholarships and Blick art material gift cards for their work,” Dawe said. “On the last day, Nov. 19, in addition to the prizes, there will be art workshops.” 

Dawe said that the invitational is a great way to introduce interested students to NIU and give them the opportunity to improve their work. She believes that high school students were more capable than most people gave them credit for in terms of creating art.

“We are proving that with this high school invitational – this exhibit – that the artwork exceeds people’s expectations for high schoolers, something I think is really neat. They really go above and beyond,” Dawe said. 

Dawe also said how happy she was that so many people submitted. 

“It’s really enriching to see so many students, so many future art students. They’ll become undergrad students, you know, students who want to pursue art,” Dawe said. “They get to share their craft with this exhibit.” 

According to Peter Van Ael, gallery coordinator for the School of Art and Design, there were approximately 120 submissions. These submissions came from 31 high schools from Northern Illinois. 

Van Ael also said that due to the limited time between the end of the submission period and the start of the gallery, the setup wasn’t as elaborate as it was during other shows. The exhibit took about a week to be installed. 

Van Ael said that the number of entries also limited what they could do with the space. For this show, the gallery staff put the students’ work on wooden shelves spread all around the gallery. Van Ael also put a few 3D art pieces in the center of the gallery on pedestals. 

In the High School Invitational exhibit, there was less 3D art featured than in the past, with most of the pieces being paintings, drawings and similar 2D mediums. Van Ael said this was most likely due to the effects of COVID-19.

“Some (art) studios aren’t back up and running due to the pandemic, and all this work had to be done in the last year. So, some places are still doing remote work, as it would be easier to do that,” Van Ael said. 

Van Ael also said that he really enjoyed these shows. 

“It’s always interesting to discover the little gems you’ll see, and to see the connection between different themes that pop up,” Van Ael said. 

Prizes will be given on Nov. 19  during the closing reception. 

The Jack Olson Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m from Monday to Friday. 

The next exhibit will be the BFA Show – School of Art and Design Capstone exhibition, which opens Dec. 1 and features the capstone projects by undergraduate fine arts students.