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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star



New NIU mural welcomes students to Huskie Nation

Rachel Cormier
Cars drive under the newly painted NIU underpass mural entering and leaving the NIU campus on Annie Glidden Road. The mural was a collaboration between NIU and the city of DeKalb funded from a grant to create more public art in DeKalb. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Huskie Nation has a defining new entrance with the unveiling of the mural painted on the Annie Glidden Road underpass.

Huskies can now see new NIU decor around campus from the new NIU logo street signs and the visible red and black “Huskie Nation” banners on every street pole on campus.

But the largest change to campus decor is the newly painted Annie Glidden Road underpass beneath the Union Pacific Railroad tracks south of campus, one of the first sights students and staff see driving into NIU off the highway.

Gone are the drab gray walls now replaced with a vibrant red paint splash with the words “HUSKIE NATION” and the NIU logo on either side of the underpass with white paw prints facing towards the campus. The mural is one of the largest collaborations between the city of DeKalb and NIU and was created as a tribute to the city’s relationship with the university.

“We have various projects we’re trying to implement throughout the community to really celebrate DeKalb as the home of NIU – give us that true college town feel,” said Jennifer Groce, director of community promotion.

As a part of the T-Mobile Hometown Grant awarded to DeKalb to sponsor public art, the Citizens Enhancement Commission sought out the underpass as an ideal spot for a mural.

“The (Citizens Enhancement) Commission identified various locations throughout the community that they wanted to do large murals and the Annie Glidden underpass was one of them,” Groce said.

The project included approval and work from Scott Zak, management analyst for the city of DeKalb, along with approval from City Manager Bill Nicklas and Mayor Cohen Barnes to shut down the street and prepare the underpass for painting.

The Street Operations Division of DeKalb were not only responsible for painting the underpass, but originally came up with the idea for the NIU street signs and the NIU Athletics flags along the road.

NIU’s collaboration went straight to the top with President Lisa Freeman’s approval as well as Matt Streb, chief strategy officer and liaison for the Board of Trustees, coordinating the logo designs. 

NIU’s Marketing and Communications department along with the Athletic department’s approval led to the NIU logo in the final product.

“So it definitely took over a year to bring that to fruition from idea phase to actual completion, but from the moment the paintbrush hit the first wall to the flag flying, it was not even a week and a half,” Groce said.

The week of August 21, the mural was finally completed, just in time for NIU’s student move-in week.

“And that’s really a huge credit to how the painters, the city street operations crew and the banner app, like everyone rallied to get that project done, because everyone wanted students to feel that welcome as they drove in,” Groce said.

The Citizens Enhancement Commission who sponsor public art programs around DeKalb are planning other projects for the city including Paint-a-Plug where community members can adopt and paint a fire hydrant and the public mural program that encourages artists to create murals throughout DeKalb.

The next “communiversity project” as Groce calls it will be NIU’s 116th Homecoming celebration the week of Oct. 8 to Oct. 15.

NIU will unveil its newest statue at 4 p.m. on Oct. 12 in downtown DeKalb during the March of the Huskies where Lincoln Highway will be shut down for the Homecoming Block Party.

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