Culture on a Dime

By Genevieve Diesing

Who says DeKalb has nothing more to offer than corn? Although community newcomers and veterans alike may not know it, there’s an abundance of artistic activities hidden within the walls of the NIU campus and scattered throughout the streets of downtown DeKalb. From classical and local music to a variety of art galleries, theatre and dance productions, independent film entertainment and local history, finding culture on a budget around DeKalb is easier than one may think. Here’s your guide to finding relatively inexpensive ways to enrich your artistic side.

Art Galleries

Jack Olsen Memorial Gallery

The gallery, in the Jack Arends Art Building, features the bachelor of fine arts graduate and undergraduate shows each semester, as well as eight other exhibitions throughout the year. This gallery is free and is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week.

Altgeld Galleries

Located in the first floor of the west end of Altgeld Hall are the South, North and Rotunda galleries, each displaying artwork throughout the year. These showcases are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Keep an Eye Out For: The “Bushwick Farms Presents… The Traveling Variety Show,” opening Sept. 22 in the Jack Olsen Gallery. The show will feature a couple’s unconventional artwork about a fantasy-based traveling variety show.

NIU Theatre

Players Theatre

The Players Theatre is one of three in the Stevens Building, and one of the two main stages. Four different productions are scheduled here in the 2005-2006 season, including the Fall Dance Concert.

Corner Theatre

Also in the Stevens Building, the Corner Theatre features four different productions in the 2005-2006 season, as well as the NIU School of Theatre and Dance Studio Series.

O’Connell Theatre

Three different productions will take place at this other main stage throughout the year, including Helen Edmunson’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” in February.

Keep an eye out for the School of Theatre and Dance’s Spring Dance Concert in the O’Connell Theatre. It is performed by the School of Theatre and Dance faculty, students, and guest performers from the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York. All performance dates can be accessed at Individual student ticket prices are $7; tickets can also be purchased in seasonal packages.

Downtown Theatres

Stagecoach Players

This community theatre, currently in its 59th season of production, is on Fifth Street in downtown DeKalb and tickets are $10 to $12 per show.

Egyptian Theatre

The historical theatre in downtown DeKalb is a nonprofit organization, run completely by volunteers. Ticket prices depend on the performance, but generally are pretty low. More than 15 performing art groups use the theatre, which is run completely on donations.

Keep an eye out for the NIU Fine Arts Series, partially hosted by the Egyptian Theatre.


Campus Cinemas

The Campus Cinemas, 1015 Blackhawk Drive, shows second-run movies that recently left the main box office, but the price definitely reflects that-this theatre only charges $3.50 per ticket.

NIU Documentary Film Festival

The yearly spring-time event, dubbed “Reality Bites,” features a variety of student-made documentaries in the Holmes Student Center’s Diversions Lounge. It is free and open to the public and it is a great opportunity to see local film talent.

Keep an eye out for the Egyptian Theatre’s hopeful revival of its traditional independent and foreign movie showings during weekends and Mondays. It is waiting for donations to be able to fix equipment.


The House Cafe

The House Cafe offers food, an intimate atmosphere, and best of all, a stage. A great place to find budding and established local talent. The downtown DeKalb venue usually charges a cover of less than $10 for shows.

Otto’s Niteclub

This bar, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, provides a less intimate atmosphere but still showcases a variety of local music acts for a decent price.

Boutell Memorial Concert Hall

This beautiful auditorium in the Music Building houses free concerts from the university’s Wind Symphony throughout the spring and fall semesters, as well as performances from other musical ensembles.

Keep an eye out for the Vermeer Quartet, a string quartet comprised of NIU faculty. This group has been nominated for Grammys and performs at the Boutell Concert Hall throughout the year.

Local Gems

Hopkins Park

It’s free, it’s beautiful, and it’s right on Sycamore Road. Complete with an acoustically engineered stage, tennis courts and lots of trees, this place is a haven for outdoorsy types.

Ellwood House

This Victorian mansion was built in 1879 and showcases DeKalb history. Located on First Street and Augusta Avenue, this elaborate house offers guided tours for $6, which include the Barbed Wire History Gallery and the Carriage Gallery.