Serving undergraduate students in a cafeteria was never something DeKalb resident Mary von Zellen had in mind for a career. Many years ago, she dreamed of becoming an artist.
Her life, however, did not work out as planned and after taking art classes at NIU and Kishwaukee College for more than 10 years, financial troubles pulled her into a more conventional career in food service instead of painting.
“I realized that if I were going to do anything meaningful in my life that I would need money, and it was easier to work for a paycheck,” she said.
After 15 years, von Zellen has finally found a way to live out her lifelong dream volunteering as a member of the board of directors for the DeKalb Area Women’s Center and working in the center’s art gallery.
DAWC, which started in 1993, is a non-profit volunteer organization that works to promote women’s culture and provide a safe and empowering environment for women in the DeKalb area.
The organization does this by providing a number of social programs and community service projects that appeal to women of different interests, said art gallery director and board member Anna Marie Coveny.
“The idea is to have a place where women are valued – whatever their interests may be,” Coveny said.
DAWC is located in a remodeled 1914 Finnish Temperance Society Meeting Hall, 1021 State St., that features a library of mainly women authors, a meditation garden and an art gallery that holds monthly programs and art receptions.
This month DAWC will host their first literacy and visual art reception with a poetry reading event. The event will feature more than 20 artists from NIU faculty, college students, DAWC members, DeKalb residents and other artists from various parts of the world.
Thomas Mahady, guest curator of the event and owner of Art is Forever art gallery, 314 E. Lincoln Highway, said it will be interesting to see how such diverse artists will celebrate the interaction of literacy and art.
“Both words and art came from symbols and they went in different directions, but it’s nice to bring those two back together at DAWC,” Mahady said.
A mixed media intaglio print and mixed media collage was presented by von Zellen for the event. She said DAWC allows her a temporary escape from her ordinary life and, for a moment, gives her a taste of what could have been.
“I’m getting to pursue all of my dreams and, in a way, it is a dream come true for me,” she said.
Annual membership dues are $25 for adults, $10 for students or an eight -hour work exchange and includes a membership discount to events and a bi-monthly newspaper. For more information, call 758-1351.
This month at the DAWC:
Who: The DeKalb Area’s Women Center
What: Literary and visual art reception with a poetry reading event
Where: The center, 1021 State St.
When: 2-5 p.m. Saturday