DEKALB, Ill. | When Danielle Dobies was pondering her senior capstone project as an undergraduate student at Elmhurst College, she envisioned a 25-foot mosaic, but didn't think she could afford the materials.
That was, until her professor, John Pitman Weber, a Chicago icon in public art, stepped in to donate all the tiles she needed and more.
This summer Dobies is paying it forward. Since June she's been volunteering with Northern Illinois University's Department of Women's Studies to create a 5- by 7-foot mural using leftover donated tiles to adorn the department's offices.
"This is a further in-kind donation through me, but originally from him, so I'm passing along the good-heartedness that he showed to me," Dobies, a graduate art student at NIU, said.
Dobies got started when Kerry Ferris, a professor in the sociology department, suggested she get involved while the department is redecorating over the summer.
Dobies began meeting with faculty in the department in June to come up with a plan for the mural's design and since early July, Danielle, school staff and volunteers from across the area have met twice weekly hoping to finish before the school year.
"I can't believe it," Kristen Myers, NIU's director of women's studies said. "Most days I just pinch myself and say, 'how did this happen?'"
The design of the mural incorporates local imagery with women's studies themes. In one section, a hand that represents that of Lucinda Glidden holds a bobby pin, which, according to legend. was once used to mend broken barbed wire fences.
"DeKalb is known for perfecting the barbed wire fence, and so usually the men are the ones who are credited with that," Dobies said. "We wanted to highlight some of the different women who had a part in it."
As part of the cross-college project, the Women's Studies Center has learned about the sometimes painstaking art of mosaic work.
"I love working with people that don't necessarily consider themselves artists, but I like drawing out that creativity that I know exists in there," Dobies said.
Myers isn't yet sure where the completed work, which will have four separate pieces, will hang, but she doesn't want the generosity to stop with them.
"Since we've started other units on campus have said, 'we want to do that," Myers said. "... so we're going to try and pay it forward also. NIU needs more beauty."