Robert L. Even

(1929 – 2015) 

As a child of the depression living on a North Dakota farm in an isolated environment, Bob used his creativity to make a world for himself.  Bob loved art, and drew or painted on any scrap of paper.  He also imagine himself as Daniel Boone, hunting small animals, selling their skins, and using the funds to send away for “treasures” of the day.

A major direction for Bob’s life came from a teacher who advised his mother to encourage him to leave the farm.  Bob was not passionate about farming as his father was.  In complete agreement with the teacher, his mother facilitated his advanced education.  The portrait of his father in bib overalls was painted during his early teens.  It is the only surviving expression of his work from that time.

At some point, however, Bob served in the Korean War.

Following his interests in art and education, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Valley City State College, and Masters of Art and Doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota.  He was an Instructor in Art at the University of Minnesota before coming to Northern Illinois University in 1963 as a professor in the Art Education Department within the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  He served as Chairman of the Ar Department from 1974 to 1990.

As Chairman, Bob received many art grants.  He established the NIU Art Gallery on Superior Street in Chicago, and acquired studio space for painting professors and graduate students in the Wurlitzer Factory.  Bob also received a National Endowment for the Arts that enabled him to conduct a series of taped interviews with top Chicago designers, such as, Robert Vogle, John Massey, and others, for “A Documentary of Influential Designers in Post World War II Chicago”, which is housed at the University of Illinois-Chicago library.

Bob’s love of Chicago began when he attended the School of the Art Institute for a semester during his undergraduate days.  One of his later pleasures was to drive visitors around Chicago, pointing out the notable landmarks which he considered vital (e.g. the Monadnock Building).

Another major love developed with Paris and the French way of life beginning in 1963 when Jack Arends, the Chairman of the Art Department at NIU, introduced Bob to Europe through the “NIU Art in Europe Program”, which Bob then directed for 22 years.  He changed the “Grand Tour” to a study design program in England and France when the economy changed.

Bob had great admiration for people who lived as artists, that is,  people who continuously made art as their sole endeavor.  Although his path went in another direction, he believed in those artists who lived to make their art.  As Chair of the School of Art he wanted to provide opportunities and encourage artists and students to do exactly this.  He hoped he was successful in doing so.