The University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art will present an online exhibit of art produced by Iowa middle and high school students during the pandemic.

The exhibit, "Structure, Invention and Surprise / Explorations of Pattern by Secondary Students: The Elena Diane Curris Biennial Design Exhibition," was curated by UNI Assistant Professor of Art Education Samantha Goss and conceptualized with Emeritus Professor of Graphic Design Phil Fass. It will run from Saturday, Feb. 27 through Monday, Mar. 29, 2021.UNI campus 

Based on an idea first proposed by Constantine (Deno) Curris and Jo Hern Curris, this exhibition as developed by Goss and Fass also takes into account the current pandemic response during which it is not possible to mount an on-site exhibition for public viewing. From these challenges, "Structure, Invention and Surprise" emerged as both a student competition and an online exhibition.

In the fall of 2020, Goss organized the above-mentioned competition for sixth through twelfth grade students in Iowa. Art teachers were given a standard entry form and some supporting materials to introduce students to patterns, how they can be used and how they are inspired. The resulting artwork, statements and context presented in the exhibition share insight into how form and concept find unique balance in each piece.

According to the curator, "the students included in this exhibition present their own unique perspective on pattern, producing work that highlights the small nuances in our understanding of pattern. Students were asked to provide information about where they found their inspiration with their submissions through their statements or visual reference. This was based on supplementary material provided to teachers to show how objects, type and forms had been transformed into patterns by designers and artists. We have a wide range of work from individuals, groups and classes to consider in conversations about the role of inspiration and function of pattern."

This series, which began in the fall of 2018, is named in memory of Elena Diane Curris (1977-2015), the daughter of Constantine (Deno) Curris and Jo Hern Curris. Elena lived in Cedar Falls and attended the UNI Price Laboratory School during the years her father was president of the university. Throughout her life, she was deeply interested in design. The long-term support for this series is made possible by a generous endowment from Elena’s family to promote the excellence of graphic design education at UNI.

For additional information, visit or contact Darrell Taylor, director of the UNI Gallery of Art, at 319-273-6134 or