About the School of Fine Arts

Welcome to the School of Fine Arts at Northern State University! The School of Fine Arts includes the art & theater department and music department. With more than 150 fine arts students, Northern has established itself as the premier academic institution and cultural hub in our region.
Selecting a university is one of the most important decisions you will make. I personally invite you to our campus at your earliest convenience. You would be welcome to observe classes, rehearsals, and applied lessons, and meet with a professor in your major area of interest. This is one of the best ways to see the outstanding quality of the fine arts programs at Northern.
Major renovations and expansions of our visual art and performing art spaces were completed in 2016. New or remodeled visual arts rooms include digital graphic design, photography, print-making, sculpture and ceramics. The Johnson Fine Arts Center includes a new black box theatre, classrooms, music studios, Wenger practice rooms and an art gallery. Both the theater and music programs will enjoy a renovated main theater and recital hall.
Our faculty members are highly qualified and dedicated to the success of each student, and our award-winning ensembles are among the best in the upper Midwest.
Our students are regularly recognized for outstanding scholarship and achievement in art, music and theater competitions and venues, including the University Invitational Art Exhibit, Washington Pavilion, Vermont Studio Center Residency, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Music Teacher€™'s National Association, South Dakota Music Teacher€™'s Association, South Dakota Bandmaster'€™s Association, South Dakota Music Educator'€™s Association, Irene Ryan Competition and the American College Theatre Festival.
Our graduates have distinguished themselves in performance, teaching, the private sector, and graduate study.
All this - combined with the opportunity for international travel, study with award-winning faculty, and collaboration with other gifted performing and visual artists - helps make Northern one of the most exciting and vibrant campuses you will find. Please feel free to contact me if I may be of any assistance to you. I hope you will choose Northern!
NSU School of Fine Arts

Johnson Fine Arts Center


The Johnson Fine Arts Center (JFAC) is home to one of the strongest music and theater departments in the midwest. JFAC is a valuable resource for the entire campus community, presenting and hosting more than 65 concerts and events during the year.

  • The auditorium hosts NSU student theater performances and concerts and community events
  • JFAC recently reopened upon completion of a $15 million remodeling project that included an expanded lobby area; renovated main theater with improved acoustics and new seating; new orchestra pit and shell system; new heating and cooling and fire suppression systems; and new lighting throughout.
  • New space includes a black box theater, four classrooms, art gallery, improved student practice rooms, faculty offices and studios, box office, coat check, entrance, expanded parking, and additional restrooms.
  • JFAC Parking, History and Specifications
NSU Box Office

Buy tickets to NSU School of Fine Arts events through the Johnson Fine Arts Center Box Office. Discounts and special offers are available exclusively through the JFAC box office.

  • Hours: Noon-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • Phone: 605-626-2900
  • Email: nsuboxoffice@northern.edu
  • Payment methods: Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted
  • The box office opens two hours before show time on performance nights. 

Johnson Fine Arts Center Gallery

Located off the vestibule, the JFAC Gallery was thoughtfully designed from the ground up to exhibit the work of nationally and internationally recognized contemporary artists, many of whom work on campus with NSU students through collaborations and technical workshops. The 1,000-square-foot gallery also is an exhibition space for student artworks and pieces from NSU's permanent collection. Please see the NSU Galleries Schedule for current exhibits.


Black Box Theater

JFAC's Black Box Theater is a 150-seat venue home to three season productions each academic year. An intimate space with the audience members as close as five feet from the action, the Black Box provides a basic, versatile performance area for musicals and operas as well as small cast shows. With overhead lighting and technical catwalks, this style of theater has become known for its "environmental" productions, with performers utilizing the entire space - from floor to ceiling.

Main Theater

A 1000-seat proscenium space, the Main Theater is the venue for the full season of orchestra and band concerts and one large musical production each academic year. Our musical events are all reinforced with a beautiful, cherry wood-grained Diva acoustical shell. Guest lectures and presentations are also a frequent occurrence in the theater. With a 600-square-foot, mechanized orchestra pit that can seat more than 30 musicians, the theater has been the venue for large musicals as well as more intimate theatrical pieces.

Art Facilities

NSU art facilities recently underwent a $1.4 million renovation. Students will find ample space and equipment to explore art education, design, art history, advertising design, computer and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, printmaking, and mixed media and fiber arts.


Spafford Studios

The spacious Spafford Studios area features natural light, hardwood floors, and spaces for design, drawing, and painting and printmaking labs; withsemi-private studio spaces for junior and senior art students.


Sculpture, printmaking, ceramics

The Spafford Studios are also home to the ceramics, sculpture and printmaking studio classrooms. The ceramics lab features four gas kilns and three large capacity electric kilns. The ceramics area features a generous work area with eight ceramics wheels.


The sculpture area features MIG welders, power equipment for woodworking, a bronze/metal foundry and well equipped hand tools.


The printmaking area features a Takach Intaglio press and Graphic Chemical Lithography press. The print lab offers traditional lithographic stones, tools for etching, relief and monotype methods, and technology equipment for digital printmaking.

Dacotah Hall Design Studio

Graphics and photography students will find that the newly renovated Dacotah Hall Design Studio features spacious graphics classrooms offering iMac workstations and professional Adobe Creative Cloud graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects.


The graphics area also features high-end printers and digital drawing and video production equipment, including Apple€™s Final Cut Pro editing software.


Photography, video

The Dacotah Hall Design Studio also offers a modern darkroom and chemical room, eight film enlargers and facilities for processing black and white film. Digital photography is well supported with cameras, iMacs and high-quality inkjet printers. Students will also find a state-of-the-art lighting studio with a green screen for video and digital imaging applications.

Former Faculty

At Northern, talented faculty will inspire you to grow as an artist and excel in your chosen passion. Our school has a long and illustrious history of influence in the arts of the region.