August is American Artist Appreciation Month and what better time to appreciate our own Nebraska artists! Most people can name at least a few famous American artists; maybe Jackson Pollack, Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol, or Norman Rockwell come to mind, but how many Nebraska artists can you name?
Though the names may not be as familiar, their work is certainly impressive. Much of it is on display at the MONA, not to be confused with the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, but rather the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney. This is the state’s official art collection and it has more than 6,000 works in its permanent collection. The MONA website is a great place to get acquainted with past and present Nebraska artists. Even better, head to Kearney if you can, to see the collection in person – bonus, it is free!
But you don’t have to go to Kearney to experience the work of Nebraska artists, especially large scale sculptures, of which there are many right here in the greater Omaha area. In fact, the Bellevue University campus is graced with a large red steel sculpture by one of our own graduates, Michael Godek. Belametrix #1 was created in 1997 and now sits on the grassy area overlooking the pond. Undoubtedly, he studied under Les Bruning, Omaha artist and sculptor and long-time Bellevue University Professor of Art (1973 – 2011). Bruning’work is seen all over town, as well as around the United States. A few local examples include O! Dude in the Chamber of Commerce Plaza in the Old Market, Velocoity in Dewey Park, and Vessel at Aksarben Village. Littleton Alston, is another well-known Omaha artist and sculptor. His public art is also seen around town, including the cast bronze sculptures of Dr. Martin Luther King at City Hall, baseball legend Bob Gibson at Werner Park in Papillion, and space shuttle astronaut, Michael Anderson at Creighton University, where he teaches. Incidentally, his daughter Sarah, is a former circulation assistant right here in the library!
Another great source of information on Nebraska artists is the Impact website which features a small select group of nationally recognized Nebraska artists. Their work is seen in museums and art galleries across the United States. These artists use a wide range of mediums and styles and have an equally wide range of specializations, including sculpture, landscapes, abstracts, western images, and more. Be sure to check it out.
Nebraska artists are a diverse and talented bunch. Support them by attending special exhibits and art fairs in the state. Want to know more about American artists? The library has many books in our collection, but a great place to start is 50 American Artists You Should Know – ND236 .M36 2010. Also check out our American Artist Appreciation Month Pinterest board.