You might think that the official Nebraska Art Collection would be in the capital city of Lincoln, right? You would be wrong. It’s actually in central Nebraska, in Kearney. It sort of makes artistic sense, as Kearney is the scenic home of the annual spring migration of the Sandhill crane, so why not oil paintings, photographs and sculptures? Ok, maybe the crane reference was a bit of a stretch, but still…
The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) shows off art pieces by Nebraska-bred artists, artists who have called Nebraska home or artist with connections to the Husker state. The artwork is truly impressive, so it’s pretty cool to think that a lot of it comes from the hands and eyes of Nebraskans.
The museum is located in an old Post Office building, and is connected to the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Older buildings themselves are pieces of art. The museum has three floors of exhibits and an outdoor sculpture garden.
Granted, the museum is small compared to ones in larger cities, it still gives visitors beautiful art to enjoy. As you enter the front gallery on the main floor, the first thing you notice is the space. The galleries are designed to be open, even in the smaller rooms.
The front gallery had several pieces on display that were going to be auctioned as part of a fund raiser. The piece I absolutely loved could bring tears or at least a sense of emotion to anyone. A child holding a folded flag with a tear appearing on a cheek. “Field of Blue 32” is a beautiful piece by artist George Lundeen.
A tribute to a Nebraska ice cream favorite is showcased in an oil painting. Zesto’s is a popular ice cream shop that is located in a few Nebraska cities. It’s embraced and hyped during ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. The announcers are addicted to the sweet treats there. The Zesto’s on the wall is located in the Florence neighborhood of Omaha. Katrina Methot-Swanson is the artist.
One permanent exhibit takes up a corner in the lower level hall. “Diane’s Gems” is an interesting piece by New Mexico-born Eddie Dominguez.
Alexander Gardner’s engraved wood exhibit highlights Native American leaders visit to Washington, DC. The carving is a copy of a photo that appeared in “Harper’s Weekly” in 1866.
The museum offers some contemporary pieces. “Freedom March” is an oil on linen piece created in 1964 by Shirley Shaneyfelt.
Since Kearney is the world’s Sandhill crane capital, you know the museum had to have a room dedicated to crane art.
While I enjoyed the galleries, I loved the sculpture garden! “An American Dream” focuses on Nebraska basketball dreams. The statue features a male and female player.
The sculpture garden is named on honor of Cliff Hillegass. You may not recognize the name, but anyone who was enrolled in a college English class – maybe even high school – has likely used one of his products. Cliff Hillegass was “Cliff” in “CliffsNotes,” the study guides that help students learn about some of the classics without having to read the books. They are excellent at helping to prep for tests. I may or may not be speaking by experience. True story – he is from Hastings, but is graduate of Midland College (now University) in Fremont.
Cliff’s sculpture is located I a choice spot in the garden. He is featured sitting on a bench (where people can join him for photos) reading a copy of “CliffsNotes” version of “Romeo and Juliet.” The sculpture was a gift from the artist, George Lundeen.
The Museum of Nebraska Art is an interesting place to take in some great art. Plus, it’s free! We recommend visiting the museum.
For more information on the hours and more, please visit https://mona.unk.edu.