Nebraska Masterpieces: Arts Education Series

The National Endowment for the Arts, our federal funding partner, designed a program, American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, to introduce Americans to the best of their cultural and artistic legacy. Each of the 50 state arts councils were granted funds to launch statewide American Masterpieces initiatives.

The Nebraska Arts Council believes that the people of Nebraska, including our children, should be aware of the artistic legacy our contemporary artists are providing for our state. The Nebraska Arts Council’s project initiative, the Nebraska Masterpieces: Arts Education Series, seeks to increase awareness among Nebraskans of the contemporary artists who live and work among us.

About the Project:

The project, which was initiated during 2007-08, featured five posters depicting works by critically acclaimed contemporary Nebraska artists Kent Bellows, Jun Kaneko, Karen Kunc, Keith Jacobshagen and Michael James.

In collaboration with UNO's Center for Innovation in Arts Education, a comprehensive curriculum was developed for primary schools to support this project. The posters, which included educational resource material on the reverse, were then sent to all 1,413 Nebraska schools, covering both public and parochial institutions, and serving 326,153 students in all. The curriculum also included videos of the artists, which can be seen on this website and on NAC's YouTube Channel.

Billboards were also created to promote the project to the general public. These were installed across Nebraska at highly visible sites along main highways and well-traveled community intersections. Cities receiving the billboards included Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Kearney, and Hastings.

About the Artists:

The five artists featured in the project were selected from a group of 40 candidates who had obtained critical national or international recognition. Finalists were selected by a panel of prominent museum and gallery directors including Jan Driesbach, Director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; Norman Geske, Director Emeritus at Sheldon; Brooks Joyner, Director of Joslyn Art Museum; Audrey Kauders, Director of the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney; Mark Masuoka, Director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha; and Suzanne Wise, Executive Director of the Nebraska Arts Council.

Criteria for selection included:

  • The majority of work was produced while living in Nebraska.

  • Work dated from 1960 or later – the artist may be deceased or living.

  • Work generally considered definitive in style, field, genre or concept by critics and scholars.

    Kent Bellows' self-portrait entitled "Over the Mermaid Lounge"

    A Nebraska Masterpieces billboard, one of five featuring contemporary Nebraska artists.

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