While Matt Sehnert's profession may be that of baker and small-business owner of Sehnert's Bakery and Bieroc Cafe in McCook, Matt and his wife, Shelly, have expanded their role in Southwest Nebraska both as an innovator and supporter of the arts over the past three decades.
The Sehnert’s connect and draw people into the art world, simply because they feel art is vital to a thriving and robust community. In the Sehnert’s view, art is more than entertainment; art builds humans from the inside-out.
Nearly 20 years ago, Matt and Shelly joined with Dale and Mary Dueland to create a listening-room concert series at the bakery, which features both up-and-coming musicians as well as established singer-songwriters from across the country. But the Sehnerts are even more proud to showcase local citizens as the opening act for the concert series, from teenagers to accomplished musicians, who share their talents with friends and family.
Matt has also been involved in one of McCook's largest events, the Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival, both as a promoter of the festival and host in the bakery for many of its events. Nearing its 25th anniversary, hundreds of songs have been sung, thousands of stories have been told and countless hours have been spent enjoying each other's company.
Sehnert’s Bakery also opens its doors to local thespians, from high school productions to the local community theater organization. Southwest Nebraska Community Theater Association annually holds its fall dinner/theater production at the bakery, allowing the actors to meander throughout the audience during the evening, providing new meaning to the words “up close and personal.”
Matt and Shelly’s impact extends beyond the walls of the bakery. Because of their desire for an expanded art scene in McCook, others are now more willing and able to participate in new experiences that bring the community and the arts together, whether it’s creating a ukulele “band” at the high school to bringing an “outsider art” collection to McCook to developing an outdoor music festival.
Matt and Shelly have had a direct influence on McCook’s art scene and their impact radiates out into the community in countless ways, from a re-organized McCook Arts Council to hosting a monthly book club, from featuring local artist’s stained glass and paintings in the bakery to encouraging an impromptu jam session.
And all of this while running a small business, which has become the social hub of McCook and just happens to be the only James Beard Foundation America’s Classic winner in Nebraska.