Today I went in search of art.

I must admit, any type of scavenger hunt in a small town of 5,000 people seems unnecessary as it only takes ten minutes to completely navigate the layout. However, since I have returned to my hometown after a long absence, I find it is imperative to look at things with “fresh eyes”. Often times, even in a rural setting, you run the risk of missing all the beautiful things.

I have always been interested in the relationship between art and rural Nebraska. The juxtaposition seems paramount yet when you look closely, it’s amazing to see how art can thrive among the practicality of agriculture. Even though Holdrege has continuously had an appreciation and connection to art, it always seems to get lost in the business of corn and the holy religion of Husker football.

When I set out today, my thoughts were focused on “public art” because that’s the only type that can exist in most rural communities. Art galleries are reserved for big cities and unless I start knocking on doors of other art aficionados, the only artwork I will see will be out in the cold Nebraska elements.

I remembered a mural installation from my high school days on the side of a building in the downtown district and I thought that would be a good start for my rural art exploration. When I would return for visits, I remember seeing it and being surprised it had survived the elements after all of those years. I think the subject matter had something to do with music…or Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why was I drawing a blank?

I returned to the mural and realized that question wasn’t going to be answered anytime soon…

art mural3

Looking like an urban scar, the artwork had been removed, leaving only a bare brick outline of its existence…

art mural2

Still hopeful, I knew of some “alley art” behind the local movie theater but I remember it being dated and rather sad looking…

art sun mural2

It still looked forgotten but now it seemed oddly cool and vintage. And regardless of its condition, it was art and that is something significant.

I continued on and stopped to admire a corncob sculpted out of barbed wire at the Nebraska Prairie Museum

art corncob4

I have driven by this iconic Nebraska image hundreds of times yet never made the effort to get out of my car and see it up close. It was magnificent and perhaps if it wasn’t camouflaged among the outdoor museum artifacts and seasonal adjoining summer crop, it would get the recognition it deserves.

art corncob3

art corncob2

A buffalo also created out of barbed wire stood proudly on the same property…

art buffalo

I wondered how an artist could manipulate gnarly rusted ringlets into such a gorgeous creature.

My next stop was a sculpture that welcomed southbound visitors and locals into Holdrege; a monument to our town’s centennial and the ingenuity of the pioneer spirit that formed this great community…

art promise of the prairie

Holdrege native, George Lundeen sculpted “Promise of the Prairie” and it holds court over the tough buffalo grass of the North Park, and the rugged bronzed family looks with confidence into the direction of hope and prosperity…

art promise of the prairie2

In our town square, the heart of our “County Seat”, another Lundeen sculpture stands a boy frozen in time; gripping proudly both the American flag and the responsibility of democracy…

art field of blue

 

art field of blue3

art field of blue2

I’m reminded at this moment that public art in my rural community is abundant. Who would want an actual museum when the art can be out among the people? Nature seems to trump a stark white gallery wall.

My next stop is to view the work of my cousin, bronze sculpture Brad Pearson. He has created a dapper caddie that keeps watch over the local golf course…

art golfer

And similar to the “Promise of the Prairie”, this eternal character seemed to have the same determined stare as he looks into the Nebraska landscape…

art golfer3

art golfer2

Another Pearson sculpture is situated in front of the Holdrege Middle School…

art school kids3

I must admit, I have a particular affinity for this piece simply because of its location. Kids get to pass this every day and I hope the subject matter reminds them of their history and the artwork itself encourages them to do great things…

art school kids

It was official. Never again would I take for granted the artwork that surrounds me in my hometown. I went in search of art and ended up finding a lot of it. It’s incredible that all of these pieces tell a collective story of this community. The content, the medium, the placement within the landscape, it all relates to our journey here on the Great Plains.

You just have to get out of your car and walk a bit to see it.


Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a writer, designer, entrepreneur and blogger living in south central Nebraska. You can read more of his work on his blog, County Seat Living (http://countyseatliving.blogspot.com/).

Comment

  1. Pat Carter March 10, 2014 at 6:35 am -

    Mr. Rager.
    I enjoyed this article and the photos in time, as well as in stepping back into
    Holdrege’s past and present. Nebraskan’s have shown so many of their arts and many mediums and now -many get to enjoy or re-visit through your efforts.

    In 1982, we moved from Holdrege , and are now retired in So CA via NJ
    but I do enjoy my times visting family and friends there when I get the chance to fly “home”!

    I do not recall the alley artwork behind the movie theatre, but recall older buldings painted with store advertising. Atlanta used to show movies on the outside of some buildings!
    I didn’t realized that Brad Pearson, as well as George Lundeen are such a great artist as so many in the Nebraska towns.
    A few yeas ago, I visited Roy and Mary Pearson at their home, and noticed a bronze in which Roy explained Brad’s talent.

    Many years ago, my father- in law, Ora Carter had a vast collection of barbed wires, and I believe, some pieces were donated to the Phelps Coumty Museum many years ago.

    It is very refreshing to see Holdrege and their families -rural and within Phelps County. The museum has some wonderful artifacts, stories, and treasures and a great place to take in Phelps County and those that love it.

    It is a great place to visit, smell the good earth. and to take a step backwards and enjoy that gift to Nebraska and for many to visit some history from the great state of Nebraska.

    Thank you, it brings Holdrege a little bit closer to So CA!

    P Carter

  2. janita pavelka March 8, 2014 at 7:38 pm -

    Scott,

    SHP 2014 would like to put a mural on the 4th Ave. Coffee Shop building. Thanks for the history on the MLK mural. We’re still in the design stage~any input!?

    Thanks,

    Janita

  3. Sharon Lindsay February 1, 2014 at 10:55 am -

    Hi Scott, love all of you posts and wanted to remind you of one more. The hospital has the nurse in the court yard. She is very cool too. Thanks for the blogs and keep it up.

    • Robert Scott Rager February 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks Sharon! I have heard of that sculpture but haven’t navigated my way through the new hospital addition to see it. I also hope Holdrege will find a way to commission a sculpture by Mike Sughroue! WHAT a talented artist!

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