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Rachel Bussey
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January 16, 2017
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Joslyn Art Museum – Art, Understanding & New Possibilites for All

Mention Joslyn Art Museum to someone in the Museum's hometown, Omaha, and you can typically expect a lively conversation or a good story to follow.

Maybe in the form of a memory of a visit long ago or just this past weekend; a “did you know” bit of information (possibly about daily free admission, the Rembrandt or the latest major exhibition); a comment about what an exquisite location it was for a recent wedding; and often an expression of endearment. People speak of their love for Joslyn – for the building, for the art, for its history and for its future. Having served as a cornerstone of Omaha’s cultural life for 85 years, Joslyn Art Museum has played an important role in the lives of generations of families across Nebraska.

joslyn-museum-glass-sculptureA Sight to Behold

A glimpse of the Museum’s unique pink marble exterior, carved with prose and pictorial panels, hints at what is inside – stunning architectural spaces, galleries filled with art spanning a millennia and places for art-making to happen anew. For Joslyn’s 11th Executive Director, Jack Becker, it is a place that brings people together with the visual arts, but also much more. “Joslyn is an institution that is committed, above all else, to the value of creative expression and the potential for original works of art to provide transformative experiences,” said Becker. “We are constantly evolving with the community, growing as an organization and deepening connections with our audiences so that each visitor, of any age and background, will feel welcome and engaged. At the end of the day, it is about art and about people and about the great things that happen when they come together.”

A telling marker of the Museum’s commitment to its role as a resource for every person in our community, Joslyn recently took the extraordinary step of eliminating general Museum admission. In the spring of 2013, Becker announced that the Museum would cease charging for permanent collection access, opening its doors to all, always. Free general admission is a nod to the Museum’s past (for its first three and a half decades, Joslyn admission was free), while also a tremendous leap forward toward achieving true accessibility – a goal of so many American art museums. In 2015, more than 179,000 people visited Joslyn from all 50 states and 67 countries worldwide. Since its founding in 1931, more than 12.8 million people have experienced the Museum.

A Premier Institution for Art Education

Dedicated to its role as a place of public service and creative expression for people at all levels of learning, Joslyn offers numerous opportunities to understand, appreciate and interact with art. In 2015 alone, more than 128,000 individuals of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances participated in Joslyn’s educational programming.

Becker noted, “The Museum is dedicated to developing the programs and the networks that reach, support and uplift people through the arts. Our education staff does an outstanding job of developing high-quality programs, and they actively seek and build impactful partnerships that help us reach diverse and underserved populations in the Omaha metropolitan area and beyond. We are fortunate to be centered in a community that embraces and supports us in those efforts.”

An example of the Museum’s arts education in action is the extraordinary and innovative platform called ART WORKS: A Place for Curiosity. Opened in November 2014, ART WORKS is an interactive space featuring hands-on activity stations, each with connections to Joslyn’s permanent collection. Now the hub of the lower level of the Museum’s Memorial Building, ART WORKS is a destination in and of itself for youth and families (although every age is welcome and encouraged to take part). In 2015, more than 39,000 guests visited the space for art-making that ranged from the paper-and-pencil still life station and beadwork wall, to stop-motion animation and painting on digital canvases.

joslyn-museum-artworks-children

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this fun, bright, light-filled room is what it lacks – posted instructions. According to Becker, “There are no didactics in ART WORKS. No formal instructions or signs pointing to exactly what to do or how to do it. This place is purely about exploration and discovery. People come here to spend time together, learning as they go. It is truly a one-of-a-kind approach to family engagement and visual arts education.”

Arts education takes many forms at Joslyn, and it often happens off-site in outreach throughout the city or via long-distance learning. People may be surprised to learn that Joslyn offers:

  • Art classes and camps for ages three and older
  • The dynamic Kent Bellows Mentoring Program for teens
    Thursdays for Teachers (a signature teacher training program now in its 10th year)
  • Free guided tours, including ticketed exhibitions, for school students and homeschoolers (tours support K-12 Fine Arts Standards)
  • Gallery talks, lectures, concerts, book discussions, films and more for adults
  • Onsite programs for preschoolers and parents with infants and toddlers, including Stroller Tours and Story Adventures (with Omaha Public Library)
  • Twenty-first century learning tools such as iPads with art apps, iPods for mobile Edventures and mobile tours offered in English and Spanish that are available on any web-enabled device (including those that can be borrowed free of charge)
  • Creative experiences for the community at large events like the NE SciFest and Maha Music Festival
  • Outreach to underserved audiences in the community, including Omaha’s Refugee Empowerment Center, Boys Town National Research Hospital, the NorthStar after-school program, Siena / Francis House shelter, and Nebraska Medicine pediatric patients and their families.

One of America’s Top Museums

Joslyn is home to many of Nebraska’s most significant cultural resources and is internationally known for its important and diverse collections. Works from the Museum are regularly requested for inclusion in exhibitions at museums around the world (most recently in Switzerland, London and New York).

During a visit, patrons will find art ranging from ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Asian objects to new work by established and emerging contemporary artists. The Museum is home to a Rembrandt painting (only a few dozen exist in American museums). The Impressionist gallery features masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt and Degas (including his Little Dancer Aged Fourteen). The Art of the American West galleries showcase American Indian artifacts such as moccasins and jackets, stunning landscapes by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, and the world-renowned watercolors and prints of Swiss artist Karl Bodmer who documented the 1830s Missouri River frontier. Visitor “favorites” throughout the Museum include Makovsky’s Russian Beauty and Cat, Bouguereau’s Return of Spring, Gérôme’s The Grief of the Pasha, Jackson Pollock’s Galaxy, Grant Wood’s Stone City, Iowa and Dale Chihuly’s Inside & Out. An outdoor sculpture garden includes a stunning reflecting pool with column fountains by Jesús Moroles and works by sculptors Rodin, Zorach, Sugarman, Henry, Snelson and Kaneko, to name a few.

In addition to works housed permanently at Joslyn, the Museum offers temporary exhibitions that balance core collection strengths with opportunities to present exceptional work from other institutions. Demonstrating a renewed commitment to contemporary art, Joslyn founded the new Riley Contemporary Artists Project (CAP) Gallery in 2014. Visitors can see work by nationally and internationally recognized artists, as well as emerging talent, selected by Joslyn curators. Featuring painting, sculpture, works on paper and video installations, the CAP Gallery brings new perspectives on contemporary art to audiences in Nebraska.

During the remainder of 2016 and throughout 2017, Joslyn will feature special exhibitions on remarkably varied themes: Andrew Moore’s large-scale photographs made along the 100th meridian from North Dakota to the Texas panhandle; 19th- and 20th-century American paintings depicting scenes of hunting, fishing and the sporting life from a number of important American museums; dazzling examples of four centuries of French jewelry and related art from the Petit Palais in Paris; and 100 preeminent 15th- to 21st-century drawings from the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Also in the coming months, the work of three artists will be featured in CAP Gallery exhibitions.

Working with a Legacy

Headquartered in Omaha, SilverStone Group has a deep respect for the city’s local monuments and landmarks. Joslyn Art Museum is an iconic fixture in Omaha known by locals and visitors throughout the world, and we are proud to partner with this institution to provide property and casualty and group benefits. We appreciate the value Joslyn Art Museum brings to the community and we look forward to a lasting relationship as it continues to provide opportunities to experience art in new and innovative ways.


Joslyn – The Story Behind the Museum

joslyn-museum-exterior-nightNew Englanders George and Sarah Joslyn came to Omaha in 1880. George founded the Western Newspaper Union, which became one of the largest newspaper service organizations in the world. The Joslyns loved Omaha and actively supported community projects. After George’s death, Sarah Joslyn devoted herself to creating a memorial to her late husband that would not only perpetuate their shared interests in music and art, but would benefit the greatest number of people possible.

In 1938, the Joslyn Memorial (as it was called) was listed among the 100 finest buildings in the United States. Art Deco in style, the magnificent new building was hailed as both an important addition to the city as well as to modern American architecture. The exterior, in Georgia pink marble, recognizes the accomplishments of both native Plains Indians and European settlers in a series of relief panels and inscriptions. The remarkable interior, highlighted by galleries, a fountain court and a 1,000-seat concert hall, consists of 38 marbles from around the world.

A 58,000-square-foot addition, the Walter and Suzanne Scott Pavilion, was built in 1994. Designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster as his first U.S. commission, it features soaring galleries with skylights and is connected to the original structure by a breathtaking atrium with a 45-foot-high glass ceiling. In 2009, the Museum completed a major campus redevelopment project that added a sculpture garden and the Discovery Garden featuring important sculptures by nationally and internationally renowned artists.


This article was written in conjunction with Amy Rummel of Joslyn Art Museum. Photography courtesy of Joslyn Art Museum.

This article originally appeared in the 2016 | ISSUE THREE of the SilverLink magazine under the title “Joslyn Art Museum – Art, Understanding & New Possibilities for All.” To receive a complimentary subscription to the SilverLink magazine, sign up here.

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