Make Mistakes Big

Learning to play the cello with the String Sprouts program at the Omaha Conservatory of Music has brought about changes in Charlie, (8) and Tegan, (6) Hess that may be a bit surprising. In the process of learning to practice, they have learned it is okay to make mistakes. What has changed exponentially is the fear of failure is no longer an issue, in extracurricular activities and even in their friendships. During practice they are encouraged to ‘make mistakes big’ by cello teachers Molly Rezich and Candace Jorgensen – and it shows in a big way!

“It has been an amazing experience to watch them go from tears at having to practice, to loving to practice” says Neidy Hess, Charlie and Tegan’s mom. “It is quite an experience to see your children play Ode to Joy. They are excited they will have the opportunity to play with the Omaha Symphony this year.”

According to their mother, learning to play the cello has also made them more advanced in reading skills for their ages and their computation skills in math have also been affected positively. Their mental arithmetic is off the charts thanks to thinking in terms of beats and measure in music.

Charlie chose to play the cello because his grandfather plays the cello. Tegan really wanted to play violin but plays cello with her brother. They learned of the Sprouts program when a family member took them to one of Omaha Conservatory of Music’s Family programs since Charlie was interested in music. There they saw the ad for String Sprouts and immediately applied. The family is incredibly grateful for String Sprouts and the investment made in their children’s lives.

String Sprouts was founded in 2013 by the Omaha Conservatory of Music and has since blossomed to 1,300 students. Spring Sprouts brings music education through free violin, viola, cello, and bass classes to preschool-aged children in underserved areas. Once a year, students play with the Omaha Symphony and perform in Sprouts in the Park.

“The Omaha Conservatory is so grateful to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment for their investment in Strings Sprouts,” said Ruth Meints, Program Creator and Executive Director at OCM. “These funds support the Omaha Conservatory’s commitment to providing accessibility to musical excellence for so many children living in poverty or under-resourced areas. The study of music makes positive changes in brain connections and improves academic outcomes, which is so important for children in poverty or under-resourced areas who often enter kindergarten a year or more behind their peers.”

Your donations through Nebraska Cultural Endowment help bring the wonders of music into the lives of young musicians that would not have had this opportunity otherwise. Please consider helping make an impact for Nebraska’s future virtuosos.




Humanities Nebraska Awards 34 Grants Totaling $123,853 to Communities in Nebraska.

Nebraska Cultural Endowment’s sole purpose is to sustain and amplify the arts and humanities in Nebraska. This year, over $250,000 has been awarded to Humanities Nebraska to help create more opportunities for Nebraskans to engage thoughtfully with history and culture throughout the state.  Prime Time Family Reading Time, touring exhibits from the Smithsonian, the Chautauqua summer history festival and workshops for veterans were awarded funding as well as many others through Humanities Nebraska’s discretionary grants.

Chautauqua Seward Youth

Storyteller for Prime Time Family Reading Time works with families on reading together

Humanities Nebraska has awarded 34 grants totaling $123,853 in the following Nebraska Communities:


Strategic Air and Space Museum – Apollo 11 50th Anniversary exhibit.


Friends of the Homestead – “Traditions of Homesteaders 2019”.

Central City:

Malaika Foundation – Global Education for Nebraska School.


Platte Valley Literacy Association – in support of citizenship classes.


Bethany Lutheran – African Culture Connection workshops for students.

Fort Calhoun:

Fort Atkinson Foundation – “When the Troops Meet the Native Americans.”

Washington County Historical Association – exhibit on pioneer history.


Scotts Bluff County Tourism –Scotts Bluff Celtic Gathering.


Crane River Theater Company – “Of Mice and Men” student matinee.

UNK’s Women’s and Gender Studies 30th Anniversary.

UNK’s PAWs (Personal Achievement Workshops) Summer Camps.


Asian Community and Cultural Center – continuation of “Stories of US.”

Flatwater Shakespeare Company – “Little But Fierce” youth education.

Lincoln Orchestra Association – Lincoln Crossroads Music Festival.

Nebraska Folklife Network, Inc. – Cultural Traditions of Nebraska Places.


Elkhorn Valley Historical Society – “Young At Art.”


Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts – Speaking Sounds lecture series.

El Museo Latino – “Traditional Textiles: Huipiles.”

Great Plains Black History Museum – “Will Brown & Lynching in the Great Plains of America.”

Kaneko – Passages program.

Metropolitan Community College – Great Plains Theatre Conference.

Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Inc. – Shakespeare On Tour statewide.

Nebraska StoryArts – Moonshell Storytelling Festival

Nebraska Writers Collective – “post show discussion about “A Day in the Life.”

Omaha Area Youth Orchestra – “Common Ground in Sounds” program.

Omaha Public Library Foundation – Omaha Lit Fest 2019

UNO’s “The Arts of Samuel Bak”

UNO’s ArteLatinX 2019.

Red Cloud:

Willa Cather Foundation – Willa Cather Spring Conference 2019.


Nebraska National Guard Museum Society – commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival 2019.


Valentine Community Schools – toward summer learning and reading activities.

Concordia, KS:

National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center – “Riders of the Orphan Trains

Foundlings to the Frontier,” presented in Nebraska communities.


The Nebraska Cultural Endowment is pleased to play a part in bringing these rich experiences to the communities of Nebraska.  We are grateful for the support of our donors and the State of Nebraska which helps to enrich the lives of Nebraska families, today and for future generations.


Jack Campbell to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

National Philanthropy Day is a day set aside to recognize those whose great contributions in philanthropy have made a difference in the lives of many.  On November 13, 2019, NCE Emeritus Board  Member Jack Campbell will be recognized with the Lifetime Achievement award for 2019 at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon at the Embassy Suites, LaVista.

1977 Cooper Foundation Board

Campbell’s extensive community involvement includes serving as past chair/president of the Nebraska Foundation for the Humanities, the Nebraska Library Commission, Lincoln City Libraries and its Foundation and the Sheldon Art Association.  Campbell is the longest serving chair of the Cooper Foundation in Lincoln, as well as a long-time trustee and now serves as Cooper Foundation’s Chair Emeritus.   Jack also has served as Board member of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Nebraskans for Public Television, The Lincoln Community Foundation, the Museum of Nebraska Art, and the Nebraska Historical Society Foundation.

As a director for the Nebraska Foundation for the Humanities, Jack recognized the key to sustainability and growth for the long term was to develop a strong fundraising program which reduced dependence on federal dollars.  Jack helped to recruit other business people and community volunteers to join the foundation board and instilled the importance of fundraising and their role in those responsibilities.

As a founder of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, he worked tirelessly to bring together the interests of private citizens and elected officials in order to establish the first public-private trust to fund both the arts and humanities in 1998.  These public and private funds serve to perpetuate the arts and humanities in Nebraska by expanding and sustaining the program and projects of the Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Arts Council.

Cooper Foundation Board 2018

Campbell remains closely involved with the Nebraska Cultural Endowment as a founding member of its Legacy Donors, and remains one of the Endowment’s three Emeritus members.  He also continues to serve Humanities Nebraska as an Advisory Member.

Campbell has played a pivotal role in the strength of Nebraska, whether through its cultural sector, local foundations or public universities.  Each of these inform the state’s economic development, education outcomes and quality of life.

The Nebraska Cultural Endowment offers our sincere congratulations to Jack for this most deserving of awards and recognition for the extensive contributions he has made to the community in creating sustainable infrastructure for many of Nebraska’s most treasured resources.


Marc and Kathy LeBaron Receive 2019 Sheldon Award

Marc and Kathy LeBaron were presented with the 2019 Sheldon Award at the Sheldon Art Association’s biennial gala on Saturday, May 11, 2019 in Lincoln, Nebraska honoring their leadership, service and generous spirit.

The LeBaron’s love of art began as a passion early on in their lives and grew from there.  Much of their joy comes from sharing art with others and is evident at the Assemblage, a gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska which includes privately owned pieces from their collection.  Art is also present in their workplace, Lincoln Industries, where Marc is CEO and Kathy is Community Affairs Coordinator.  Art plays a big part in their lives and their generosity brings art to the community. 

Both Marc and Kathy appreciate art’s ability to stimulate creativity and to foster conversation, communication and understanding.  Neither do it for recognition, it is purely a passion that they love sharing with others.  Both recognize the positive impact that art has on society and work to make it accessible to their community.

Marc serves as a Board member for Nebraska Cultural Endowment.  Kathy has served on the Sheldon Museum of Art Board and the Nebraska Arts Council Board.  The Nebraska Cultural Endowment would like to congratulate Marc and Kathy for their vision and dedication to bringing the arts to Nebraskans and for the distinct honor of being named 2019 Sheldon Award recipients. 

Matt Mason Named Nebraska State Poet

Matt Mason of Omaha will be instated as Nebraska State Poet 2019-2023 at a 10:00 AM ceremony Monday, February 25 in the State Capitol’s Warner Chamber.  Governor Pete Ricketts named Mason as State Poet in late January.  The public is invited to attend the ceremony.

Mason is executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective and an award-winning poet.  He has been actively involved in poetry education and advocacy programs through outreach and long-time community involvement.   During his tenure he will be giving public presentations and readings as well as leading workshops and library festivals in communities throughout the state.

The Nebraska State Poet selection is the joint effort of the Nebraska Arts Council, Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Library Commission in cooperation with the State of Nebraska.  To learn more you can visit his website at  Nebraska Cultural Endowment wishes to congratulate Matt on this great achievement and thank him for taking on this important role in our State.

Dr. Amy Haddad joins NCE Board of Directors

The Nebraska Cultural Endowment is pleased to announce the election of Dr. Amy Haddad to our Board of Directors.  Dr. Amy Haddad is Professor Emerita in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at Creighton University.  Dr. Haddad served as Director for the Center for Health Policy and Ethics from 2004 to 2018 where during her tenure she led the development of a fully-online graduate program in health care ethics.  Amy was selected for the national Carnegie Scholars program in 2001.  She is currently the Immediate Past-President of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, the largest professional association in bioethics and health humanities in the United States.  Recently, Dr. Haddad completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Queens University in Charlotte, NC.

Amy has a deep passion and love for the arts and humanities.  Amy, along with her husband Steve, have been extensively involved in the arts and humanities of Nebraska for many years and see it purely as a labor of love.  Whether it be presenting a poetry reading at the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, serving as honorary chairs of the American Midwest Ballet 2018 Gala or supporting the Blue Barn Theatre 30th Anniversary Gala, among many others, Dr. Haddad is a champion for the arts and humanities in our state.


Amy Haddad and husband Steve at Durham Museum event.

The Arts and Humanities in Amy’s own words:

What are the purposes of the arts and the humanities in society?

I think the purpose of the arts and humanities in society is to remind us of what it means to be a human being.  The arts and humanities bring us out of the everyday in many ways but also bring us closer to what it means to be human individually and collectively. By this I mean that there are universal elements in the arts and humanities that lie in the details. The arts and humanities feed our souls as well.” 


How do you see the NCE making a real impact for our communities?

I believe that NCE secures a future for the arts and humanities in Nebraska that withstands the vicissitudes of politics and politicians. If the arts and humanities are necessary for our existence as human beings, and I believe they are, then we need to make sure that we have resources to support the work of artists and make their creative work available to as many of the citizens of the state as we can. I see the impact in programs that reach out to schools in Nebraska, community centers, etc. that bring art and the humanities to communities or bring students to them.”


What roles have the arts and humanities played in your personal growth?

I just completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina in the creative writing program. Specifically, I am working on a poetry collection. I have written poetry since I was in grade school and by fits and starts worked on my creative writing without the benefit of any formal education. For the past two years, I have been studying and working on improving my writing and by so doing have learned a lot about myself. As one of my teachers noted, we keep writing different iterations of the same poem. I think you can say that about all creative work when you look at many art forms or sister-disciplines in the humanities. We focus on abiding images or themes and work creatively to express them.” 


Amy’s poetry installation at the Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha

Why do you serve as board member of the NCE?

My husband Steve and I have always been big fans of the arts and see as much local and regional theater as we can. Of course, we love the visual arts as well as literature. We have been blessed with the ability to help support arts organizations in the community and wanted to continue to do so on a level that would sustain the arts and humanities in the state. There are a lot of resources and talent in Nebraska that should not only be shared with as many people in the state as possible but with the country as well. I think by serving on the board I will be able to spread the word to others who have the financial resources to support such a worthwhile and sound endeavor as NCE.”


What surprises you, or has surprised you, about the arts and humanities in Nebraska?

I didn’t realize the span of some of the programs to reach so many communities. I was also pleased to learn that some very wise folks had the vision to set up NCE to accomplish its important work. I knew that there were amazing artists across the state as I have had the pleasure of meeting them including some fantastic writers as well. I was surprised about how many more there are that I am just learning about.”


The Nebraska Cultural Endowment is thrilled to welcome Amy to its Board of Directors. Amy brings to the organization a great passion and demonstrated involvement in the arts and humanities. We are grateful for her service to this mission.




NCE Participates in Give to Lincoln Day and Omaha Gives!

Each year, the community comes together to support its favorite causes on one day! NCE encourages you to support YOUR favorite cultural organizations in Lincoln and Omaha on May 23 for Omaha Gives and May 31 for Give to Lincoln Day!

The Nebraska Cultural Endowment is participating in both days and is grateful for the tremendous support from our community. Thank YOU for supporting Nebraska’s cultural future on either Omaha Gives or Give to Lincoln Day!

Click the links below to support us!

Give to Lincoln Day, now until May 31:

Omaha Gives, now until May 23:

Community Pride and Service in Gordon, NE

Community volunteers work the concession stand at the Gordon Community Theater in Gordon, NE


Jordan Huether didn’t purposefully seek a leadership role in the renovation of his community’s theatre – he just realized he could help, and started helping.

Huether “grew up all over the place, but went to high school in Martin, South Dakota” (Huether, Personal Interview), a city of about 1000 people, just 48 minutes northeast of Gordon. In 2010, he graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in Electronics Engineering, and moved back to Martin to help his father at the newspaper there while he looked for another job. Shortly after, Jordan’s father bought the Sheridan County Journal Star in Gordon, NE, and sent Jordan there to run the paper. Says Huether: “My wife and I fell in love with the community and decided to stay, buying a house in town that summer (2011). We actually purchased the paper from [Huether’s father] January 1 of this year.” (Huether, Jordan; Gordon Theater Blog).

Gordon, NE is city of about 1600 people in the panhandle of the state, right at the crossroads of US highway 20 and State Highway 27. It’s had movie theaters since at least the early 1900s, though they’ve burned down several times. In the 1950s, a theatre was built in the place where the Gordon Community Theatre now stands.

It burned down in the 60s, and in the late 60s the Gordon Community Development Corporation was formed to build a new one. By 1970 a new theater was built, and changed ownership a number of times, lasting well into the 2000s.

In about 2010, however, the theater closed and fell into disrepair. After a few years, the Community Development Corporation regained control of the theatre, and held a public hearing to figure out what to do about it (Brant, Lauren; The Power of Community…).


The lobby of the theater, torn down and ready to be rebuilt


Mr. Huether was at this hearing, covering it for the Sheridan County Journal Star, the newspaper he worked at. While covering the meeting, Huether realized he could help with a lot of the technical aspects of the theatre:

“When I was at college I worked at what was called State Tech, where I helped do all the live sound when bands would come…or when there were presentations…so I was pretty familiar with all of the equipment, with speakers and projectors…so I started looking into it…and I think they were budgeting $100k just for the projector, $200k just for the audio video stuff…I found some different things…cheaper things and better things, and just kind of kept finding more things that I could help them with. They asked me to join the board, and eventually they just asked me to be the president” (Personal Interview).

Huether became president of the board in 2015, and drew up a business plan for how they were going to renovate the theatre, and started passing it out. At this point, it was clear that the community wanted the theater to be a non-profit, community-volunteer theater, so they were going to need a lot of contributions from the community, both in money and in man-power.

Seats ready to be installed in the theater


Fortunately, the community stepped up to the challenge.

“The Mustangs Committed (a group of kids from the high school) spent a day in the theater grinding off old bolts and sheet rocking the hallway. The Gordon-Rushville boys basketball team came in for a day and painted the interior of the theater and hallways for us. A group of community members came together one Saturday and assembled about 100 seats.” wrote Huether, in an email. “We also had a local gentleman named Fred Russell, who ended up taking a large amount of the construction on himself, doing it all for free. He wouldn’t let us name the theater after him, so we gave him free popcorn for life instead. We also had a local contractor, Jason Harding, move to town and donate a lot of work to help us get open.” (Huether, Jordan; Follow Up Questions).


Community volunteers work the concession stand


Various community groups helped raise funds for the theater, including a yard sale by the Albany 4-H club, which raised $632, a pancake feed by the Gordon Lions Club, and a meat sale and hamburger feed by Open Range Beef, which raised another $9,400 (Brant, Lauren; Gordon Theater Moves Forward…) (Huether, Jordan; Follow Up Questions). Bob Dehn of Front Range Fire Protection donated a $25,000 sprinkler system, and numerous other volunteers came regularly to help with the manual labor required of the renovation. (Huether, Jordan; Progress Continues…). Funds from the Ukena Charitable Trust and the Turner Foundation helped provide a new roof for the theater and a high-definition digital projector (Huether, Jordan; Gordon Theater Gets a New Roof). Then, in spring of 2016, the theater received a $50,000 challenge grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation, which required the community to raise $58,224 to receive the funds. A daddy-daughter fundraiser dance, a theater seat-sale fundraiser, local donations, some local grants, and a $21,000 panhandle greater good grant helped meet the challenge, pushing the theater past its budgeting goals (Huether, Jordan; Gordon Movie Theater Receives…)( Brant, Lauren; The Power of Community…).


A young resident of Gordon enjoys popcorn on the theater’s opening night


The theater officially opened as of February 16th of this year, and is still going strong. Without a doubt, this theater is a community theater. Not only is it run by the community and serves the community, but it was truly built by the community. Under Huether’s leadership, the community was able to rally together and build the theater that is now a source of entertainment, revenue, and pride.

And Jordan, for his efforts and success, is receiving the Emerging Leader Award during the 2018 Governor’s Arts awards. This award is “awarded to an individual artist, arts administrator, patron or volunteer under the age of 35, or someone who has made a significant impact on the arts in Nebraska in a short period of time” (Kennedy, Jared).

But it’s clear that what’s most important for Jordan is the impact he’s helped make on his community. “I’ve got two little kids, and I want them to have something to do here, something to take pride in, here in the community… [I want] the community here to thrive, I feel like [the theater] is definitely going to help bring more commerce to town, more people to town, make people want to live here, give kids something to do” (Personal Interview).


Jordan Huether



Huether, Jordan. Personal Interview. 16 Mar 2018.

Brant, Lauren. “The Power of Community Reflected in Gordon Theater.” Sheridan County Journal Star, Sheridan County Journal Star, 28 Feb. 2017,

Brant, Lauren. “Gordon Theater Moves Forward with Purchases Following Big Fundraising Weekend.” Sheridan County Journal Star, Sheridan County Journal Star, 8 June 2017,

Huether, Jordan. “Progress Continues on Gordon Theater as Opening Date Nears.”Sheridan County Journal Star, Sheridan County Journal Star, 19 Oct. 2017,

Huether, Jordan. “Gordon Theater Gets New Roof.” Sheridan County Journal Star, Sheridan County Journal Star, 9 Dec. 2015,

Huether, Jordan. “Gordan Movie Theater Receives $50,000 Challenge Grant.” Sheridan County Journal Star, Sheridan County Journal Star, 2 Apr. 2016,

Kennedy, Jared. “2018 Governor’s Arts Awards.” Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Arts Council,

Huether, Jordan. “Follow Up Questions.” Email. Follow Up Questions, 28 Mar. 2018.

Huether, Jordan. “Gordon Theater Blog”. Email. Gordon Theater Blog, 13 Apr. 2018.

Huether, Jordan. “Photos 1.” Email. Photos 1, 28 Mar. 2018

Huether, Jordan. “Photos 2.” Email. Photos 2, 28 Mar. 2018

Putting to practice my knowledge and skills is my livelihood

Josh’s Story:

Since completing my MFA in 2010, I have endeavored to make art the foundation of my livelihood. Though I am a practicing studio artist, I do not rely on the sale of my work for an income. A quick look at my website will demonstrate my lack of broad, commercial appeal… Instead, I derive a livelihood from the knowledge and skills accumulated from the pursuit of making my work.

Putting this philosophy to practice, I have taken on several roles; teaching art courses part-time at the university level, working as an on-call museum preparator, serving as an art department shop technician, and currently in a full-time capacity, as the Residency Arts Technician at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. My multifaceted employment history comes in handy at the Bemis, where all staff must wear multiple hats and possess a depth of utility. My primary responsibility is overseeing the Okada Sculpture and Ceramics Facility and providing technical support and process demonstrations to the artists-in- residence, though it’s not uncommon for me to be unclogging a drain, interviewing an intern candidate, or handling artwork for the exhibitions program. For the most part, my position is quite literally a collage of my past occupations, a synthesis of my experience as a teacher, an art handler, a fabricator, a technician, and an artist. That being said, I am still engaged in “the hustle”, as I teach a 3-D foundations course at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the evening.

Having a livelihood with many moving parts has its measure of challenges. Navigating museum practices, researching and maintaining shop equipment, instructing college art students and (now) professional artists in the operation of a multitude of power tools and fabrication techniques, presents an array of (related, but equally involved) subjects vying for my attention. At times, it’s easy for me to lose sight of the big picture, or in other words, undercut the career that prompted my vocational abilities – being an artist, and more specifically, a sculptor.

Through a healthy dose of self-reflection, reinforced by natural porosity, my stuttering (yet persistent) studio practice has evolved along side my livelihoods. Completing the circle, my years of exhibition fabrication, tool investigation, and building organizational, shop fixtures have found a ready home in my sculpture. Part bricoleur, part tradesman, I mine my immediate environments for construction materials and found objects to break down and reorganize with my growing aptitude for carpentry – a direct byproduct of my livelihood.


About Josh:

Sculptor Josh Johnson makes connections between two environments — one at hand, and the other remembered. His current series, Distance Learning, offers a sideways glance of Plains landscape and the creation of Mount Rushmore, softening the edges between the physicality of what is materially accessible

and the limited view offered by the mind’s eye. Drawing upon the rock formations of the South Dakota Badlands and their fabricated proxies dotting Lincoln’s Antelope Creek greenway, Johnson carves, constructs, and joins second hand materials into lonely vistas alluding to the slippages associated with memory’s shaky hold on place.

Josh Johnson earned a BFA at the University of North Dakota, and an MFA at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has exhibited nationally, including shows at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, the Soo Visual Art Center in Minneapolis, Colorado State University, and Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati. Josh received a 2016 Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, and was twice selected as a finalist for the William and Dorothy Yeck Young Sculptor’s Competition at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Josh has taught sculpture at Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the College of Visual Arts. He is currently the Residency Arts Technician at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NE and teaches 3-D foundations at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.




A Welcome Address from New Executive Director, Kyle Cartwright

Happy New Year to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment’s partners, friends, constituents and beneficiaries!

I am thrilled to be serving our cultural communities with you through the mission of the NCE and our partner organizations, Nebraska Arts Council and Humanities Nebraska. This year marks 20 years of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment creating sustainability funding for our state’s cultural resources. It is thanks to the vision and initiative of the Nebraska Legislature, and the community in response, that we have this truly unique asset in Nebraska.

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