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4 Venues Where Attendees Can Explore Nebraska Arts and Culture

August 23, 2021

From portraits of American Indians to internationally renowned wildlife paintings and a reassembled F-117 Nighthawk, there’s no shortage of arts and culture to ooh-and-aah over in Nebraska. And planners can get their attendees up close and personal with some truly fantastic galleries and exhibitions that highlight everything from the work of Nebraska artist-explorers to the state’s role as a major migration route in the 19th century. 

At these four arts and culture-focused venues, planners can host memorable meetings and events for their attendees while immersing them in the state’s unique place in American history. 

1. The Archway  

The Archway at night
The Archway at night. Credit: Visit Kearney

This two-story monument in Kearney, which spans more than 300 feet above Interstate 80, tells the story of Nebraska and the Platte River Valley’s role in the development of America. The Oregon Trail, California Trail, Pony Express and the Mormon Trail all converged in this area.  

“It’s a self-guided audio tour that allows you to hear from past experiences all the way up to the Lincoln Highway era and the interstate system today,” said Sarah Focke, tourism and convention sales manager for the Kearney Visitors Bureau. 

On the Archway’s campus, planners can rent out a meeting and reception room that seats up to 150 and build in a visit through the Archway, as well as have offsite catering provide F&B for attendees. The meeting and reception room also features a vintage soda fountain, large TVs and an audio system. 

For something outside, planners can look to the Archway’s picnic shelter, which also seats up to 150 and offers charcoal grills, but planners can book catering for this space as well. 

2. Museum of Nebraska Art  

Museum of Nebraska Art
Museum of Nebraska Art. Credit: Nebraska Tourism Commission

This state museum, also located in Kearney, is housed in the city’s old post office building, and its permanent collection is meant to reflect the history and culture of Nebraska. Visitors will find one of the nation’s premier collections of wildlife art by John James Audubon, as well as work from artist and explorer George Catlin and painter and muralist Thomas Hart Benton. 

And in early 2021, the museum announced it is embarking on a plan to restore, renovate and expand its facility. The plan includes adding a “modern gallery experience,” as well as enlarging the outdoor sculpture garden with added greenspace for events. It also plans to add more indoor event space and a kitchen for group gatherings that can accommodate up to 275 people. 

3. Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum  

Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum. Credit: Nebraska Tourism Commission

Located between Lincoln and Omaha in Ashland, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) & Aerospace Museum boasts more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit, education and event space. Visitors can view an impressive collection of aircraft that helped SAC preserve the peace during the Cold War, as well as learn about SAC’s involvement in scientific exploration and technological innovation. 

In May of this year, the museum added its first new aircraft in 15 years: a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, a single-seat stealth bomber that gained worldwide attention for its role during the Persian Gulf War.  

And if planners are eager to get attendees in front of this new addition to the museum, there are an array of rentable spaces for events and meetings. This includes the 25-capacity Ethel S. Abbott Library and a 30-capacity conference room for daytime meetings or board retreats. To give attendees an opportunity to see aircraft up close, planners can utilize a number of hangars for receptions or ceremonies. Capacities range from 250 to 2,000. And for the first two hours of an event, attendees are welcome to tour the museum. 

[Related: Development Boom in Omaha Is a Game Changer for Meetings and Conventions]

4. Joslyn Art Museum  

Joslyn Art Museum
Joslyn Art Museum. Credit: Nebraska Tourism Commission

Known as Nebraska’s principal fine arts museum, Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum  has been considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the U.S. since it opened in 1931. It offers a number of galleries, as well as a 1,000-seat theater, lecture hall, classrooms and a cafe. 

The museum’s Maximilian-Bodmer collection, its cornerstone collection, features watercolors, drawings, manuscripts and memorabilia from the voyage of Prince Maximilian of Wied and Swiss artist Karl Bodmer up the Missouri River. Visitors can see artwork of landscapes, wildlife, frontier settlements and portraits of American Indians.   

Planners have a wide range of rentable space at Joslyn, from the Conagra Brands Atrium, a modern space that connects the original 1931 building with the 1994 addition. The atrium features a 45-foot-high glass ceiling, pink marble and two Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. It can seat up to 375 on the atrium floor and an additional 80 on the bridge. 

And the Peter Kiewit Foundation Sculpture Garden is perfect for a memorable outdoor event, with a capacity of 400. Features include an artist-designed reflecting pool, a flowing water wall and sculptures by renowned artists.  

Where to Explore Native American Art and Culture in Nebraska 

Fort Robinson History Center
Fort Robinson History Center. Credit: Nebraska Tourism Commission

The Great Plains territory has been the home of American Indians for thousands of years, and Nebraska is rich with their history and heritage. With proper etiquette and decorum in mind, visitors to Nebraska can attend powwows at area reservations, and they can also peruse tribal artifacts and art collections at various museum. Here’s a few places to get you started: 

Fort Robinson History Center: In Crawford, visitors to this center will learn about the fort’s complex history, from its role guarding the Red Cloud Agency from 1874 to 1877 to its housing of World War II German prisoners of war from 1943 to 1946. 

Ponca Tribal Museum: Located near the village of Niobrara in Knox County, the Ponca Tribal Museum displays artifacts, like beadwork and musical instruments, from the Ponca tribe’s history. Visitors can also view pictures from tribal archives and other American Indian artwork. 

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer: This vast 200-acre campus in Grand Island features experiential “living history.” Visitors can walk through its 1890s Railroad Town, as well as historic churches and Native American and cowboy exhibits.  

Inner Maker Art Village: Located on Sprit Hawk Acres in Seward County, this village, owned by artist and author Jeanne Kae, comprises historic spaces that have been renovated into studios and galleries. Visitors, by appointment only, can shop jewelry, books and art by registered tribal members.

Connect

Nebraska Tourism Commission | 402.471.8907 

Kearney Visitors Bureau | 308.237.3178  

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About the author
Sarah Kloepple | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Sarah Kloepple joined Stamats as a staff writer in August 2018. Previously, she's written and edited for numerous publications in St. Louis.