MCCOOK, Neb. (AP) – What may be Nebraska’s largest art brut collection is now on display at McCook in a new art space.
But don’t expect the hushed conversations and crisp white walls of a typical art gallery. Instead, Chad Graff and his wife, Joann Falkenburg, want the top floor of the historic Keystone Business Center to also be used as an artistic workspace and networking center for the McCook community.
“If you’re talking about art, you don’t have to talk about politics or religion,” said Falkenburg, who worked as a family doctor in Oakland, Calif., Before moving to McCook. “We want to promote artistic creativity at McCook and create a conversation with the community to fill in some gaps. “
The massive frame of the “6th Floor” gallery is an art statement in itself. All the floor is emptied of the interior walls, leaving exposed beams, concrete columns, red bricks, metal and plastic pipes. The original 99-year-old and now UV-protected windows flood the space with natural light and provide a unique panoramic view of McCook. Hundreds of works of art are exhibited in every available space, the environment as raw and unconventional as the art itself.
The McCook Gazette reports that many pieces in the collection are art brut, or art brut, pieces made by self-taught artists with little or no contact with the traditional art world. It includes Navajo and Hopi artists and those from the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, Calif., A nonprofit that encourages people with developmental disabilities to express themselves through art. Several artists in the collection have gained worldwide fame, with their pieces in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and now, in McCook as well.
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McCook’s collection includes artwork by Creative Growth artists Dan Miller, a non-verbal artist who has autism and creates pieces of layered words and symbols, with permanent pieces at MOMA in New York and across other galleries and Monica Valentine, who is blind and “feels” the temperature of colors and creates sculptures of glitter.
“We are inspired by artists who come from little-known places and experiences and who find beautiful and intriguing ways to tell their stories,” Graff said of their collection which includes paintings, drawings, ceramics, wood carvings, clothing, furniture and textiles. “We love these artists and their works and we share them with a community that we love by bringing them here.”
Graduating from McCook High School in 1985, Graff worked for Senator Bob Kerrey in Washington, DC for a few years after graduating from Harvard in 1989. In 1991, he moved to the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona and became a high school teacher.
In 1997, he and Joann, from Harrison, Neb., Moved to Oakland, Calif., And since 2001, armed with a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked as an attorney representing public schools on a variety of legal issues.
It was while living in the Navajo Reservation that Graff said he realized that art can be a force of connection, when he saw how the Navajo culture used art as a way of life with weaving, pottery, painting and dancing. He started collecting works of art to support artists and over the years the collection grew.
With art spaces shrinking in the Oakland area, it was Graff’s nephew, Jared Muehlenkamp of McCook, who showed them the empty top floor of the Keystone.
“We were blown away by the view and the space,” said Graff.
For now, Graff and Falkenburg have relationships within the community so that the space can be fully utilized, for example by working with elementary art teachers and developing an art program with training services. from the southwest region. Local art exhibitions are planned, as well as collaborative partnerships with other art galleries, such as the Maple Street Construct in Omaha, Neb. Art is a powerful way to bring people together, they think.
“We can all benefit from the opportunity to create, the opportunity to express ourselves and to see beyond ourselves,” said Graff. “This is art for us. We cannot imagine our lives without it.
Graff and Falkenburg live nearby, so appointments are easy to arrange. As of Sunday, October 24, normal hours will be Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. A community open house is scheduled for Saturday, November 20 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information on copyright, see the distributor of this article, McCook Daily Gazette.