LINCOLN — Terri Licking thinks Earth is full of art, and a good place to see it is in central and western Nebraska.
And she's ready for everyone else to see it too.
“The number one thing you hear is that Nebraska is flat,” she said. “People say it's a travel-through state and not a destination, but we're trying to change that.”
As the secretary of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, Licking is also the co-chairwoman for the Follow the Rails Art Trail, a self-guided art tour from Grand Island to Alliance, Neb.
In its third year, the tour will take place along Nebraska Highway 2 between the two cities from Friday through Oct. 20. Posters and signs will serve as a guide to the 18 participating galleries, cooperative groups and studios in 11 communities.
Those who participate will see the work of more than 100 artists, including paintings, photography, pottery and other art mediums. The tour will also provide a culinary experience with specialty wine and cheese samples, as well as homegrown beef, pork and buffalo.
Charlie Mitchell, painter and co-owner of the Prairie Winds Art Center in Grand Island, said visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of art in central Nebraska.
“We have beautiful wood turning, blown glasses and handmade jewelry that's not just beads on a string,” she said.
Mitchell's portraits and landscapes, which she describes as impressionistic, will be on display. The downtown gallery also has sculptures, photography and pottery.
“This is great encouragement for people to venture out and take a look at what Nebraska is doing in the way of art,” Mitchell said.
In Broken Bow, Lisa Moody owns the French Table, a chic art shop filled with what she calls “urban eclectic art, antiques and interiors” for sale. She said the tour will give newcomers an experience that many big cities can't.
“People out here are very welcoming, and it's all very authentic,” Moody said. “The colors and architecture of the land is going to be lush and will make for a beautiful drive.”
The Nebraska Sand Hills will be an art-like backdrop for travelers driving along the highway. The nation's largest hand-planted forest covers 90,000 acres in the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey. It also will be a stop on the route.
Licking said the 270-mile stretch will be a source of rest and relaxation for participants.
“The fall colors will be gorgeous along the route,” she said. “The trees along the road, river and grasses just beckon everyone to come and enjoy a great weekend of art.”
Other participating locations are: Oak Creek Mercantile & Collectibles in Cairo; Security State Bank in Ansley; Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitor Center, Chapin's Furniture & Decorating, Wild Rose Gallery, and Prairie Grounds Cafe & Gifts in Broken Bow; Thedford Art Gallery and Yellow Calf Studio in Thedford; Old Gas Station and Northern Plains Studio in Seneca; Carter-Morris House and Lariat Auditorium in Mullen; Grant County Historical Society Museum in Hyannis; CaLinda's Pot Shop & Art Gallery in Ashby; and the Carnegie Arts Center in Alliance.