This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment in helping bring arts and humanities to all Nebraskans. This is an opportunity to showcase the endowment’s uniqueness as well as some of the endowment’s people and accomplishments leading to this milestone year.
The endowment was created and exists to benefit the programs and projects of its two partners, the Nebraska Arts Council (NAC) and Humanities Nebraska (HN). The endowment is a Nebraska original in both concept and result. Like our Unicameral Legislature, it has broad appeal and its nature is nonpartisan. It combines and conserves public and private resources to benefit the essential public functions of education, culture and economic development.
The endowment has now grown to more than $25 million in combined public and private funds, on the way to $40 million by 2030. Since inception in 1998, income from these funds has enhanced Nebraska’s funding for arts and humanities programming and projects throughout the state by more than $13 million without diminishing the principal. On a per capita basis, Nebraska’s annual public investment in the arts and humanities currently averages about $1.25, which consistently ranks around 12th in the nation. Most importantly, these efforts bring the arts and humanities to more than 600,000 Nebraskans each year on average.
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Discussions started nearly 30 years ago to address instability in federal support of the arts and humanities. A small group of NAC and HN leaders approached Lincoln Sen. LaVon Crosby for assistance in creating a homegrown model to support these essential educational and cultural functions. Senator Crosby, among the more conservative members of the Unicameral, knew the value of the arts. She spoke often of the Hastings Symphony and its enduring positive effect on her family LaVon shared an office suite in the capitol with North Platte Sen. Don Pederson, a lawyer who ultimately became chair of the Appropriations Committee. Don provided invaluable guidance and leadership that resulted in near unanimous support for the endowment’s establishment in 1998 when the Legislature set aside $5 million under a unique arrangement: the income from this fund is available for arts and humanities projects and programs subject to matching the income from non-state sources.
We have also had the privilege of leadership in the Legislature from Omaha Sen. John Nelson, and Gering Sen. John Stinner, and unanimous support from the Unicameral. Both senators championed legislation that increased the state set-aside subject to private matches. Senator Stinner, a forensic accountant by training and a banker by trade, used his considerable skills to devise solutions that cost less and provide better results and under his leadership the Legislature committed to set aside an additional $10 million over 10 years, subject to a private match.
Today, we also mention two more individuals in particular, Pamela Hilton Snow and Suzanne Wise, whose contributions to the arts and humanities have tangibly enhanced Nebraska’s quality of life. Pam, who passed away well before her time last summer, served as the endowment’s executive director from 2006-2014. Pam’s leadership brought structure and organization to the endowment. Even though she had never been a professional fundraiser, she enhanced the endowment’s visibility and impact, particularly by attracting substantial private support for the endowment during her tenure. The humanities were among Pam’s many avocations. She spent several years as a member and chair of the HN, and then as a site visitor of state humanities councils on behalf of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) assessing the quality of state humanities council programming and helping address occasional challenges.
Suzanne Wise retired as executive director of the Nebraska Arts Council (NAC) in December 2022. In her 34 years at NAC, 20 as director, Suzanne represented the agency at the state, regional and national levels in a variety of ways. In particular, she worked with the NAC board to implement the agency’s goals and objectives and respond to the needs of the state’s arts community through financial support, services, and advocacy. Suzanne served on the committee that helped bring the endowment into being. Suzanne was a particularly active and effective leader who served on the boards of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), which she chaired. In 2018, she was honored by NASAA with its Gary Young Award, recognizing her extraordinary contribution to public support for the arts.
The Nebraska Cultural Endowment would not be nearly as effective but for NAC and HN. The endowment provides some funding but these two irreplaceable institutions provide the substance. They were here first and it is only due to the content they generate and their uniformly positive reputations that the endowment has succeeded so well. And in turn, their success is due to the abilities and long-term commitments of the people who have served the endowment and the councils.
Thank you to our Legislature for your leadership in creating and nurturing a unique and uniquely effective educational and cultural adjunct that has improved the quality of our lives for 25 years and to the people who have helped shape it. And thank you Nebraska for embracing it.
OWH Midland Voices December 2022
Former Nebraska senators write in support of continuing the nonpartisan legislature.
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James P. Eckman, Ph.D., writes, "What if the angels, the virgin birth, the Incarnation were true? What difference would it make?"
Frank Adkisson writes that while Medicare Advantage has challenges, it is more cost-effective than original Medicare with supplement add-ons.
Rachel Bonar writes, "The good life in Nebraska — as well as in other parts of the U.S. — is not permanent for Afghan evacuees who came to this country under humanitarian parole."
Joanne Li writes, "Attending a university is not and should not be equivalent to joining an exclusive club."
Jay Jackson writes, "Can we use the 1914 Christmas truce as inspiration to take a break from the hyperpartisanship and political rancor that consumes us?"
Dave Lutton lost his daughter due to the actions of a drunk driver. Now, he's asking for help to protect others.
Dave Stuart writes, 50 years ago this month, a very significant event in the history of aerial bombing by bombers from the Strategic Air Command took place.
Donald R. Frey, M.D., writes, "Through clever (and expensive) marketing, nearly half of all Medicare recipients have signed up for Advantage plans. That doesn’t change the fact that these plans are bleeding the trust fund dry."
Susan M. Stein, Ph.D. writes about her friendship and communication with two Ukrainian women who are experiencing war firsthand.
Tom Rubin writes, "Days before the Omaha City Council streetcar construction bond public hearing, we’re still waiting for the long-promised financial plan."
David E. Corbin writes, "Omaha can greatly reduce the amount of organic waste that goes into our county-owned landfill."
Rebecca S. Fahrlander writes, "Virtue signaling is a way to get “likes” and attention on social media and feel virtuous without having to actually do anything."
David D. Begley writes, "OPPD is not a private company. The right thing to do is to end OPPD’s pursuit of solar and wind energy."
Marty Irby writes, "Animal fighting is animal abuse — plain and simple. The illegal gambling adds to lawlessness ... It’s not only inhumane and unconscionable but, it’s a health and human safety threat."