Rushville, Nebraska - Artist Mel Ziegler grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Pennsylvania and, in many ways, he never left the farm behind. Through an artistic career that has taken Ziegler’s work to places like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., his focus on America’s rural communities has not wavered.
Now Ziegler, who purchased the historic Davis Pine Creek Ranch in Rushville, Nebraska, two years ago, wants to have the international art world learn more about life here. To that end, Ziegler is launching the Sandhills Institute, an organization that will bring artists to Rushville to gain a better understanding of the community and to consider long-term art projects that will benefit the region. The first group of seven artists will arrive in Rushville during the week of June 14-20, 2015.
Ziegler will be taking the visiting artists to meet with the local ranchers and farmers, historians, business people, homemakers, and government leaders. “I really want the artists to get to know this place and the people who live here,” said Ziegler. “These artists aren’t painters or sculptors in the traditional sense,” explained Ziegler about the visiting group, “they are social practitioners - artists who create their work by having conversations with local residents about what is important about life here, and then partnering with those same residents to create new work together.” Ziegler expects that many of these visiting artists will return to Rushville multiple times over the next several years as they develop deeper relationships in the area. The goal of this work is to create art that strengthens the community and contributes to economic growth in the area.
The visiting artists for the first convening of the Sandhills Institute will be: David Brooks (Miami, FL); TJ Edwards (Lincoln, NE); Mary Mattingly (New York City, NY) Myranda Bair (Las Vegas, NV); Kayla Meyer (Omaha, NE); and the artistic duo of Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien (Fairfax, CA).
Rushville residents who are interested in meeting the artists while they are here are encouraged to contact Mr. Ziegler at 308-327-3123.
About the Sandhills Institute
The Sandhills Institute is a catalyst for the creation of civically-engaged integrated art in and around the agricultural community of Rushville, Nebraska. The Institute forges strong bonds between the community of local ranchers and farmers and leading artists from around the world for the purpose of developing experimental programs grounded in collaborative research and creative expression. The goal of these programs is to strengthen the economic, environmental, and cultural fabric of this unique area.
The Institute magnifies the impact of its work by sharing the results of its work with other peer institutions, both agricultural and artistic, whose mission is to sustain and preserve America’s rural communities.