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Sandhills Institute welcomes new, returning artists

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The Sandhills Institute in Rushville is welcoming back three returning artists and three new artists for the 2018 season.

“It is exciting to have many returning artists this summer season,” said Mel Ziegler, the institute’s executive director. “The Sandhills Institute developed a system by which artists must return numerous times in order to better get to know the community before they consider making a project proposal.”

The institute’s goal is to create civically-engaged integrated art in and around the agricultural community, creating bonds between local ag producers and leading artists from around the world.

“It’s all part of an experiment, and it exciting to see everything move, although slowly, toward proposals and finished projects.”

Artist TJ Edwards completed his project last fall, serving as an example of the work the Sandhills Institute is encouraging. Edwards staked geotextiles into a long-term blowout on Evelyn Crane’s ranch and planted 14 species of grass to eventually fill the blowout. Artists Russell Bauer will return this August to finish his proposal “Rolling Field,” an agricultural inspired sculpture.

The institute is also continuing its work on the Old Main Street Grocery Store, which it is converting to the Rushville Cultural Center and Art Gallery. Students from the University of Nebraska are working on designs for the building, and high school students from Gordon-Rushville and Pine Ridge will soon help design a mural for the building.

Returning this year for the artist residency program are Kayla Meyer of Omaha, Jorge Menna Barreto of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Chloe Bass of New York. New fellows in the program are Elaine Bradford of Houston, Texas, Myranda Bair of Las Vegas, Nev., and Bill Dietz of Berlin, who will serve as a visiting artist.

Meyer is a landscape architect and is working with the Rushville City Council to design new welcome signs for the Highway 20 entrances into town, and is also working on a design for the empty lots next to the Main Street Grocery Store. She is proposing a design centered around edible plants.

Menna Barreto was the program’s first international artist whose focus is food ecology. Last summer he dried, blended and bottled powdered stinging nettle. His project imagines wild edibles as a site-specific food that teaches our bodies how to reconnect to the wilderness and landscape. He will continue his research on agroforestry and hopes to build an agroforest to produce food for the community.

Bass will present her new book, “Art as Social Action,” and will work alongside Bair and Bradford researching potential projects. They will also visit the local high school, the Fur Trade Museum, and historic local sites to inspire new projects.

Bair’s work focuses on environmental conservation and community education to lead to a richer outdoor experience. Bradford is interested in nostalgia created through processes and objects, often using discarded materials in her work. Dietz is an American composer and writer living in Berlin whose artistic and theoretical work centers on reception in the forms of festivals, museums, academic journals, apartment buildings and public spaces.

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