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BRAVO! July 2009

Chiseled: Joslyn Art Museum Sculpture Garden

On Saturday, June 6th Joslyn Art Museum opened its new Peter Kiewit Foundation Sculpture Garden to the public. A ribbon cutting ceremony was followed by a weekend garden party. Over 5,000 people attended the opening weekend festivities including 565 at the Gala and 2,286 at Family Fun Day.

In November 2006, at the beginning of its 75th anniversary celebration, Joslyn Art Museum announced plans to begin the long-anticipated redefinition, beautification, and improvement of the grounds resulting from a strategic partnership involving Joslyn, Creighton University, and Omaha Public Schools. Through the partnership, the Museum had consolidated its campus while adding significant new property for expansion and development (gaining back the land traded to Central High and used for the football training field nearly 25 years earlier). A collaboration between HDR, Inc., and Kiewit Construction Company, the $10 million project represents the second significant capital initiative undertaken by Joslyn Art Museum since it opened in 1931, preceded by the 1994 Scott Pavilion addition.

Phase one of the project was completed in the fall of 2007 and included campus redefinition, the creation of an innovative parking garden, and a new entrance off of Dodge Street. Phase two began in March 2008 and included the creation of the Peter Kiewit Foundation Sculpture Garden, including water features and entry plaza space; conversion of the space that will become the new Discovery Garden from a parking lot to a green space; landscaping; and the addition of new sculptures.

Joslyn’s new sculpture garden— its artists, artwork, landscaping, and design— will be the inspiration and location for many events, programs, classes, and other fun and educational opportunities and activities in the coming months and beyond. Docent-led tours of the garden and special daytime and nighttime family events will be offered; new art classes and workshops will be possible in the open air; transitory, seasonal outdoor nature and video artworks will enliven the evolving space; and musical performances, such as this summer’s 25th anniversary Jazz on the Green, will surround the sculptures with sound.

The garden is named in honor of the late Peter Kiewit and the private philanthropic trust he created at the time of his death in 1979, the Peter Kiewit Foundation. Among the funds the Peter Kiewit Foundation has contributed are 18 grants to Joslyn totaling more than $26 million ranging in size from $7,000 to a $20 million matching grant to the Heritage Joslyn Campaign for Western Heritage Museum and Joslyn in the late 1980s. These grants have been for purposes such as special exhibition sponsorship, including the popular exhibitions: Searching for Ancient Egypt, Dale Chihuly: Inside & Out, and Millet to Matisse; free admission on Saturday mornings from 1998 to 2008; the purchase of an early 18th-century Chinese eight-panel screen that was featured in the recent Elegance of the Qing Court exhibition in 2005 (further funds provided by Mr. Anunt Hengtrakul); and capital projects including the 1994 Museum addition, campus expansion, the refurbishment of permanent collection gallery four (now, the Kiewit Gallery); north entrance improvements, mechanical systems automation, re-roofing, and re-building of the grand staircase.

Peter Kiewit worked his entire life in his family’s business, Peter Kiewit Sons’ Company, rising to the chairmanship in 1931. Mr. Kiewit served as a trustee of Joslyn Art Museum from 1959 to 1974. Coincidentally, it was his family’s construction business which built Joslyn’s Memorial Building in the late 1920s. The Peter Kiewit Foundation was formed in 1979 strictly from Mr. Kiewit’s personal estate, and is the product of his own design and direction. It is not connected legally or administratively in any way with the company which continues to carry his name. To date, the Peter Kiewit Foundation has awarded more than $450 million in grants since 1980 and $40 million to fund college scholarships for Nebraska youth.

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