Our Town Norfolk: Arts Center

NORFOLK, Neb. -- The Norfolk Arts Center was built in 1978 and that means that they are now celebrating their 40th year of serving people in and around Madison County.

"Our mission is to bring the people and the arts together, and I think that's important for a lot of reasons, we build community," said Kara Weander-Gaster, the Executive Director of the Norfolk Arts Center.

"We do a lot of things. We do visual arts, performing arts and arts education, so we're not a museum, we bring in different art from across the state and really from across the nation," Weander-Gaster said. "We change exhibits all the time so it's always great to stop by and see something different every three months."

The current exhibit in the main gallery highlights the works of an Omaha artist who is also a Creighton art teacher, Rachel Mindrup.

"This is the many faces of N-F, and N-F stands for neurofibromatosis," said Mindrup.

Mindrup chose to focus on neurofibromatosis because her son was diagnosed with the disorder when he was four months old.

"It's actually a very common genetic disorder so one in 3,000 people have N-F...I call it the most common genetic disorder you've probably never heard of," Mindrup said.

"We often have an exhibit that's in the gallery and an exhibit in the atrium."

During this three month time period, the works of a Lincoln artist named Kelly Rush are on display.

"Kelly is an amazing artist, she does ceramics, which you may not be able to tell, but these are actual ceramics, not real oil cans, all made of clay. So it's called trumploy, trick of the eye."

Weander-Gaster said the arts center also offers performing arts events as well.

"We bring in performances for children and adults. Probably our most exciting program is the theatre for kids, which is where we bring theatre from across the nation in to Norfolk for all the school children," Wander-Gaster said. "So once in the spring, once in the fall, we do elementary school and we bring in about 2,000 kids from across the area into Norfolk. Because if you live in some of those smaller towns across the area, they don't all have live theatre, so we're happy to be able to offer that and draw people in for that."

Weander-Gaster puts a lot of effort into offering a wide variety of events.

"We love to make connections in the community and we like to offer programming that's for the whole community. One events is also Forkfest, which we do the first week in August. That brings Hear Nebraska into Norfolk, which is a well-known Nebraska traveling concert," she said.

Weander-Gaster grew up in Wayne, Nebraska, and has been the leader of the arts center for the past 13 years.

"When the opportunity was given to me to bring the arts into northeast Nebraska, I jumped right on it because of course, it was kind of my life's passion to be able to be that person to make those connections for folks," Weander-Gaster said.

The current shows end on Thursday the Feb. 22, and on that very same day, the arts center will be hosting Theatre USA from New York City, and they will be in Norfolk to present a children's play named The Lightening Thief. Sounds like fun for the whole family!