Great performances in central Nebraska

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:33 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:50 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KEARNEY, Neb. (KOLN) - Kearney has many cultural outlets, and one that continues to bring in national music, theater and dance events is the Merryman Performing Arts Center.

We caught up with Denise Christensen, who is the executive director, to talk about the center. “The Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center was first a gymnatorium for the Kearney Junior High School which was built in 1926,” Christensen said. “About 2001, a community group did some research, and Kearney Public Schools was a part of that. This research eventually led to an effort to raise about $5.2 million to renovate this space, and turn it into a regional performing arts center.”

“We have a national touring season,” Christensen said. “We have members from 56 communities in south central Nebraska, and we have nearly 800 season members. We are practically sold out for every season show that we have. Many of these touring shows are at the Lied Center in Lincoln, so we are proud to be the mid-state stopping point for many of these national tours. Another part of our mission is to provide the Morris Matinee Series. Each year, we provide up to five matinee programs for Kearney Public Schools and surrounding schools. Again, these are national touring performances, so we are proud we are engaging the next generation to have a love and appreciation for the arts.”

“It’s great that nearly 20 years ago, there was a vision to create this center,” Christensen said. “We are one of the largest performing arts centers between Kearney and the Front Range of Colorado. We are not just serving Kearney. We are a gathering place for central Nebraska. Not only do we have national touring performing artists that stop in Kearney, but then we also host our partners, including Crane River Theater, the Kearney Symphony Orchestra, and others. It is the support of all of central Nebraska that makes this possible. In addition, the economic impact we have on the community is important. Think about all of the people who live in smaller communities around Kearney. They want to stay in those wonderful rural communities, but also want to enjoy national touring artists. They can come right here to Kearney to do it.”