Our Town Kearney: Cultural Attractions

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 1:53 PM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KOLN) - There are an amazing number of arts, entertainment and historical attractions that you can enjoy in the community of Kearney.

“When you think of a city of this size, you don’t anticipate there to be so many cultural and arts opportunities,” Kearney Cultural Partners President Steve Barth said. “We have an organization we started more than ten years ago called Kearney Cultural Partners. To this day we have 22 entities that are represented through that organization. It’s represented not only by arts partners like the World Theatre or Kearney Community Theater. It’s also represented by a lot of cultural entities such as the Kearney Public Library, the Archway, and the Frank Museum. We all come together and meet monthly to find ways to cross-promote, market together, share resources, and really lift up all of the arts and culture in the area.”

One of the unique art spaces in Kearney is the Merryman Cultural Arts Center. “This is an amazing venue, and it’s unique in the sense that it’s part of a school,” Barth said. “It used to be an old high school, but developed into an elementary school, and is the one I attended as a kid. Now, it’s great to bring productions to this space, which has now been transformed into a theater.” Another popular organization bringing the arts to Kearney is Crane River Theater Company. “Crane River Theater is going into its 14th season,” Barth said. “We actually started shortly after the Merryman opened and the World Theatre was doing their renovations. I was in New York, and thought what a great opportunity to bring some theater to these awesome performance spaces in the community. We started with a single show here at the Merryman. We started adding on shows ever year. Now we perform at places like Yanney Park. In the summer, it offers a big outdoor venue where we get up to 2,000 people a night.”

You could say that Kearney is a hub for museums and galleries, too. The Museum of Nebraska Art showcases art from people with ties to Nebraska. It is currently going through a renovation and restoration process. “There are some really exciting things happening there,” Barth said. “And then, there’s the Kearney Public Library. The Trails and Rails Museum just opened up a whole new “Family History Center.” Kearney is lucky to have the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, which helps facilitate a lot of activities for youth. There is also the Nebraska Firefighters Museum, and the Archway. When you walk in those buildings, you are blown away by how much history is brought to life there.”

The Sandhill Cranes are a big economic boost for the area as well. “Every March the cranes come to the Platte River,” Barth said. “Rowe Sanctuary is actually one of the Kearney Cultural Partners, and they share opportunities where other organizations can draw traffic to them, and they can draw tourists over to our events as well. The fact that 22 separate organizations come together on a monthly basis, and talk about how they can work together, is testament to the community and how much the Kearney Cultural Partners group is supported.”