Mignery sculpture garden continues to grow

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 2:47 PM CDT
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BARTLETT, Neb. (KOLN) - If you want to experience the good life, consider a trip to Bartlett, and see what may be the largest bronze sculpture garden in the U.S.

10/11 NOW caught up with Bob Nichols, who is one of the people in Bartlett who looks after the sculpture garden. He wanted to give us an update on the garden’s growth.

“We may have the largest bronze sculpture garden of western art in the world,” Nichols said. “Herb Mignery started this. He’s a nationally-known artist, and he grew up a half-mile east of town. Herb and I were born 11 days apart, across the road from each other. We’ve known each other quite a while. We went to high school together, we were drafted together, things like that. One day, Herb called me and said come out to Loveland, I want to give you a bronze. My brother and I hooked on a trailer, and went to Loveland. He gave us a bronze of an old cowboy on a horse.”

Nichols says they brought the bronze home, and put it outside the courthouse in Bartlett.

“Herb saw what we did with it, and he said you need some more,” Nichols said. “So, we’ve gotten bronzes from him every year since 2002. We now have 45 of them.”

Pure Nebraska did an interview with Nichols several years ago, and at that time, the garden had about 20 bronzes. It has definitely expanded.

“Herb donated many of these,” Nichols said. “But there are several in the garden that are from people who bought the bronzes from Herb years ago. When they saw what we were doing here, they took the bronzes out of their homes and gave them to us.”

There are many highlights throughout the garden. Nichols says one of the highlights is a sculpture featuring two little boys on a horse.

“One of the kids featured is supposed to be Herb, and that is the only bronze that he made of himself. Also, we have a large Native American. A man paid Herb $150,000 several years ago for the sculpture, and now that man gave the sculpture to us. All of the sculptures are western. Herb grew up on a ranch, he’s a cowboy. His intention is to tell the story of how the country, right here, developed.”

There are many humorous bronze sculptures that you can find in the garden.

“One is called the Second Street Mayor,” Nichols said. “He’s the guy that sits on a park bench and tells everybody what they should be doing, although he looks like he should be doing something himself. There’s a water-witcher sculpture that is comical.”

There are many touching sculptures featured as well, including The Last Gate that features an old cowboy who has gone through many gates in his life, and is now depicted going through the last one into Heaven.

The sculpture garden is important to Bartlett, as it serves to bring many visitors to the area.

“In 20 years, we’ve seen at least 20,000 people here,” Nichols said. “They come from New York, Florida, California, Montana. They come from all over.”