The beauty of the Joslyn Art Museum is in all the stunning details. It’s the subtle marbling in the cool pink bricks of the building, it’s the light through the stained glass in the Founder’s room, it’s the texture of the brushstrokes on an Impressionist's painting, it’s the features carved in stone on an Egyptian bust. This Art Deco masterpiece gifted to Omaha over 80 years ago is the perfect place to explore with a group, a close friend, or even as I did recently, by oneself.
Feeling particularly glum on a cloudy Tuesday, I decided to take a break from my usual schedule and have lunch in the beautiful atrium at the Joslyn instead. Best decision EVER. The Café Durham offers a delicious variety of soups, salads and sandwiches, all made to order. Chef JonNeielle Allen (alumni of the famed Fair Deal Café) convinced me to try the day’s special of smothered pork chops, cheese potatoes and cabbage. The meal and her personal warmth were beyond outstanding; the perfect foil for the bone chilling temperatures outside. The round tables in the café provide the perfect spot for conversation or people watching. I chose a spot near the well-appointed gift shop; filled with posters, postcards and all sorts of treasures ideal for bringing that gallery feeling back home or to the office.
After such a fantastic meal, feasting one’s eyes on the variety of paintings and sculptures is a definite way to feed the soul, and there’s something for everyone. The colorful glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly seems to explode at the top of the atrium, and sets the tone for the rest of the museum. If you opt to go through the large glass doors, you’ll find Art of the American West as well as of the 19th century. Keep going past the Spanish Colonial section and find yourself instantly transported by the tile and mosaics in the Storz Fountain Court. The sound of the water flows through the entire space and evokes a sense of calm. To get an even better view, head up to the balcony level and enjoy the other intricate displays from Asian and Native American culture. My creative mentor circa 2003 was a huge fan of the Neoclassic style, and wandering through the European galleries I can almost hear him waxing poetic about their use of light and color. Years later, I understand much better his passion and insight for these works.
If you prefer a more abstract interpretation of art, head past the Wiesman Promenade into the Modern and Contemporary galleries, where sculpture, textile and canvas pieces collide in a variety of interesting forms, causing one to ponder their deeper meanings; sparking conversation and existential thought. In this area you’ll also find the Special Exhibitions, a special delight for an art nerd such as myself. Through May 5th, this gallery will be featuring the 30 Americans exhibit featuring works by contemporary African-American artists and it is a definite eye opener. Tickets for Special Exhibitions are free for Joslyn members, and being a member gives you access to many other great activities and programs as well, find more information at www.joslyn.org.
The museum’s lower level highlights art education, with classrooms, a resource center and an Art Works interactive area, designed with the young in mind and their families. Looking to create your own masterpiece or trying to inspire your little Picasso? The Joslyn offers art classes for munchkins to adults, and there’s even a 24-week visual arts program for students in grades 1-12. Admittedly I’m tempted to sign up.
When Sarah Joslyn gifted the Joslyn Art Museum to the city of Omaha in 1931, one wonders did she have any idea that the building would be such a jewel to this city, such a home to history and creative expression. The Joslyn is not just an art museum; it’s an oasis, a visual love letter to the human condition, written in color and form.