State funds sought for museum renovation

Nebraska would provide matching funds to assist in the renovation of the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney — known as MONA — under a bill considered Feb. 19 by the Appropriations Committee.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist48' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. John Stinner'>Sen. John Stinner</a>
Sen. John Stinner

LB141, as originally introduced by Gering Sen. John Stinner, would appropriate $7.5 million in general funds in fiscal year 2021-22 to the University of Nebraska at Kearney as a dollar-for-dollar match for any private donations to the project.

Stinner said he has since learned that the University cannot receive funds for that purpose, so he offered an amendment that instead would direct the appropriation to the Nebraska Arts Council and create a fund there to distribute the state dollars to the museum.

“I have visited MONA; it’s well worth getting off the interstate for,” Stinner said, adding that it would take the average visitor nearly four hours to view all the exhibits. Matching funds would allow MONA to modernize and draw even more visitors, he said.

MONA executive director Nicole Herden testified in favor of the bill, saying the museum has expanded to more than 5,000 works of art and needs more gallery and storage space. She said upgrades to infrastructure and technology also would help MONA engage with more Nebraskans.

“There is no more eloquent way to showcase our history and story than through art,” Herden said.

Also testifying in support was Kearney mayor Stan Clouse. He said the city has committed to relocate utilities, donate land and vacate an alley for the museum expansion, which already has been approved by the city planning commission and city council.

He said that those resources, combined with funds raised by MONA and matched by the state, would allow the museum to continue the important work of safeguarding and showcasing Nebraska art.

“We think it’s great for our community; it’s great for the state,” Clouse said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action.

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