By Mary Jane Skala
Hub Staff Writer
KEARNEY — It’s been two months since Jesse Jacobs opened The Brickwalk Gallery, an art gallery at 2008 Ave. A downtown, but he’s already making a splash in Kearney’s art world.
“A local Kearney art gallery has been dreamed about, investigated and talked about in many art circles for years, so it is nice to see it finally happening,” metal artist Beth Jasnoch said.
Jasnoch and other area artists gathered at The Brickwalk Gallery on Good Friday for the opening reception for a new exhibit called “Christ is King.” It features 15 Easter-related pieces by local artists done in acrylics, oils, metal and more.
Brickwalk founder Jesse Jacobs encouraged artists “to depict Jesus during his life, his death, the Resurrection, but I left it open for them to do free rein.” Beside each piece is the artist’s summary of its creation.
One of Jasnoch’s pieces, “Glory Cross,” for example, includes brass taken from St. James Catholic Church when it remodeled six years ago.
“Every artist in the show has a story,” Jacobs added. “I not only like the art, but I like the story behind the artists, too. That way we can sell the artists as well as the art.” The display can be seen through mid-May. Admission is free.
The joy of art
The Brickwalk Gallery is the fruition of Jacobs’ desire to create an art venue where works can be displayed and observed in person. He enjoys giving exhibit space to locals who create art not for mass marketing, but simply for their own expression and pleasure.
“I’m turned off to production art. You lose the essence of the art if you’re just trying to manufacture and sell,” he said. “There are a couple of venues in town that sell art, but there are no galleries besides MONA for people to display art.”
Jacobs dove into art early.
When he was just 5 years old, he won first prize in an art show for a picture of his father. The prize was two bags of groceries from the Piggly-Wiggly in Mullen, where the family lived.
He earned a degree in studio art at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Although some professors urged him to teach, “I always had a dream of expressive art, of using my creativity. I wanted to focus on studio art to produce artwork that I could sell. It might not be a lucrative career choice, but it was something that interested me,” he said.
From 2007 to 2010, he was a potter in the Old Market in Omaha. He returned to Kearney in 2010. During the day, he runs a successful utility location business, J-Spot Services. Evenings and weekends, he indulges in art, primarily ceramics.
Prior to opening The Brickwalk Gallery in mid-February, he used Facebook, word of mouth and the Kearney Artists Guild to invite artists to submit pieces.
“Art kind of trickled in at first, but now I’m at a point where I can’t accept everybody who applies,” he said.
For his shows, he uses experts to help determine what pieces to include. He hangs a rotating show in the front gallery.
In the back room — the Rubble Room — are 34 more pieces. He has a revolving inventory with at least one work from each artist he has already shown.
“I want to keep it fresh and get people in,” he said.
Area artists are enthusiastic. John Lillyman, an architect by day and painter in his spare time, calls the gallery “another thumbs-up for Kearney.” His painting, “More than a Carpenter,” is part of the “Christ is King” show.
“I firmly believe we need this form of artistic expression and communication. Jesse’s idea of running competitions with different themes is a wonderful way of stirring artists to express themselves and to offer their work for sale,” he said.
Jeff Montag, who has three pieces in the show, called the gallery “an opportunity that really brings art into the light.” He has displayed his art in New Orleans and St. Louis and elsewhere, and he said this site close to home “gives true artists an opportunity.”
Jasnoch added, “The location is perfect, and Jesse is an artist who has a lot of good ideas, like opening-night receptions. I’ve been involved in opening-night receptions in galleries in Lincoln and Grand Island. It’s fun to have someplace to go.”
Art for visitors
Right now, The Brickwalk Gallery is open only 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. It also has a creative area up front with art supplies and paper where people can drop in to create whatever they like.
Jacobs hangs the finished artwork on the wall.
“We don’t have a lot of foot traffic yet, but as we grow, I hope to get more volunteers. People can sit in and draw or have coffee and hang out,” he said.
Artwork can be purchased on the gallery website, brickwalkgallery.com.
“This is so gratifying. I did something I wanted to do and to contribute to the community. For some people, giving monetarily to the community is a challenge, especially when growing a business. This way I can use my time to create a venue to bring art to people. That’s pretty cool,” Jacobs said.
Original article can be found here.