Swede Goehners Farm

Text Copyright 2011 R.P. Marxhausen

Being a starving artist in Chicago without a job did not deter me from continuing to work and to hope. That's why I was so surprised at my reaction when a letter arrived from Nebraska with a job offer to begin an art department at Concordia College in Seward. The letter was read once and immediately torn into little bits and scattered on the floor without a second thought. What caused that response? Artists go to New York and Paris don't they? But Nebraska!!!! What an unthinkable thought! Two weeks later a second letter came with the comment "we sent you a letter which must have gotten lost in the mail. We want you to come to Nebraska etc. etc." It was a spiritual moment. I knew for certain at that moment that my future was being decided by a force beyond me and it felt good. Now all I had to do was believe, trust and accommodate this Spirit of God and not fight it by resentment or disappointment because it was NEBRASKA. This attitude and decision at this moment is the key to every success I have achieved in NEBRASKA!

Seward is a small rural town of 6,000 people with a factory, a college and surrounded by farms. Do farmers go to art galleries I asked? Maybe not. Then why not take the gallery to the farmers.

Swede Goehner's farm was a non-operational farm owned by a doctor and situated just 2 miles south of town. It was unoccupied but the buildings were all intact with a good barn and windmill. This farm, this place became the subject and the focus for a month of activity which culminated in an art event, a site to behold, for the rural people in the surrounding area.

  1. Sculpture students from Concordia College made sculpture out of the metal farm machines found on the site.

  2. We took the horse harness out of the barn, arranged a still life in the drawing class at Concordia College and the drawing class made beautiful drawings of them.

  3. A beautiful weaving was made out of the binder twine found in the mangers in the barn.

  4. The watercolor and painting classes met on the site and did all their work outside.

  5. Photographers took pictures of the site.

  6. I produced sound sculpture from cream separator stainless bowls.

  7. Sculpture was made from harnesses.

  8. I made color slides and produced a photo essay of "the place."

After a month of work the place was prepared for the event.

The event took place on a Sunday afternoon when 2,000 people dressed in Sunday clothes, parked their cares along the lane and entered into a well knows space that was enriched with new ideas and images which related directly to the site. This could be observed. Nothing here was foreign, yet it was new. A gallery experience is only as meaningful as we are able to see our own places with new and fresh eyes.

The students had long hair and they handed out pieces of paper to each person so they can vote for their favorite work of art, and the winner would be given an award donated by a local businessman. Not only was the audience looking and seeing, but they were also helping to choose and had the power of a vote. This they took seriously.

There was western music playing and the mood was light, full of fun and surprises. The site was comfortable and the surprises and new insights delighted everyone. Ideas of what art could be took a giant leap that afternoon and over the years we have received repeated requests to do it again.

The empty farm still exists and for most people it is a special place that was transformed for an afternoon by art and artists and it all happened in Nebraska.