A 10-year-old committee is being revitalized to promote more arts in Nebraska City.
The Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee was newly reorganized this year to brainstorm how it can move forward with its mission - "to inspire artistic growth for the well-being and vibrancy of our community."
Elizabeth Stehling, who has been on the committee for almost a year, said having more arts in Nebraska City is important because it helps retain citizens and improves the quality of life, the economy and tourism.
"Many success stories exist in the arts revitalizing neighborhoods, generating better jobs, attracting more young families and creating the good life," Stehling said. "On the personal scale, the arts are an important component to developing cognitive and emotional capabilities for processing change, failure and simply the complexities of being alive.
"As human beings, our decisions are not always rational and often come from subconscious and emotional sources," she added. "To me, I believe that it is important to understand these sides of ourselves and art is a direct link to that awareness. It is a link to understanding and realizing hopes and dreams."
The Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee and local artists artwork was on display at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts from July 6 through July 17.
On July 16, the public was invited to an interactive exhibit featuring the artwork of committee members and local artists for a gallery reception. Guests flocked to a giant chalkboard where they were encouraged to answer five questions written at the top of it. Including the chalkboard was the committee's idea to involve the community in brainstorming what arts they would like to see come to fruition in Nebraska City.
"We want ideas that we can use to plan our next big projects that will be art opportunities for our community," committee member Pat Friedli said during the reception. "We want to know if our community is interested in arts education, arts advocacy, arts events or what it is that our community is most interested in when they think of arts in Nebraska City."
The following are the five questions and some of the responses written underneath them on the chalkboard:
1. What is the most beautiful thing that you have seen today? People wrote the interactive exhibit, a hawk projection, smiles, the Nebraska sky, a flower, rain and everything.
2. What is your favorite work of art in Nebraska City? Guests noted the Enchanted Arboretum trees, downtown murals, historic buildings, multi-colored trees and a wooden bridge.
3. What kind of artistic opportunities would you be most likely to participate in? Visitors jotted down an arts street fair, the Missoula Children's Theatre, an art walk-wine-talk event, art classes and art classes with parents.
4. What areas of arts education would you like to see expanded in our community? People scribbled an elementary school art teacher, drama classes for children, adult classes, reading, a youth fine arts camp and STEAM - which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
5. What is one thing from childhood that you remember creating? Guests scrawled a paper doll self-portrait, a gingerbread woman ornament, folding paper Easter bunnies, cross stitch, baking and drawing a train.
Jeanna Stavas of Nebraska City wrote shrinky dinks on the chalkboard underneath her favorite childhood art project. She also noted that she would love to see a en plain air event, which means to paint outdoors, at her business, Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast.
"I would love to see something at Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast where artists are scattered throughout the property, throughout the 6 acres, painting scenes," Stavas said.
Stavas said she attended the gallery reception because she likes to meet new people and to see the artwork in Nebraska City. She's not alone.
"I like to see the up and coming new art," Carla DeVorss of Nebraska City said as to why she went to the reception.
Margo Blobaum of Nebraska City went because "it looked like a fun event."
Both DeVorss and Blobaum think the committee's goal to become more visible in the community is a great way to showcase more arts and artists in the community.
"Why not try to inspire more? I'm sure there's a lot of hidden talent here in Nebraska City," DeVorss said.
"I think it's a very good thing," Blobaum added. "Why not recognize how many artists that we do have in town? There's a lot of talent here."
The Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee has hosted the Missoula Children's Theatre and the Summer Art Camps. The committee also helped fund the Enchanted Arboretum and has helped artists with some funding for projects that contribute to Nebraska City residents.  
Melissa Turner joined the committee three years ago because her children began participating in the Missoula Children's Theatre and the Summer Art Camps.
"I want to see these types of activities continue in Nebraska City," Turner said. "I like to see opportunities for children and youth to learn about the arts and display their artistic side."
Friedli, who has been with the committee for eight years and had artwork featured in the art show, said the exhibition was a success.
"As a member of the Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee, I was very pleased with the turnout and I feel we were able to spark some interest," she said. "It was a good time to get people thinking about the arts in Nebraska City."
According to Friedli, art is present in everyone's daily life.
"The fact is we were all born with creativity - the innate desire to enrich our lives. Art is all around us and it enriches our lives. It's in the video games played in our homes, in the music streamed into our lives and in so many diverse, cultured field opportunities all around us," Friedli said. "Art is in the design of our household goods, in the design of the clothes that we wear, art is in the buildings all around us. Art is in the rhythms of our children's songs. Art is what makes our culture and enables us to connect with each other on so many levels.
"We are all artists as we seek to beautify the environment around us and to express ourselves, even in the simple conversations with the people in our lives," she added. "Art challenges the way we look at the world. Art is essential to humanity and to human progress."
Turner agrees that art is everywhere.
"Art is all around us," she said. "Our community is beautiful because of creative people who have shared their talents and left their mark. It is important for people to know that they too have talents to share and have opportunities to do so."
Stehling is an artist and her work was featured in the art exhibition. She said the committee's first goal was to get feedback from the community.
"We believe there is an interest in more classes for children, teenagers, adults and retired members of our community," she said. "We also would like to advocate for more arts education in the school system."
Katie Radke is also a local artist whose work was featured in the art exhibition, and she's been a member of the fine arts committee for almost a year. Radke joined the committee because she has a passion for the arts and has "longed to live in a creative community."
She said the committee is a "resource to the community and a voice to the artists," and the group is hoping to bring more community awareness about the arts by hosting events that feature art, music, theatre and writing.
"Nebraska City is a vibrant small town that is very unique. There is a need for more arts in the community. The arts inspire us, foster creativity and bring awareness to the beauty all around us," she said. "It is proven that the arts improve academic performance. The arts also drive tourism and bring people together."
Marcia Holliway is a teaching visual artist whose miniature watercolor paintings were a part of the exhibition. Holliway, who teaches classes at Southeast Community College in Nebraska City, said many people benefit from the arts.
"Studies show that the arts benefit us in many ways in academics, social interaction and emotionally," she said. "It can be used in many ways including relaxation and healing. It's not just for the elite, art is for everyone and is everywhere we look."
Holliway has been an artist for as long as she can remember. As a child, her favorite thing to do was color, paint and play with play dough. She's a strong supporter of the arts.
"The arts are important to me. Although the most important thing to me is my relationship with my Creator, I feel that He created me to be creative and He allows me to have the joys and pleasures it brings me," she said. "As a teacher I have the privilege to share that with others."
Friedli said the possibilities for bringing more arts into the community are endless. She added that children also benefit from the arts as well.
"It is especially important for our children in our community to help them grow," she said. "Learning creativity is an important part of a child's development."
Core members of the Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee are Stehling, Friedli, Radke, Tina Dia and Turner. The committee would like to develop sub-committees of interested people to expand and meet more arts needs in Nebraska City.
People who are interested in becoming involved in the sub-committees can email the committee at hello@nebraskacityfinearts.com.
The committee is currently developing its Web site, www.nebraskacityfinearts.com. Radke said the Web site is projected to be finished by the end of this month.
Artists featured in the exhibition July 16 were Stehling, Friedli, Radke, Dia, Honey Lynn Self and Holliway.
For more information about the committee, go to Facebook at facebook.com/nebraskacityfinearts.com.