Nita Whiney Art Work

(Nebraska City) -- The work of a local southeast Nebraska artist is the featured exhibit at the Morton-James Public Library for the rest of this month.

"Just Nita" is the collection available for viewing through August 29th at the Nebraska City library's Kimmel Gallery by Auburn, Nebraska resident Nita Whitney. Born in Germany to American parents, Whitney has lived in Colorado, Massachusetts, California, Texas, and Japan before attending Texas State University and majoring in agriculture. After marrying her husband, Jim, they moved to Alabama and then to Nebraska, where Whitney then attended Peru State College and obtained her degree in art. Speaking on KMA's "Morning Show" program recently, Whitney says her interests in art date back to her childhood when she had a strong interest in horses and even being a rider for the U.S. Olympic Equestrian team.

"I remember drawing horses and drawing layouts of horse farms and stables that I wanted to have in my childhood," said Whitney. "I continued drawing horses for many, many years until I had a daughter with developmental delays and my art aspirations went to the sideline to raise my daughter."

Whitney adds that she and her now 39-year-old daughter will often also do non-objective art pieces with each other. On top of meeting with Artist Rich Hayek in Brownville in July 2022, where she picked up dry pastels for the first time, Whitney says her time as a paraprofessional and working with special needs students in an art program reinvigorated her belief that anyone can be artistic.

"They just have to want to do so and follow some type of direction," Whitney emphasized. "Many people think that they can't draw a stick figure when, in fact, if you look at some modern artists or sculptors and some sculptures look like stick people. So, anybody can be an artist."

Over her career, Whitney has dabbled in various art forms, including cutout sculptures placed in cigar boxes to, more recently, dry pastels. She says the exhibit featured in Nebraska City will primarily focus on her pastels.

"Mostly landscape-type items, however I do have a couple of pieces that are not of that genre as I have one that's surprise, surprise a horse that's a nice portrait of a horse," she said. "There's another one of some sunflowers and I have also worked on some portraits of some human beings."

Whitney adds that her experience with Hayek was monumental for returning to art after a severe head injury.

"Rich put pastels in my hand and I hadn't picked up a pencil, paint brush, or anything with art since the fall on my head, so I'm very excited to see this opportunity," Whitney explained. "It was like, once Rich put that set of pastels in my hand, it was like I found my voice again or I came alive again."

Visitors can view the exhibit during regular library hours. Whitney also hosted an Artist Talk over the weekend. For more information, contact the Morton James Public Library at 402-873-5609. You can hear the full interview with Whitney below:

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