Joslyn Art Museum

Cameron Thelander, Lauren Brown & Talia Bozorgzadeh



Art; a broad term used to describe a raw form of human expression through various mediums. Since the beginning of time, artistic expression has been a cultural universal, or a trait found in all cultures in some way. Before people could communicate with words, they would depict their stories through ochre painted on cave walls.In Surya Ramkumar’s blog Silent Eloquence, she described art as, “a celebration of human achievements, a proclamation that managed to go beyond fulfilling just the basic primal needs.” This is one of the key points as to why humans of all cultures and societies enjoy art to some extent; because they can. This is a form of entertainment that provides a deeper, more profound connection depending on the individual. Art is something that can be perceived completely differently based on a person’s upbringing, because although art is a cultural universal, it still goes off into countless tangents within each culture. This is all due to bias and popular culture, different areas of the world have different mainstream ideas, and thanks to an openly opinionated audience, diffusion amongst cultures can generally be controlled with museums and art galleries.




Every city has different appreciations for different styles; the Joslyn is one of, if not Omaha’s largest and most successful art museum. The museum provides a multitude of activities for people of all ages. There are art classes for children as well as the Kent-Bellows program; a program that challenges teens in the Omaha area to improve their own artistic capabilities with workshops and personal mentors. Not only are classes provided, but also lectures and even music recitals are held at the Joslyn. Famous art presentations are not something most people can afford to present, especially to the public in a larger setting. Wondering if this museum was funded through the government provoked a more valid question; How exactly is The Joslyn Museum funded and able to host such a wide array of events?



This museum has an expansive permanent collection with pieces from varying artists and time periods as well as numerous new and exciting temporary exhibits that are brought in every year. Amy Rummel, Director of Marketing & Public Relations was a valid resource that provided information not generally provided to the public. After answering various questions, it became apparent that the Joslyn Art Museum has been so successful and continues to grow because of the community. Being funded primarily off of community sanctions and private donors, this museum provides a mutual benefit that in-turn helps the community out immensely, providing inspiration for young artists as well as a deeper understanding of the art world on a much larger scale than Omaha.

When asked if there was more of a turn out for the permanent exhibits as opposed to the temporary exhibits, The Joslyn did not provide just one answer. Roughly nine temporary exhibits are held at the Joslyn each year for 12-16 weeks in total; six are smaller exhibits that are free to the public, and three are larger ticketed exhibits. When a ticketed exhibit is being shown, generally about 30% of the daily visitors come to see the temporary exhibit, while the remaining come for the permanent collection. Rummel also informed us that about a third of the Joslyn’s annual visitors are due to the temporary exhibits. This goes to show that the permanent collection plays a large factor as to why people come to the Joslyn. The art is truly accepted and has become a norm to the museum, something that meets and exceeds what is expected. The permanent collection is separated by both style and time period and is beautifully organized alongside the Joslyn’s Art Deco architectural physique; everything that went into decorating and constructing the museum was thoroughly revised and placed the Joslyn on a list made in 1938 of the 100 finest buildings in America.


Link To Previous Research:


Along with some of the more popular temporary exhibits, there can also be less popular ones amongst the variety they show. When the Joslyn was looking at which were lower on the attendance record, the main contributor was the name of the artist. Alike many things, cars, clothing, jewelry, ect; people like trends and the brand names that matter greatly to the popularity. There is a sense of conformity when viewers like to see what interests the greater population. That group buys into the idea of the generalized other, or what people expect them to like based on the common behavior of the general society.

People like being able to recognize the artists name. Another thing that would make an exhibit less popular is if the collection is foreign. Cultural relativism, or assessing another culture based on their own standards is hard to do if the viewer has no background knowledge of the country’s history and/or norms and mores. A sense of ethnocentrism contributes to some people shying from art presented from other countries because the feel like they will have a hard time relating to it or understanding the art’s significance. However, it was quickly noticed that viewers appreciate variety. The museum had an Egyptian exhibit in which Joslyn’s director, John Schloder, said, “This is undoubtedly one of the biggest exhibits the Joslyn has ever put on. The exhibit extends a glimpse into the lives and daily practices of the ancient people for more than 3,000 years – and not just the rulers and the nobles.” It helps the exhibit to include the relevance and context accompanied by the actual art.

Together, it creates an experience of learning along with the expected viewing of the art. This combination is part of the Joslyn’s ideals that education is important. They have programs that provide tours and studio sessions. In fact, the education of the art reached 112,377 people in 2014. 70,448 people at the museum and over 40k off site through outreach. The education of art allows people to break away from common conformity to develop their own perspective of art. However, some choose to be uneducated and just follow the masses. With conformity in the art world, there are also those who break away from the masses. The modern beat niks that look to counter the culture and see what is going against the flow in the art world. So along with the famous art presented, the temporary exhibits receive a decent turn out whether the artists are well known or not.

The Joslyn art museum was originally free to the public. Their return to the first complete calendar year (2014) of free general admission had a 12% increase of attendance from 2013. The attendance was 163,324 people in 2014. Since 2010, annual attendance has increased by 37%. Joslyn had visitors from 63 foreign countries. That spiked a 70% increase from 2013’s foreign visitors. The funding for them to return to free admission comes from grants, endowments and donations. Some of the top supporters who granted $100,000 or more were Douglas County, Omaha Steaks, a few foundations, and Private donors. However, the number one donor was Anonymous. Below that, there are 5 pages of names of people who donated any money less than $100,000. Together, they form a normative or voluntary group, the donors receive intangible rewards for supporting the Joslyn. Of the Joslyn’s $5.5 million in total revenue, $1.4 million was from foundation donations and $3 million was received from grants. The art endowment value totaled to $8.7 million, while the general endowment value was $26.3 million. The Joslyn wrote, “Joslyn Art Museum Foundation has undertaken an ambitious plan to significantly increase its endowment through cash and estate gifts. A larger endowment will lessen the Museum’s dependency on annual fundraising, increase funds available for art acquisition, sustain a conservation and building maintenance program, and support educational programming and scholarly research. Increasing the endowment provides more income for core budget areas and greater financial stability and growth, allowing Joslyn to implement its long-range strategic plan.” They hope to one day not have to concern themselves with expense and revenue and be able to focus on the community and give back to the organization and families that gave to them. The support for the Joslyn with grants and donations helps them keep the Joslyn a healthy and expanding museum.

Hillary Nather-Detisch, Director of Development, thanks all donors by saying, “… Every gift counts and every gift combined with others is what truly makes an impact in the community. At Joslyn Art Museum, we try our hardest to ensure that every donor (regardless of gift size) receives the gratitude and appreciation in exchange for their gift – because a gift really is transformational at any size.” The Joslyn gets a variety of sizes of donations that all add up to the $4.4 million compared to the $1.1 million from their earned revenue. The Joslyn’s social integration, or ties to the community that supports them, is on a large scale with 41 community partners. These relationships with the community are what allows them to open up the art world to anyone who walks through their doors. There had to be trust to put the funds for admission back in the hands on donations and grants.

The Joslyn was free from 1931 to 1965. They returned to open doors because the museum was going back to the founding principles of the Joslyn that anyone should have access to the art. The director made general admission a priority. For a few years they opened up the exhibits for 2 hours each Saturday morning and since the switch they noticed higher attendance and more evenly distributed attendance. They now have three to five thousand visitors a week, with many during the week days, not just Saturday morning. There was a 12% increase of new members, that is 3,227 member households. Of course none of this would be possible if they didn’t have the help and support of the community of Nebraska and the community of art. Art is very important to culture because it reflects history and values of the people. The temporary exhibits are a great way to support talented artists just starting to make their name amongst the prominent artists on display in the permanent exhibits. The community holds up the museum so that it may hold up the future of our art and art culture.

The Joslyn museum has curators who are the people who select certain artworks that are used in the temporary exhibits. The curators are the ones that decide which pieces to use and they are the ones who select the work in the temporary exhibitions. And sometimes, an exhibition is organized and toured as a complete show that they don’t alter. When the curators work with the organizing institution, they change a few of the works on the view. The Joslyn is the organizing institution and builds the show from scratch. Exhibition theme, curatorial message, and then practical concerns like wall/gallery space all come into play when determining a final checklist for an exhibition.

The Joslyn’s main motive behind choosing a temporary exhibit is that the exhibitions are chosen with an eye to what will compliment and enhance their permanent collection, and bring art otherwise not seen at the Joslyn, to Omaha. Recognition of the Joslyn has been increasing over the years, with social media now the gained more recognition through Twitter, Facebook and other social medias. For example, their twitter followers grew by 84% so they now have 3,200 followers, and their Facebook fans grew by 33% over the years and they now have 12,344 fans. The Joslyn has their own website and their website traffic has now increased by 85% and now have over 600K unique visitors. Using social media is a great way to gain popularity especially for a museum, they have posts of events, new exhibitions, employment opportunities, and brief history posts etc. since the majority of people these days use social media and smartphones they’re more likely to gain recognition. The Joslyn offers multiple internships like Studio Teaching Intern, Scott EdTech Gallery Intern, Interpretive Media Intern, Development/Membership Intern, Hitchcock Museum Shop Intern which people with background in art and have a strive to work there can apply for.

The Joslyn also has a blog, and a newsletter which is their pubic outlet for the news that’s now accessible to the public. On their website in their annual report you can see how many donations there are each year, and how it benefits the museum, allowing them to not need the admission fee. The annual reports have a list of everyone whos donated over 100$ includint their Honorary and Memorial gifts.

Finally, which temporary exhibit was the most popular in the Joslyn history, and what other exhibits have been very popular in the past. They concluded that two of the most popular exhibitions in the Joslyn’s history were 1999’s searching for ancient Egypt exhibition (134,578 attendance: about 16 weeks) and the Dale Chihuly Glass exhibition (161,726 visitors: about 16 weeks) in 2000. They also mentioned that the highest attended exhibition ever at the Joslyn was in 1965, it was an exhibition of the Dead Sea scrolls and was attended by 85,000 people in just three weeks! The Joslyn is Nebraska’s largest art museum.



Throughout the research, it was found that the Joslyn can account its success with the community involvement. This museum provides countless opportunities for individuals of all ages to learn about the art world and more specifically the art world of Omaha. The Joslyn’s temporary exhibits are brought in primarily due to what the audience would like; which showed to be interactive exhibits that would normally be considered “exotic”. These exhibits that were previously discussed were not just a typical style of art that made it into Popular Culture; they were historical exhibits that provided learning experiences and entertainment purposes to the public. This is exactly how Joslyn remains economically afloat; they rely on the community and in-turn provide benefits for community members that play a role in this museum’s success. This museum’s success can be a great reminder to help the public realize just how big of a role individual community members can play in the success of a business. Seeing that this business provides a purely positive and educational environment for guests, it makes sense as to why this museum has been so successful. This museum has become a resource for schools of all educational credibility and has become a nationally recognized Omaha landmark, and for good reason. This museum has become an artistic staple for Omaha and is amongst the popular museums like the Durham that provide an outlet for artists all over the nation. This museum has gained an immense amount of respect from our group simply because of all the marketing skills used behind the scenes that the public would normally never know about.


Annotated Bibliography

“The Ancient Collection.” Joslyn Art Museum Omaha Nebraska | Art Museum, Art Classes Omaha Nebraska | Entertainment Omaha. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.
“Art Seen: An Exhibition of Artists from Omaha to Lincoln.” YouTube. Joslyn Art Museum, 1 June 2015. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.
Bridges, Bryce. “KANEKO-UNO Library Arts and Culture.” RSS. Kaneko UNO Library, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Broderick, Diane. “Trip to Egypt as Close as Omaha.” The Daily Nebraskan. 29 Mar. 1999. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
García-Romero, Anne. “Office of Pre-College Programs.” American Arts, Popular Culture, and Social Change // // University of Notre Dame. University Of Notre Dame, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Giddens, Anthony. “Modernism And Post-Modernism.” New German Critique 22 (1981): 15. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Hardy, Jason. “Glass-Blowing Exhibition to Be Featured at Joslyn Museum.” The Daily Nebraskan. The Daily Nebraskan, 11 Feb. 2000. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
“Joslyn Art Museum 2014 Annual Report.” The Joslyn. Joslyn Art Museum, 2015. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
“Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, Nebraska | Art Museum, Art Classes, Art Gallery Omaha | Entertainment Omaha.” Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, Nebraska | Art Museum, Art Classes, Art Gallery Omaha | Entertainment Omaha. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
“Joslyn Art Museum Sculpture Garden.” Joslyn Art Museum Omaha Nebraska | Art Museum, Art Classes Omaha Nebraska | Entertainment Omaha. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.
Lyford, Amy. “Modernism, Essentialism, And “Racial Art” In America.” Art Journal 72.3 (2013): 85-88. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
MacTaggart, John. “Art Appreciation.” Understanding the Qualities of Great Art. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
Mancini, J. M. “Pre-Modernism:Art-World Change and American Culture from the Civil War to the Armory ShowJ. M. Mancini.” Mancini, J.M.: Pre-Modernism: Art-World Change and American Culture from the Civil War to the Armory Show. (Hardcover). Princeton University Press, 19 Sept. 2008. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
“NAC ENews.” NAC ENews. Nebraska Art Council, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Ramkumar, Surya “Why Do We Appreciate Art?” Silent Eloquence. 22 Feb. 2005. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
Smith, Terry. “The State Of Art History: Contemporary Art.” Art Bulletin 92.4 (2010): 366-383. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.

Cameron: I chose these sources in order to understand what it is that drives people to choose one art over another. There are a multitude of different mediums people use to portray their creative expression. Art is an extremely biased field which is why some exhibits succeed more than another. Some creations can succeed simply because the creator is well known and respected in the community. Another thing I found in one source was the annual report of the donations made to the museum. This will be interesting to see if it correlates at all with successful exhibits.
Lauren: These websites asses the changing and fluctuation that art must do to keep up with our changing society and culture. The Joslyn uses sanctions from the viewers to decide which temporary art exhibits they will preview in their museum. We are going to use these colleges and universities to help us prepare question and ideals about where art is in our culture today and what to expect in the future.