An Open Letter to NU & the Nebraska State Legislature | Kiechel Fine Art

NU Announces $9.2M in ‘Phase One’ Cuts; Includes Faculty, Academic and Athletic Programs
The cuts include consolidating or eliminating several undergraduate and graduate programs, shuttering certain research and extension offices, and terminating some students services and athletic teams, according to proposals from the system’s three chancellors.


An Open Letter to the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska State Legislature
In direct response to Gov. Pete Rickett’s proposed $11.4 million cuts to the University of Nebraska for the remaining fiscal year coupled with an additional $23.2 million in cuts next year, University administrators have unveiled their “phase one” plan to adjust to such extreme reductions in state aid. To reduce the overall budget, several specific programs have been evaluated and targeted for elimination. Among the programs now at risk is the undergraduate and graduate degree program in art history.


Such an extreme reaction has been unnecessarily inflicted by Gov. Rickett’s targeting of the University of Nebraska system with his budget proposal. Certainly, there are other viable areas of the state budget that could be trimmed to avoid damaging the University system, especially given the amount of economic support that it generates for business across the state. 
I grew up on a rural acreage in Nebraska and always had an interest in the arts, however, the only thing I knew for certain was that I was ready to leave Nebraska. In the spring of 2013, I was offered a Regents Scholarship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, solidifying that I would be attending my state university. While at first it lacked luster, it was there that I discovered art history and with it, the world of art. In my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to participate in an art history-based study abroad trip to London and Paris, led by UNL faculty Sandra Williams. Because of the University and the undergraduate art history program, I was able to learn and experience much more about the world than I had ever thought possible – all while staying here in Nebraska. NU has a responsibility to prepare Nebraska’s youth for the world, a challenging accomplishment that is epitomized by the art history department. 
Throughout my time at the University, and even now in my life and career in the arts, I have been constantly forced to justify the relevance and importance of the arts as a valid area of study and as a professional field. My experience in this is not unique. The liberal arts have endured a long history of battling cuts or elimination (i.e. the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities) that has become so commonplace, that my undergraduate degree in art history culminated with a question posed by my professor: “why is art/art history relevant?” With this question, Professor Andrea Bolland was imploring us to acknowledge and prepare ourselves to be asked this question every step forward in our education and career – not just by naysayers but also by our friends, family, and supporters. This question would not be asked out of cynicism but of concern because those who do not participate, study, appreciate, or understand the arts do not see the value in it. 
We must fight to keep such a remarkable faculty of art historians at the University so that the Sheldon Museum of Art can be well equipped with experts and a supportive University system, Lincoln can continue to develop its thriving art community which centers around NU and the Sheldon, and that Nebraska can continue to prosper. The professors that enrich the University’s art history program have helped gain national and international attention through their work. 
I would like to take this time to thank all the art history faculty at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, all of whom positively impacted my academic endeavors: Andrea Bolland, Michael Hoff, Wendy Katz, Mina Kim, Christin Mamiya, Philip Sapirsetin, and Alison Stewart. Those of us with a passion for the arts now have a responsibility to justify the validity of continuing to produce a future generation of art professionals and this battle must start at the local level. Reach out to Gov. Pete Ricketts, our state legislature, and the University administrators and fight to keep these talented professors and the entire art history degree program funded for the benefit of future generations and for Nebraska.  
Karissa Johnson
Gallery Associate, Curatorial & Acquisitions
Bachelor of Arts, Art History – 2017


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