Joslyn Museum to close for two-year expansion project


Andrew Smith

Rendering of the 42,000-square-foot Rhonda and Howard Hawks Pavilion. Photo courtesy of The Joslyn Art Museum.

OMAHA, Neb. — Life is short, but art lasts forever within Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum, which has stood as a place to welcome artists and viewers alike to display and interact with art within its halls. Temporarily, all who walk its corridors must find another avenue to express their creativity as the Joslyn plans to close its doors for two years starting late this spring.

The cost of this closure comes with a reward, as the public-facing museum undergoes a large expansion. The new Rhonda and Howard Hawks Pavilion will expand into the existing sculpture garden, creating a new experience that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor art with an emphasis on community and learning opportunities.

The vision of the museum is “to be cherished and respected as a premier art museum,” and it upholds those values by offering free general admission to view its over 12,000 works of art. As it continually grows, museum leaders such as director and CEO Jack Becker aim to bring new amenities and galleries to a remodeled and expanded Joslyn to increasingly support its patrons.

A local member of the artistic community and University of Nebraska Omaha sophomore, Kennedy Wallman shares her appreciation for the establishment.

“I first went to the Joslyn Art Museum in high school when I genuinely realized I had an interest in art,” said Wallman. “It was really amazing to see the art I learned about in class in person and recognize the artist names and have a background of knowledge about the artists’ life and work.”

The new pavilion is to feature more of the same quality of great galleries, but with more natural light and a modern paneled design to complement the existing structures, which share a similar art deco rose marble design established in 1931.

“I first found out about the closing and remodel when I attended the Joslyn a month or two ago,” said Wallman. “Later in one of my classes, we had the newest curator of the Joslyn, Thomas Busciglio-Ritter, talk as a guest speaker. It was so cool to hear him speak about the remodel and their plans for the new space. I am so very excited to see the remodel of the building and the new works they add as a part of the collection.”

Work on the remodel and expansion has already started, but there’s still a chance to stop by, with the museum hosting events including free artmaking, special sales in the museum shop and tickets to the “Faces from the Interior: The North American Portraits of Karl Bodmer” exhibit. Not to mention the closing weekend will include a cash bar and food accompaniment.

Although the Joslyn will close on May 2, 2022, many Omaha venues remain open to carry the torch.

There are so many great galleries around Omaha for UNO students to attend while the Joslyn is closed. I enjoy the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery downtown. I’ve had my work displayed there before and they also feature high-school artists on a monthly basis. My personal favorite is Modern Arts Midtown, and I really enjoy their collection of work. Some other great ones are Gallery 1516 and the Passageway Gallery.

If all goes to plan, The Joslyn Art Museum hopes to return in 2024 as a more accessible social center where laughs, admiration and critique can be held over works several thousands of years old.