The following story courtesy of the Nebraska Arts Council, photographs by Moonshell:

The Bison Project is a unique arts project collaboration among the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (Stuhr Museum), Grand Island Public Schools and Moonshell Arts Council. Area students created large scale bison which were recently installed on the grounds of the Stuhr Museum. The bison were made out of license plates, old denim and cedar trimmings. Jerome Dubas, an educator at Walnut Middle School in Grand Island, and Kari Stofer, Curator of Exhibits at the Stuhr Museum, provided us with the program details:

The art educators of the Grand Island Public Schools are always looking for ways to increase the attendance of the public to the Hall County Student Art Show at Stuhr Museum. Last December, two members from the Moonshell Arts Council attended our monthly curriculum meeting to tell us of funds they had available for any special projects we would like to do in the schools. After some brain storming, we came up with an idea that would have select students work on a collaborative, site specific, contemporary installation that would draw media attention to the Hall County Student Art Show.

The Bison Project turned out to be a great success. The amount of collaboration was outstanding. The Moonshell Arts and Humanities Council funded the project. Stuhr Museum was involved in the planning and agreed to let us install three life size bison made out of alternative materials on the museum grounds. Each art teacher of the schools in the GIPS system brought three students to work on the buffalo. Students from Hastings College also participated in covering the bison. Classroom teachers of the GIPS system responded to our request for materials to cover the wooden bison structures. They contributed hundreds of license plates and blue jeans.

Art work for the Hall County Art Show was on display from April 6 to April 28. The art teachers covered the plywood bison models with chicken wire prior to the show. On April 19th, the students spent the day at the museum covering the bison. We started the day looking at contemporary work that specifically fits the site where it was installed. We scrutinized professional works of art using alternative materials. The idea of using blue jeans, Nebraska license plates, and cedar trees supports the mission of the venue where the sculptures were installed.

Students learned about the history of the Stuhr Museum and why bison were important to life on the plains. The youth also brainstormed different ways to organize the materials on the bison and used problem solving skills on how to attach the materials on an outdoor work of art.

The students involved thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as reported by the Grand Island Independent,“I think it’s wonderful that they actually display middle school and high school art here at an actual museum,” Hastings College art student Alyssa Karr said. “It’s something great for them to be able to say they had art displayed at a museum and they can say they helped with this project.”

Kari Stofer, Stuhr Museum’s curator of exhibits, said the museum’s involvement in the Hall County Student Art Show and Bison Project are integral to the museum’s mission and foster a strong sense of community for the area. The event has steadily increased in popularity over the years, with youth and adults alike.

“The (students’) talent is incredible,” she said, “The projects they come up with are awesome, and the pride they take in their work is evident.

“I am so very proud of this project and I know our whole community is as well, which is so amazing,” she added, “It has sparked so much conversation and a wealth of creative ideas from students to teachers, from artists to parents- it is what art should bring forth.

“Our museum, arts and humanities board, school system and especially all the students involved will use this experience in their lives for years to come.”

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