The Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art’s summer exhibit : “150 Artists, 150 Artworks, 150 Years of Nebraska in Miniature,” wrapped up with a closing reception July 29 that was attended by 200 people.
Although the assessment of will take some time for the staff, volunteers and supporters of Bone Creek, the early reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
“I think that it was quite a feat to invite and host 150 artists,” said Amanda Mobley Guenther, curator of the museum. “That was an accomplishment. We got that kind of response. And we were able to pull it off.”
Among the goals achieved: Spreading the word about the nation’s only museum dedicated to agrarian art, and gaining new friends for Bone Creek.
“With that number of new artists, we benefited from all their networks, the people they know,” she said. “That was good for us to get a bigger artist pool, and hopefully for them to have another arts venue they can keep in touch with and maybe work with in the future.”
The 150 pieces had to meet certain requirements, including the small size that enabled all 150 pieces to fit in the museum. Gabi Comte, the museum’s collections manager, had the task of keeping track of all those entries.
Entries came in a wide variety of materials and forms, presented by long-established artists and new students exploring their talents.
Although it took a couple calls for entries before the exhibit was filled, did not result in inferior exhibits. That was shown in the sale figures: Of all 150 entries, 92 of the works were purchased, some of them on line. A portion of the proceeds benefitted Bone Creek and its mission.
The exhibit led to some new practices for Bone Creek, which traditionally hasn’t put its exhibits on its web site.
“Being a sale, we had all of the artworks on the website,” she said.
Although the computer screen can’t match the original art’s appearance, having an online presence might help visitors decide to come, she said.
The Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission endorsed this project as a Signature Event of the 2017 Sesquicentennial. The museum was looking for a way to honor the state and the project connected the museum’s mission—to connect people to the land through art—with the larger overall theme of the state’s anniversary.
"I think overall it was really successful," she said. "It was a great growth test for the museum. It was internally and organizationally great evidence for us to be able to expand in the future. We can draw a crowd. With 200-plus people at the closing reception, that is a huge response."
Mobley Guenther said the exhibit was a learning experience.
“There might be something else that comes from it,” she said. “I might have a little more caution when I come up with an idea like this.”
Jim Kobza and his father shared the first name of Vaclav, so Jim used the English version of that Czech name.
He could have used his middle name of Joseph, but really, Jim’s middle name was Work.
Work, as in taking care of people who needed their car fixed, or their car towed at any time of day.
Jim Kobza died July 20, eight months after he learned he had cancer. He faced the diagnosis and treatment with his typical can-do attitude.
“He said, ‘I had a good 73 years. Never spent a night in a hospital.’” his son-in-law Tim Beaver said.
Even though the funeral was July 25, a few of Jim’s friends are still stopping by Kobza Motors these days just to share how they feel and recall their bit of Jim’s history as a tireless worker, devoted Christian and mainly, a solid family man.
That’s because Jim was happiest at work.
“He was totally in love with his work,” his wife Alice said. “He liked people. He liked to be around people.”
If the Kobzas were to get a vacation it was up to Alice to make the plans. Once they arrived at their destination, however, Jim could relax and even forget about work for a while, especially if the trip involved grandkids. Even then he had a critical role: Holding one of his grandkids to help them get to sleep.
Another way to get Jim out of the shop was to create a fictional service call, which on several occasions led to a taste of Jim’s love of aviation.
For his 65th birthday, it was a “service call” to unlock a car near Silver Creek. The car just happened to share a shed with an ultralight airplane, and Jim didn’t know he had been set up until he was in midflight with the pilot.
For Jim’s 70th birthday, the call came from the David City airport, where Jim arrived to find his family and a helicopter waiting to leave on a flight over Memorial Stadium, and then back to circle David City.
If he could have made the time, Alice said, Jim would have worked on getting a pilot’s license.
Tim, who worked with his father-in-law for 19 years, said he and Jim talked about the company’s future, but the discussion didn’t include Jim’s retirement.
“We always said that I would carry him out of here,” Tim said.
The Kobza shop operates based on Jim’s example: A satisfied customer is a loyal customer. Jim did struggle in one area – saying no to people who were in a bind. With the appointment sheet filled, the crew wasn’t surprised if another customer’s problem was added before the morning was over.
Jim’s dedication to his community carried over to Jim’s stretch on the City Council from 1974 to 1983, with his final two years serving as mayor.
After Jim worked at the former Youngberg Motors for 20 years, he and Alice took the plunge and bought the company in 1983. Kobza Motors saw its Chrysler dealership pulled in 2009, but unlike some other companies it survived and even grew because it had a record of working on all makes, Tim said.
Along with the day-to-day shop management, Jim ran the tow truck, answering calls at all hours, in all kinds of weather.
“He would come home from the calls and go straight back to sleep,” Alice said. “Get up two hours later for another call. He enjoyed the tow calls.”
At the end of such a day, however, Jim was needing rest right after supper, Alice said.
Because Jim didn’t toot his own horn, there were some things that most people didn’t know about him. Whether it was a maintenance issue at St. Mary’s Catholic Church or St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, people knew where to find Jim. He served for nine years on the board of St. Joseph’s Villa and Court.
“He was dedicated to his faith,” Alice said.
Jim was also generous with his help.
“There were a lot of times he did things for people that he didn’t charge for,” Alice said.
Tim said that customers won’t see any big changes at Kobza Motors because the staff learned the ropes from Jim. Some tried and failed to outwork their boss.
“Another reason I wouldn’t change anything is because of what he has established here,” Tim said. “He used to say, ‘You’ll change the locks, won’t you.' I won’t change anything.”