COLUMBUS — Attending school in a small community didn’t afford Amy Tomasevicz the opportunity to formally study art.
It wasn’t until she was 10, after her family moved from Guide Rock to Lincoln, when she took her first art class.
“It was instant love,” Tomasevicz said.
She always had a creative side, and those classes helped nurture her talent. Before she picked up a paintbrush, though, Tomasevicz was letting her imagination run wild on the farm.
“When I was 7, I used to go with my dad down to his shop and make milk stools, just do anything hands-on. It was also my job to take out the trash. It was an old silo where we’d dump trash and I’d always come back with more than I ever took out. I always had that urge to create,” she said.
Today, she spends hours making and selling works of art. She has pieces displayed in galleries in Columbus, Seward, Lincoln and Grand Island, and has been featured in shows across Nebraska. Some of her commissioned pieces were sold to buyers as far away as Puerto Rico, Finland and Germany.
“I’m internationally famous,” she said with a laugh.
Sitting at a table near the studio inside her waterside home at Jarecki Lake, Tomasevicz shared early career plans that actually pointed her in a different direction.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to be an architectural engineer because I liked art and math. That was back in the 1960s and my counselor told me that was for boys. Women could be teachers, nurses, hairdressers or secretaries,” she said.
Instead of pursuing that dream, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. He stopped farming and became a math and science teacher. Tomasevicz earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then went on to teach for 43 years before retiring in 2014.
Her first three years of teaching were in Osceola. After marrying her husband Dennis, they moved to Shelby where she was an educator for 21 years. She also spent two years in Columbus and 17 at David City Aquinas.
Tomasevicz enjoyed the career, especially teaching K-12 because she could build upon what students learned from year to year. Art is an important subject for students to learn, she said.
“Sadly, many schools are doing away with elementary art. That is how you evaluate civilization, by their art and their music and their culture. It is not by their math and science so much as their expression of themselves,” Tomasevicz said.
She never considered trying to make a living as an artist. Instead, she found time to work on pieces throughout her career as a teacher and mother to two sons, Curt and John.
Most of her work is landscapes, farm animals and people brought to life with pastels and mixed media, though she has experience in many areas because of her teaching background.
“Being an art teacher, you have to be able to show (students) how to do all different mediums,” she said.
Recently, she started working with pottery. She and a few other artists have their own co-op called The Pottery Place at 2624 23rd St., where they bring their own clay and use a kiln to make vases, pots and other decorative pieces.
Retiring from teaching freed up more time to concentrate on artwork. She said about 75 percent of what she creates is for her, and the other 25 percent is commissioned.
“The ones for me are often the ones others like, as well, which is good because then I can sell them,” Tomasevicz said.
The first piece she sold was a painting of a carousel for a student art show in high school.
“I was one of two people who sold anything that day. I think I got a whopping $7. I babysat for 50 cents an hour so $7 was cha-ching,” Tomasevicz said.
Over the years, she has completed a lot of commissioned work for individuals and businesses, including paintings of 10 scenes inside the Northside Café in David City and a 15-foot mural that hung in the farmers co-op in Shelby before being moved to the community's senior center.
Most of what she paints reflects what she sees, including scenes from her time spent at The Louvre in France and trips to Turin, Italy, and Vancouver, British Columbia, for the Olympics to see Curt compete on an American bobsled team.
Tomasevicz is also involved in several organizations and takes part in workshops to continue learning and stay up-to-date in the art world.
Even though she has created, exhibited and sold numerous pieces of artwork, Tomasevicz still doesn’t view herself as a professional artist.
“You look at those people who do it day in and day out every year and that is how they earn their money. They are professionals. I’m still more of a hobbyist,” she said.