Mayor Shines Spotlight on NWU Arts

Mayor Chris Beutler and the Lincoln Arts Council held the 41st annual Mayor’s Arts Awards on May 9. Three of the honorees are heavily invested in the performing arts at Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Professor of Theatre Jack Parkhurst (‘69) won the Gladys Lux Education Award. He describes himself as “just a guy who likes to do theatre.” Others call the alumnus and professional director a major force behind NWU Theatre’s growth and acceleration as a nationally regarded undergraduate theatre program.

While the department’s accomplishments are nice, Parkhurst’s focus remains fixed on his current and former students. “I do have many former students out there working, and it’s so much fun to see them succeed,” he said.

The Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation received the Benefactor of the Arts Award. Liana Sandin (’81) serves as the foundation’s president. A gift to NWU from the foundation in 2018 supported installation of a new LED lighting system in O’Donnell Auditorium. Sandin, who studied music at NWU, called O’Donnell “a major venue for the entire student body, community groups and performing groups.” She said, “It needs to be up to date.”

Thanks to a grant from the Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, the lighting system is more than updated; it’s cutting edge.

Jonathan Love, an adjunct instructor of art originally from Norfolk, Neb., won the Kimmel Foundation Award for Visual Art for work exploring “what it feels like to live both on and offline simultaneously.”

Parkhurst, Sandin and Love are the latest of several people with NWU connections to be honored at the Mayor’s Arts Awards. A partial list of other recent recipients with NWU ties include Associate Professor of Art David Gracie; Artist in Residence Mary Hickman; Sarah Berkeley, a former NWU art professor; and Twyla Hansen, a former NWU head groundskeeper and Nebraska state poet.

View the award winners.