By: Tina Henderson
With each stroke, Todd A. Williams, a Central City native, and a member of the Merrick County Farm Bureau, shows his love of the state and how important agriculture is to Nebraska.
Williams had the idea in 2012 to do a collection of paintings featuring his home State of Nebraska covering all 93 counties. After meeting with Mike Smith at the Nebraska State Historical Society, he suggested Williams visit with the Nebraska 150 Team. From this meeting they entered a partnership and official endorsement for the Nebraska Sesquicentennial. The series is called “Painting the Legacy of Nebraska: Celebrating 150 Years”.
“Nebraska agriculture plays a large role in Nebraska history. Each little part of Nebraska has its own character, and agriculture is an important piece that I will be showcasing,” said Williams.
Williams has done similar series in Vienna and Prague and says he will have no difficulty finishing the paintings. He will have completed the series by September of 2016. Production of a Commemorative Collectors Art Book will begin in September and be available to the public in 2017.
“I am trying to reach all corners of the state and show the rich fabric of Nebraska’s people,” he said. Some paintings are landscapes and others depict historical events. The Legacy of Nebraska Exhibition will open in March 2017 in the newly remodeled Nebraska State History Museum. The paintings will travel by region around the State throughout the year.
A Legacy of Nebraska Calendar is created each year as a way to bring awareness to the upcoming Sesquicentennial Celebration and as a fund raiser for the Nebraska 150 Foundation. Williams is also seeking sponsorship for each county’s painting.
The cover of the 2015 calendar is the Oregon Trail at the Scotts Bluff National Monument and is one of 15 paintings that have already been sponsored by the First National Bank of Omaha.
Williams used fellow Merrick County Farm Bureau members Emily McHargue and her son Carl as models for the Oregon Trail at the Scotts Bluff National Monument painting.
"I wanted to show the hardships of being a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. They were true leaders who discovered new territories and were the first people to settle in the frontiers of North America. Many of the pioneers were farmers. This painting depicts the legacy of Nebraska’s agricultural past and the history of the great west,” Williams said.
Williams, studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. He actually started out as an artist at Hallmark Cards and is now represented by a dozen galleries around the country. He travels to Europe to teach and work. The fact that he loves his home state is why he is pursuing this project.
Legacy, by meaning, is to leave a lasting history for the next generation,” he said. “History has proven that there’s no greater gift than art. So it’s my hope this project will help in defining Nebraska’s legacy, not just for the 150-year anniversary but for generations to come,” Williams said.