Carol Summerfield, June 21, 2014

Stromsburg, Nebraska, is a town with 1100 people living in one square mile.  It also got to host a touring performance of UNL alum Becky Key Boesen?s play What the Wind Taught Me. The story was inspired by the playwright?s visit to Joplin, Missouri, right after the devastating tornado in 2012.

Stromsburg and 12 other communities were able to enjoy arts programming because of the Lied Center for the Performing Arts. Arts Across Nebraska connects Lied artists to Nebraska communities throughout the state.

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Arts Across Nebraska provides up to three different programs each year that tour the state, with affordable artist fees to ensure that the arts are accessible by the local community.  Along with the performance, The Lied Center provides online learning materials for teachers so the experience extends beyond the stage and supports learning in the classroom. They also offer workshops in the local schools, giving students a chance to interact with artists and performers.

Boesen articulates the impact of the program, ?The program reached over 9,800 individuals living in rural Nebraska this year, a number that has been growing leaps and bounds since it began. It is clear to us that there is there a huge demand for programs like Arts Across Nebraska and that they are truly making a life transforming impact on tens of thousands of lives across the state.?

The performances for this past season connect history and art. All three featured artists are University of Nebraska alumnae. The season?s programming included Jill Anderson, who performed Irish folk tunes and shared historical stories behind the music. Donna Baddeley designed a concert that showcases music that narrates the journey along the Oregon Trail.  Music on the Trail is a combination of visual images, narrative, and music that weaves the story of western expansion and the American slaves? journey to freedom.

What the Wind Taught Me was commissioned as part of the Lied Center?s GROW A SHOW New Works Development Program. In Boesen?s story, the ten year-old main character, Evan, tackles the death of a parent, struggles with bullying in school, and has the normal consternations of any child. His troubles culminate on the day a devastating tornado hits town.  Evan has no choice but to confront all the storms he faces – both literal and metaphorical.  In doing so, he learns that "anything is possible" when you have a tight knit family, a love of learning, and help from a wise teacher.

Boesen explains the intellectual importance of accessible art to the population of Nebraska, ?Arts Across Nebraska sends world-class artists to rural communities throughout the entire state. The benefits of having access to the arts are documented and proven, and never more evident than when working with adults and students in underserved areas. In my experience, these interactions have been some of the most impactful I have ever known as a playwright and teaching artist.

?Arts Across Nebraska provides these opportunities by taking geographical limitations out of the equation and giving people throughout the state an opportunity to watch and experience live theatre, some for the very first time. Lives are touched and the results are, at times, transformational for all involved.?

For more information on Arts Across Nebraska, go to