Cardinal sculpture

Crete residents used a cardinal sculpture to help raise funds to save the local movie theater, while Auburn used a bee to raise money and awareness for culture and art.

GIBBON — Summer 2019 will go down as the year that the birds and the bees invaded Crete and Auburn and southeast Nebraska’s Blue River Basin.

Larger U.S. cities have used community art projects for fundraising and community building for many years, but owing in part to the success of Icon Poly, a fiberglass sculpture manufacturer in Gibbon, small communities in Nebraska now also are seeing success with their community art projects.

Icon Poly’s Kyle and Daniele Vohland started their business in 1999 by making fiberglass animals and sculptures by hand. They have since developed processes that allow them to provide computerized sculpting and laser digital sculpture enlargement so that the company can make multiple 3D copies of a single design.

Icon Poly’s newest 2019 projects include scallop shells going to Plymouth, Mass., and 4-foot hearts going to Loma Linda, Calif. They also delivered fiberglass sculptures of birds for a local movie theater fundraiser in Crete and honeybees to Auburn for an artistic fundraiser.

The Vohlands’ fiberglass sculptures have become canvases for paint, fabric, paper mache, mirrors and glass mosaic.

In Crete, the effort to save the local Isis Movie Theatre went to the birds. When the privately owned movie theater closed last year, volunteers started working with city leaders to find a way to save it. In the course of moving to a not-for-profit format, the community chose to find a broader purpose, working to bridge gaps in arts and cultural opportunities for Crete.

The Blue River Arts Council was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization last fall. In its first year, the arts council launched a public art project called Birds of a Feather to honor the many different businesses and cultures found in Crete.

The events started in May with Icon Poly’s delivery of 20 three-foot cardinals. Ten cardinals were purchased in advance for permanent placement at schools, parks and businesses. Another 10 of the decorated sculptures will be auctioned to raise funds for the movie theater and future artistic endeavors.

All 20 birds were unveiled July 18 at the Saline County Fair. A Sept. 21 Wing Ding street festival is planned and will include chicken wings, live music and the Birds of a Feather auction.

Meanwhile, southeast of Crete on Highway 41, members of the Nemaha County Leadership Class #6 in Auburn were looking for ways to foster community spirit and promote tourism. Class members decided to create Honeybees in the Heartland, an art project that would bring beauty, originality and character to Nemaha County. Thanks to funding from Auburn Development Council, the city of Auburn and Nemaha County Development Foundation fund, they commissioned Icon Poly to produce the fiberglass honeybees.

Local sponsors could select one of the many design ideas submitted by artists from around the region. All 25 honeybees were revealed at a Sunday community celebration featuring live music, food vendors, artists’ sale booths and a honey tasting.

The honeybees have been placed all around Nemaha County and are searchable at #comevisitourhive.