Nicole Herden

“Museums, in general, have to really balance both financial stability and sustainability with an art component to stay relevant with our local community, which is driven through exhibitions and education,” said Nicole Herden, the new executive director of the Museum of Nebraska Art. She began her new position in Kearney on March 30.

KEARNEY — To lead the Museum of Nebraska Art, Nicole Herden hopes to balance a business sense gained through real life experience with her educational background in the arts.

“I have a unique and diversified portfolio in the arts,” she said in an interview. “Professionally I have focused my career within the museum realm. It is interesting to note the blend of skills demanded for a director of a museum. I end up wearing many different hats in a variety of different departments in a museum.”

Herden studied art education at the University of Arizona in Tucson, art history at Arizona State University in Tempe and visual arts at Boise State University in Idaho. Her career path has included work at the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona State University Art Museum and Boise Art Museum.

Most of her work involved curating art exhibits until she began to take on more managerial responsibilities.

“I was leaving curatorial practices behind and shifted gears to more oversight of finances, facilities, retail matters, curatorial agendas, conservation needs, education and digital concerns,” Herden said. “In thinking of balancing art and business here at MONA, my process will be to certainly look at our strategic plan. Every museum, in best practice, has a strategic plan set up for a range of three to five years. It is really our guiding principle in creating our objectives and tasks that are the museum’s focus.”

She describes the process as a juggling act, balancing the business side of the museum with the artistic side, based on a strategic plan.

“With my background, I am an advocate for the arts,” she added. “With my professional experience within the art museum realm, I have that background and knowledge. Have I managed and run my own personal business? No, but I have certainly managed financial tasks in a wide variety of areas within my professional museum career.”

From a business view point, Herden recognizes the necessity of operating the museum as a business.

“Museums, in general, have to really balance both financial stability and sustainability with an art component to stay relevant with our local community, which is driven through exhibitions and education,” she said.

Herden moved from Idaho to central Nebraska to begin working as the director of the Museum of Nebraska Art on March 30. She came to a facility closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. That experience has helped her focus her energy on the value of art in stressful situations.

“On the most basic level, the handmade object reminds us of our own humanity,” she said. “Art ultimately encourages us to cherish intuition, uncertainty, creativity and to search constantly for new ideas, not only within the artist but the viewer as well, those who are looking and interpreting and receiving the artwork. Most of us know that feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song or a poem or a painting. I think when we are moved by art, we are transported to a new level of emotion and place while still rooted in our physicality, our human body. That is one of the most amazing aspects of art for me; how art is constantly seeking a transformative experience.”

Herden still makes art when she can carve out a few spare moments.

“It’s not at the quality and quantity that I used to do,” she said. “I certainly long to make more art. I have not given away or gotten rid of any of my studio supplies. It has all moved with me to Kearney.”

In terms of creativity, Herden acknowledges her leadership at MONA as a form creativity.

“I do believe that my work within the museum is incredibly creative,” she said. “I find great fulfillment and many creative outlets within it.”