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Depicting History in Siouxland, Courage Park in Omaha, NE

7 Apr
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. According to a website by First National Bank, “Installed in 2005 and 2009, Sculptors Blair Buswell of Highland, Utah, and Ed Fraughton of South Jordan, Utah, created Pioneer Courage with four pioneer families and their covered wagons departing westward from Omaha.” (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While visiting in Omaha, NE just south of Siouxland I came across a park I had not seen before. Friends and I were exploring parts of the city we had not previously walked about and so it was a pleasant surprise to find this homage paid to those settlers that set out for the “new frontier” and a life apart from what they had known. Because this sculpture garden was created a few years ago it does not take into account current perceptions of events as “white immigrants” flooded the western plains obtained through the Louisiana Purchase and after the exploratory visit by Lewis and Clark’s expedition to map the newly obtained land.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the westward expansion opened up new territories to current United States residents and immigrants, it also began a long history of a not so good relationship with Native American residents who had inhabited the land for many generations and millennia. Whether or not another downtown park will address that issue for future generations is for current and future residents of the Omaha community to address. The park though is a nice break within all of the cement buildings that surround this island oasis which probably looks more inviting for lunch time breaks during spring, summer and fall lunch times for surrounding employees working in the area.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A passerby checks out statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still, for a photo expedition exploring a community it was a nice find on a rather pleasant early spring day. I always enjoy history, and realize that most times the history presented comes from a single source with possibly a single point of view. The park shows the fortitude and gumption of those early settlers who went west to find a new life and beginning for themselves, much like today’s modern immigrants and residents who can more easily, at times, travel the many miles to find a new life. Each era has its own obstacles and problems, which sadly never seems to have an easy solution. And it seems that those searching for a better life for themselves and their families, away from starvation (Irish), persecution (Quakers) and other life strifes such as war ( any number of countries) the desires, needs and wants have not changed, only perspective and “characters” of those now in need. Travel today is almost instantaneous when compared to that of a couple centuries ago. And these days there seems to be more NIMBY’s than those willing to offer a hand. I sometimes muse what might have happened and how my own and others futures looked much different had Native Americans then rebuffed the Quakers and other European settlers and conquerors who first set foot on this land. Rather than sharing a first Thanksgiving, there might not have been any history written about those lost souls who traveled the sea to seek a better life. No word ever returning to those distant shores. The strife, famine and others ills of centuries past have never ceased, nor likely seem to, and until as it’s said, the root of those evils or calamities are addressed, people will leave their homeland in search of a better life somewhere else where they think it might be safe. But the chance of those underlying problems being addressed seem of little concern to those making important decisions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Statues in Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021 depict settlers moving westward during the westward expansion in the 1800’s after the Louisiana Purchase. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Understanding History in Siouxland and a “Black Angel” statue, Council Bluffs

4 Mar
A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ruth Anne Dodge was the wife of General Genville M. Dodge, who settled in the Council Bluffs area of Siouxland after the Civil War in which he played an important part, not to be outdone with his work for furthering the expansion of the railroad system throughout the United States after the war. I learned about this statue by reading a story from a newspaper in Omaha that recounted the history of the statue and Mrs. Dodge’s part in its creation.

A stone dedicated to Ruth Anne Dodge at her memorial fountain in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque explaining a statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mrs. Dodge had a vision or dream that included an angel which appeared to her prior to her death. And from an account of that dream a memorial statue and place was created in Fairview Cemetery In Council Bluffs, which overlooks downtown Omaha in the distance.

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Downtown Omaha, NE can be seen from the Ruth Anne Dodge memorial fountain where the statue, known as the “Black Angel” stands above her memorial n Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The article and account detail the dream and subsequent occurrences in a better story telling fashion. Again, I always find it fascinating to find history so close at hand and then be able to visit it after reading about it. To many an inconsequential footnote in history, yet part of the history of Siouxland of just one resident of many who passed this way and made a home in the then wilderness and western frontier of the time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning about Mythology in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

28 Feb
The face of at large gnome in the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” which recounts various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it worthwhile as I travel about Siouxland to learn. About places, history, and other sundries of life. It was a pleasant surprise to see mythology on display at the Laurtizen Gardens in Omaha, NE, and done in such a creative way.

A walk through a fantastical fairy land at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE.

The Gardens touched on various mythological creatures from different parts of the world and ended with a walk through a magical and inventive use of plants in its display of some of these creatures.

The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Information about various mythologies shown at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a cold day it was a pleasant way to spend time indoors learning in a fun setting and enjoying someone’s imagination. Since “timed entries” are required it was an uncrowded environment to explore.

Families look over an exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens which creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A display about world mythologies seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the coronavirus limiting various aspects of life, it’s nice to see some places behaving responsibly and giving people a chance to get out and take in a little “art” and enjoy a little time away from home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.With the umbrellas one could almost imagine Mary Poppins dropping in for a visit. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning About Art in Siouxland, Sioux City Art Center, Sioux City

10 Dec
Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The enjoyable aspect about “art” is that it never gets old, there is always something new to see, and the learning never stops. Recently members of the Sioux City Camera Club in Siouxland spent an evening with the Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding as she talked about art, its significance and how shows are curated.

Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ms. Redding explained how shows are put together, the importance of themes and the thinking behind curators and museums or art centers in wanting to educate the public. The club currently has a show exhibiting at the art center with a variety of images depicting the theme “Solitude”. Different people, different interpretations and plenty of images for contemplation and reflection.

Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Museum also currently has an exhibit dealing with interpretations concerning the West. Images ranging from the late 1800’s into 2020. A number of photographers doing various personal projects and images culled to give a look about the west and people’s fascination both positive and negative. While many in the early years of the United States moved west for new opportunity and destiny, others lost their heritage and land. People suffered brutally trying to get there and survive while others suffered brutally at the hands of those who felt ordained to wrest away this land to give to other, “more civilized” folk. Interestingly and sadly done in a barbaric way or through deception in the name of progress and government.

But no matter one’s interpretation or attitude about the land and its acquisition, there are many images for contemplation and reflection.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Sioux City Art Center curator Mary Anne Redding talks with members of the Sioux City Camera Club at the center about current exhibitions and the importance of photography, Thursday evening, Nov. 12, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Performance Art Mezmerises in Siouxland, Sioux City

3 Oct

Performance artist Kelsey Karnival works with a couple of hoops as a young girl watches intensely during the Alley Art Festival in downtown Sioux City, Iowa, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes in life an occurrence happens in a person’s life that may have a profound influence and unbeknownst to them guides them on a path later in life. During a festival in Siouxland recently a young girl stood transfixed as she watches a performance artist dance with a couple of hoola hoops. The young lass stared intensely hardly ever moving her eyes until seeing the dancer so a particular move then looked at her mother to see if she saw.

Performance artist Kelsey Karnival works with a couple of hoops as a young girl looks back at her mother during the Alley Art Festival in downtown Sioux City, Iowa, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Performance artist Kelsey Karnival works with a couple of hoops as a young girl watches intensely during the Alley Art Festival in downtown Sioux City, Iowa, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I remember as a young child looking at a particular Sunday edition of a Chicago newspaper, transfixed by a page or two of feature images that appeared every week. I can remember sitting in a room in my parent’s house just looking over the images. I can’t remember why I was fascinated or how that fascination came about. But sometimes these unexplained occurrences manifests the results later in life, a necessary spark to start one down a particular road.

I have spent a lifetime photographing events and people for a variety of newspapers I previously worked for, and continue while finding images for this blog. The intensity of sole purpose of the young girl standing so still, watching the street performer makes me speculate that somewhere and sometime in the future seeing this person perform gracefully and appearing to enjoy her work might influence this young lass to pursue her dreams and find a way to fulfill a desire to create, no matter the art form or platform through which she gives voice to a future talent.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Performance artist Kelsey Karnival works with a couple of hoops as a young girl watches intensely during the Alley Art Festival in downtown Sioux City, Iowa, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Walk in the Park in Siouxland, Latham Park, Sioux City

1 Oct

People walk around and look at various artistic endeavors for sale at Latham Park’s Art in the Park event, Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

People in Siouxland are like others and very much like doing things that seem normal again, or some facsimile of such a notion. Latham Park always has a fall art vendor day, Art in the Park, where various folk can sell their wares and others get to peruse and purchase in a pretty environment.

People walk around and look at various artistic endeavors for sale at Latham Park’s Art in the Park event, Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

People walk around and look at various artistic endeavors for sale at Latham Park’s Art in the Park event, Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But thoughts about the virus wasn’t far from some people’s minds and others didn’t seem to mind or care. Which kind of makes returning to normal a mixed bag. Others who think nothing is going on can’t move on because some people wear masks reminding them, and those wearing masks are worried about their health and well being but find others don’t mind or seem to care. A classic Catch 22.

People walk around and look at various artistic endeavors for sale at Latham Park’s Art in the Park event, Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And who knows how long and how severe this aberration will continue. But it is nice there are events again for folk to get out to. So many have been cancelled until the following year and hopes the new normal will become normal.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

People walk around and look at various artistic endeavors for sale at Latham Park’s Art in the Park event, Saturday, September 19, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting a Museum near Siouxland and missing the Exhibits, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE

29 Sep

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s a silly thought but sometimes when visiting museums and other attractions in and around Siouxland I miss seeing the attraction. That happens when one becomes too focused on photographing something, anything and not taking a moment to enjoy what is in front of one.

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The architecture of the Joslyn Art Museum is fascinating and the light play inside and out is a feast for visual people as are the works hanging in the museum. I did walk through a current traveling exhibit exploring visuals in today’s society. How some of the visuals are contrived to reflect what may naturally be there but set up, indistinguishable from actuality. It was thought provoking and fascinating. Not the first time, and with today’s political scene, not the last where someone will take images, still or moving, and try to create a narrative, generally false, to make a point or to attack someone or some thing because they don’t agree or approve. Sad.

But once through viewing the exhibit I walked around various galleries I have seen previously still enjoying the permanent collection of art and trying to create my own imagery within the confines.

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I will return again and try to be conscious the next time of stopping, maybe sitting, and looking and pondering those lovely works before me and the creativity these artists who have long since passed using paint, brushes or other means to share their vision with generations to follow and the foresight of someone to collect, display and share these works with others.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visiting the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, September 3, 2020 , Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking for Normalcy in Siouxland, Old Dominion Dance Company, Omaha, NE

25 Sep

 

During this long coronavirus pandemic people are looking for some kind of normalcy even in Siouxland to keep themselves from going bonkers. The Old Dominion Dance Company which promotes English country dancing held its first event in six months recently, giving members and others interested in dance a chance to enjoy a friendly activity and company of like-minded folk. Held at the Scatter Joy Acres it was just a nice fall evening with hints of a lingering summer where visitors could relax, see friends, and have a nice night out.

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

 

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There seems to always be an equal amount of people who know the country dances and those who are wanting to learn. A couple practice run throughs and soon folk are “flying” over the grass reaching for a hand and performing a “line dance” albeit 17th and 18th century style.

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And as night settled in and the band was reaching its stride the dancers persevered, although some took a break, dancing into the evening. No worries about tomorrow, or the fact that life is now a bit different than a year ago. Cares and thoughts were replaced remembering the left or right foot, first couple or second couple and enjoying the evening.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Old Dominion Dance company holds an English country dance get together at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, NE, Friday evening, September 18, 2020, where members and visitors learn English country dancing. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a National Show in Siouxland, the 153rd American Watercolor Society, Le Mars

22 Jun

Viewing the American Watercolor Society’s 153rd annual travel exhibit at the Le Mars Art Center in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, June 13, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s not often that a small town can boast about exhibiting world class works or get the chance to share such work with its community, especially in Siouxland. But the Le Mars Arts Center is currently hosting the 153rd traveling edition of the American Watercolor Society exhibition. Originally scheduled to first be shown in New York City, the show was done virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns in many cities across the country. The show will run through July 31 at the Arts Center.

Viewing the American Watercolor Society’s 153rd annual travel exhibit at the Le Mars Art Center in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, June 13, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A member of the Le Mars Art Center talks with people visiting and viewing the American Watercolor Society’s 153rd annual travel exhibit in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, June 13, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Art Center has also recently finished a redesign within its space that provides more room to exhibit art work and gives the interior a more polished feel. Volunteers at the art center were also appropriately attired wearing face masks as they greeted visitors and had extra masks on hand if someone requested one.

Viewing the American Watercolor Society’s 153rd annual travel exhibit at the Le Mars Art Center in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, June 13, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some of the artists included are: Suzanne Accetta of Columbus, OH, Ingrid Albrecht of Chicago, IL, Deena Altman of Escondido, CA, Mina Angelos of Plattsburgh, NY, Karen Barnes of Rome, NY. Will Bullas of Carmel Valley, CA, Chung-wei Chien of New Taipei City, Taiwan, Jansen Chow of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia and Junwei Dai of Singaore, Singapore.

Even if one is not exactly a fan of watercolor or art in general, in terms of such an event taking place in the Ice Cream Capital, it is amazing to see the work and the variety of the 40 artists who were selected. And it’s nice that sometimes the little guy does okay for the home team.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visitors viewing the American Watercolor Society’s 153rd annual travel exhibit at the Le Mars Art Center in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, June 13, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Longing for Trips in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

21 May

A coral reef Lego exhibit by Sean Kenney that took over 500 hours and 88,000 pieces to build seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday evening, Feb. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I imagine it will be sometime before the opportunity will allow certain places to reopen as the coronavirus is still prevalent in so many places. I enjoy visiting the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, as well as the Henry Doorly Zoo there. Spending part of a day wandering about and enjoying the moment. And I know those moments will come again, and try to remember such adages of patience being a virtue. When these places do reopen I am certain there will be many, many folk angling to get in. But it will still be nice to revisit places to relax and enjoy and think of other things.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A sea coral reef Lego exhibit by Sean Kenney that took over 500 hours and 88,000 pieces to build rises above a wall to entice visitors to check out at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday evening, Feb. 5, 2020. (photo by jerry L Mennenga©)

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