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Anne Burkholder


If you peek your head into Anne Burkholder’s studio, you’ll most likely see her hunched over her latest rural Nebraska landscape.

Inspiration for her paintings is derived from her childhood spent in the Sandhills, as well as frequent trips to remote locations across the great plains.

When I’m painting the skies, I’m just basically in that space. You know, if I’m painting a landscape I’m standing there in that field of grass or on that hill looking across the valley – it’s a really peaceful feeling for me,” Burkholder said.

But if you’re starting to get the idea that Ms. Burkholder is a soft-spoken wallflower then you’ve got it all wrong.

Anne’s life is marked by international backpacking trips, whimsical folk art and efforts to cultivate a thriving art culture in Lincoln.

In 1987 Anne sold nearly everything she owned to buy a run-down building in the Haymarket.

“It was really important for me that there be a community of artists, because as I was talking to other artists they needed to also get out of their kitchens and attics and garages, and have a space where they could do their art,” she said.

At the time, this area was dingy – to put it mildly – but Anne was determined to establish a space where artists from every background could work and display their art.

She was one of the major players in establishing Lincoln’s First Friday art walks in 1988 after visiting similar events in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

After almost 40 years, Anne still mingles among the guests that filter in and out of her gallery every First Friday. She smiles and nods at old friends, artists and patrons as she sits back and watches her once dreamed-up gallery come to life.

“Oh I have no plans to stop. Why would somebody retire if you’re doing exactly what you want to do?
You should still being doing it,” she said. “A nd making art, what a wonderful existence.”

Anne Burkholder is a lady with grit and a really good story, and it’s not over yet.

Dick Budig


“Today we received a beautiful gift from you… we cannot find the words to describe it…”

Dick Budig gets cards in the mail with these kinds of sentiments on a fairly consistent basis. He doesn’t really know the woman who sent him this letter, in fact, he’s never even met her… but he recently painted a portrait of her deceased son.

Over the past 16 years, painting portraits of men and women killed in war has become Dick’s hobby. He does his work completely free of charge, seeking to honor the families of these heroes and thank them for their sacrifice.

It’s work that satisfies his soul, and it’s a job he created because he saw a need that was unmet – both in the community and in his own heart.

“I’ll be 80 this month,” Dick said, looking over his glasses. “I’ve been around a while.”

He’s seen a lot, done a lot and all of it, he said, has shaped why he’s painting portraits of fallen heroes.

As a child of the ’40s, Dick said he remembers the big events of World War 2. He remembers hearing about Hitler marching into Poland, saying goodbye to his relatives who went off to fight and the look on his parents’ faces when they opened a telegram telling them their family members weren’t coming home.

He and his friends played ‘war’ endlessly, making up creative skits and scenarios that mimicked what they heard war was like overseas. But the reality of war was also very apparent to Dick, even at the age of 10. He said he missed his relatives who died in the war, and not getting a chance to say goodbye seemed wrong.

When Dick got older, he went into the military as well. Serving as a member of the Air Force, his days were spent on a SAC base where his unit guarded planes between the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

It wasn’t as bad as other wars, he said. However, there was no guarantee that he or his buddies would be coming back from war – but he did.

Dick came home to his wife and two young children and they settled in his hometown of McCook, Nebraska. Here, he attended a community college where he was a pre-med student, until he realized he couldn’t hack chemistry. He changed his degree to journalism and worked for the McCook newspaper for a few years.

But after a while, Dick said he couldn’t sit at his desk and pound on his typewriter anymore. He moved his family to Lincoln, where he transitioned from journalism to advertising. From there, his work history gets complicated.

“I did a thousand little things,” Dick said with a laugh. 

He was a hairdresser, journalist, owned an advertising agency, gold refinery, jewelry design shop, an ice cream shop and eventually a pawn shop.

At one point, he looked into buying a bank, but couldn’t afford it, and soon realized a pawn shop functioned a lot like a “poor man’s bank.”

Dick spent his days tinkering with broken electronics, fixing them up and selling them for a profit. He did so well, in fact, that he was able to pursue one of his long-term passions that he’d since put on the back burner – painting.

As a kid, Dick was always drawing. He would spend hours sitting and sketching, and one day he added color to his work, opening his eyes to the world of painting.

But with a family, there was little time to paint professionally or even pursue it as a hobby. He needed to make money, and art wasn’t a viable option for feeding his family.

After Dick retired in 2000, he circled back to painting. He’d always loved portraits and began to make time to pursue his art. He realized that he needed people to paint, and who better to paint than fallen heroes, he thought.

When he started out, families were a little skeptical of his work, and understandably so. He said oftentimes families were still mourning their loved ones and couldn’t fathom someone offering to paint a portrait free of charge, but Dick’s offer was truly that simple and sincere.

He’s starting to lose track, but Dick said he’s painted somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 portraits of fallen war heroes. He started out painting just Nebraska soldiers, but said he can’t say ‘no’ to families.

When parents contact him they often share a lot about their child with him – their likes, dislikes, character traits and personality and even how they passed away.

“They tell you these stories and it’s difficult,” he said. “These kids are gone, just gone. But there’s still something magic about an oil painting I think…”

When he paints, he doesn’t think about the soldier’s story or even their family, he thinks about the mechanics of what he’s doing. The colors he’s using, the detail and shading – every detail needs to be just right. Dick said when he paints, it’s like times stops and it’s wonderful.

Some portraits take him a few days, others can take up to a month to complete, and when a painting is done the family either comes to pick it up from his studio or Dick sends them the portrait in the mail.

“People come in here to see the portrait and they just stand here and weep,” he said. “And I get some really nice cards.”

He pulled a few pieces of paper out of a stack, “These are some of my favorites.”

Written in pencil on lined notebook paper were notes from two young girls whose father was killed in the Middle East. They dotted their ‘I’s’ with hearts and told Mr. Dick how he was their favorite artist because of the portrait he’d painted of their father.

‘This is better than money,” he said, holding up the letters. “You can’t buy this.”

Dick’s story has become about giving stories back to families. He knows that a big reason he paints portraits is because it’s his own way of mourning the loss of his family members. But it’s also allowed him to step into the lives of families from across the country. To sit with them in their pain, hear their story and give them something to remember.

He may just be painting portraits, but to the families who receive his work, Dick is their hero.

Nancy Teague


When Nancy Teague paints she comes to life. Her hand moves quickly, then slowly, intentionally and then spontaneously.

She smiles, steps back to get a better view and then moves back toward her painting.

Nancy is an abstract artist. She describes her work as emotional and free but also ordered and on-purpose.

But Nancy’s expressive abstracts are somewhat new to her – she’s only been painting in this style for three years – and yet her career as an artist started long before she ever painted an abstract.

Nancy’s style shifted to accommodate her physical and emotional changes over the past few years, and it’s a shift that’s impacted more than just her art.

Nancy said she never dreamed of being a ‘professional’ artist. Sure, she was an artistic kid who loved sketching, building and tinkering, but how could that ever be a career, she thought.

In college, Nancy graduated with a degree in education and found a job in Lincoln as an art teacher. She loved watching her students learn and create, it was the perfect fit for her.

But it was only after she quit teaching, due to budget cuts, that Nancy started to pursue her own art. She used her colors and technique to bring photographed images to life with light and texture. As a realism artist her paintings were exact, every stroke had a place and there was little room for error.  

Nancy would often drive to small towns and then walk around with her camera in-hand, looking for objects to photograph and then paint in her studio. She loved the way she could bring a painting to life with shading, layers and shadows, this was her art and she was proud of it.

Over time Nancy competed in nationally ranked art fairs. She won a few notable awards and her career seemed to be off and running.

But in the late ‘90s Nancy developed a tremor in her left hand – the hand she paints with. She could no longer write her name and even something as simple as drinking water became an annoyance. Her work as a realist painter was intricate, and working with a tremor was impossible.

So, she closed up shop. She sold her materials, packed up her canvases and gave up painting.

The next ten years of Nancy’s life were quiet but impactful. They were full of thinking and evaluating, figuring out what she believed, and why her beliefs mattered. It was also frustrating. Nancy taught herself how to write with her right hand and she felt like a first-grader as she practiced rows and rows of single letters. It was hard, but Nancy was managing.

In 2008 an artist friend encouraged Nancy to explore painting again. They discussed making prints of Nancy’s former work and that got Nancy thinking… ‘I wonder if I can paint at all…’

Late one night she picked up a paintbrush and started in – she was doing it. Her tremor was there but she was painting like she used to, and to her surprise she was noticing finer details than before. 

For the next five years, Nancy delighted in her realism painting and began to slowly experiment with painting styles beyond realism.

She said she felt like a child again, playing with paint, enjoying the fluid movement and testing out new methods. She found that she could paint with her left hand and right hand together, it didn’t matter, because there was so much less structure.

But something else was happening too. As Nancy shifted her art from realism to abstract, a similar shift happened inside of her, she said. 

She found joy, a deep, deep inner joy that suddenly spilled out onto her canvas.

It’s a joy that came from her long-time faith in God, and a new realization of different truths about God and her own identity and purpose. Nancy said it was this inner freedom that propelled her shift to abstract painting.

“It’s hard to not do something that brings you joy,” she said.

So that’s what she’s done.

Not many artists can switch from one style to another, but to Nancy, her shift was unexpected but intentional. It was an outpouring of what she longed to experience, while still factoring in her limitations.

Nancy’s story is about learning from her doing, and growing from her learning. It’s about finding joy in a place that seemed unwanted and but turned out to be more rewarding than she could have imagined.

Her story is about realizing that there’s more to her story than she ever expected, and that was the real surprise.

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