By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – Kearney State College alumnus Dr. Joe Shanahan has had an appreciation for art since he was a child. But it was his art professor at KSC, Jack Karraker, who inspired him to become a collector of art and donate more than 100 sculptures.
Shanahan donated two sculptures to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Both are made of rusted corten steel and were recently installed on campus. He also donated sculptures to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska Omaha.
“Having graduated from Kearney State College and UNMC, and having professor Jack Karraker influence both my life and my appreciation for art, I wanted to donate pieces to UNK and UNMC,” Shanahan said. “I thought it’d be nice to have some of my sculptures where I started, so they could be appreciated.”
One of the sculptures, created by Omaha artist Sidney Buchanan, is made with rusted corten steel posts, corten steel lintel and corten steel fabric-like sheets. The eight-foot tall sculpture weighs 2,000 pounds and is located southeast of the Nebraskan Student Union.
“How fortunate for the UNK campus to welcome two large-scale sculptures,” said Audrey Kauders, director of the Museum of Nebraska Art. “Sculptures are important in an academic setting because experiencing these artworks stimulates wonder, creativity, and consideration of the human experience.”
The second sculpture at UNK, created by Shanahan, is made of rusted corten steel stacked cubes that slope at about 45 degrees. It’s 18-feet tall and weighs about 1,000 pounds. The sculpture is located north of UNK’s West Center and east of the Frank Museum.
Shanahan, who graduated from high school in Cedar Bluffs and now lives in the Chicago area, came to Kearney State College to play football after spending a few months at a seminary in Chicago. He quickly realized he wasn’t going to play professional football, and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after college.
His art professor and mentor, Karraker, suggested that he go into medicine and be a patron of the arts.
“That’s what I ended up doing,” said Shanahan, who graduated from KSC in 1973.
Shanahan is a semi-retired emergency medicine doctor. He was involved with a number of highly-visible ER medical emergencies in the Chicago area over the years, from the 1986 Tylenol cyanide poisonings, 1979 O’Hare plane crash and 2007 Amtrak collision, to an anthrax case after the 9/11 scares.
Shanahan had nearly 150 large sculptures in his collection at one point. He’s been downsizing his art collection over the years, and he currently owns around 20 pieces. He’s donated sculptures to universities in the Chicago area, Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and other universities.
Although he doesn’t consider himself an artist, Shanahan has created sculptures, including the stacked cubes at UNK.
“I was glad that I came from Nebraska. Cedar Bluffs had less than 300 people, and we played eight-man football. Coming from a small community like that, I learned that if you wanted to do something bad enough you could go out and accomplish it,” he said. “I’m grateful for that.”
Buchanan began sculpting in the early 1960s while attending UNO. His work is in the permanent collection of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, Springfield Art Museum in Missouri and at UNO, Omaha Public Schools, UNMC, city of Omaha and other museums and universities across the country.