Museum of Nebraska Art begins search for next executive director; Expansion slated for completion April 2024

KEARNEY – The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) will soon begin a national search to select its next executive director.

This individual will join MONA during one of the most exciting and significant periods in the museum’s history as work continues on a major restoration, renovation and expansion project that will rejuvenate the downtown Kearney facility and add new amenities.

Tom Gallagher
Tom Gallagher

Nicole Herden, the current MONA executive director, is leaving the position to pursue an opportunity at the Colorado College Fine Arts Center, where she will begin July 31. She was hired in March 2020, replacing Audrey Kauders, who retired after 17 years at MONA.

“Helping us continue our progress on this wonderful building and reinvent MONA for the future will be an outstanding opportunity for a new executive director,” said Tom Gallagher, president of the MONA Board of Directors.

Located at 2401 Central Ave., MONA celebrates the state’s artistic culture and heritage by collecting and preserving, exhibiting and interpreting the art of Nebraska. It serves as the official home of the Nebraska Art Collection – a permanent collection of nearly 6,000 pieces reflecting the state’s history.

MONA is governed by a statewide board of directors in collaboration with the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The museum is housed in a 1911 former post office building that was purchased in 1986 and renovated twice, with the last project completed in 1993. The Neoclassical building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The $31.5 million renovation and expansion will allow visitors to experience MONA in new ways by transforming the museum’s existing footprint and adding 23,000 square feet that will showcase imaginative exhibitions in light-filled, spacious galleries along with welcoming community spaces open to the public.

The project includes an additional $5 million for an operating endowment that supports programming for present and future patrons of all ages.

Other highlights of the project include new entrances, a community studio, more expansive outdoor space for events, a commons area with modern amenities and an expanded Gary E. Zaruba Library and Research Center that will accommodate the growing collection of books, reference materials and ephemera.

“MONA is at a time of critical transition, but we are strongly positioned to begin our next phase when we move into our new facility next year,” said Gallagher.

MONA has been closed since November 2021 to accommodate the construction project; however, staff continue to conduct outreach and educational activities such as the ARTreach program, which brings traveling exhibits to communities throughout Nebraska. The public can also stay connected to MONA and its collection through various online and offsite initiatives.

A reimagined MONA is expected to open in April 2024.