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Prairie Arts Center unveils first piece of sculpture garden

October 28, 2017 GMT

On Friday morning, the Prairie Arts Center unveiled the first piece for its sculpture garden. “The Heartland” will be installed on the west side of the building in the spring of 2018.

The fiberglass heart is one of 89 created by Nebraska artists for Nebraska By Heart, a public art project endorsed by the Nebraska 150 Celebration for the state’s sesquicentennial.

“It’s a great honor to receive this beautiful piece of art that combines the beauty and rich history of western Nebraska,” PAC executive director Holly Carlini said. “What makes this so special is that it combines two former North Platte residents and their great love of art.”

Artist Paula Reutzel-Yoachim created the sculpture with support from its sponsor, former North Platte resident Rhonda Seacrest. Seacrest later purchased the heart at auction and donated it to the PAC.

Yoachim, formerly of North Platte, works as a teacher in Bellevue and could not attend the unveiling. Instead, her family was present.

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“When she started work on the heart, she said, ‘You know, it would be so neat if it came back to North Platte,’” said Yoachim’s mother, Colleen Reutzel.

On the project’s website, Yoachim explained, “The inspiration for my design was to link the past to the present by depicting images from across the state.”

The front of the heart features images of cornstalks, sandhill cranes, Chimney Rock and some icons specific to North Platte: Buffalo Bill Cody’s home and Bailey Yard.

On the back, Yoachim included the Omaha skyline and the state Capitol building with an intricate design.

“The circular design is my interpretation of looking up through the dome at all the beautiful Art Deco era designs throughout the building,” she said. “It also looks somewhat like a sun combined with a machinelike glimpse of the wheels that turn to keep the big city moving along.”

Until it is moved to the garden, “The Heartland” sculpture will be on display at the PAC for the public to view during normal business hours.

“The family would like to thank the Prairie Arts Center for this,” Yoachim’s sister, Doris Howard, said Friday. “It’s a great honor.”

Proceeds from the Nebraska By Heart auction were split between the artists and two sponsoring organizations, Lead Up and the Sadie Dog Fund. Lead Up connects youth to colleges and careers. It provides mentoring, peer leadership and academic support. The Sadie Dog Fund works with Nebraska veterinarians to provide funds to keep dogs, in emergency medical situations or with special needs, alive and with the families that love them.