LINCOLN, Neb. - The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation has announced that Rhonda Seacrest, a generous statewide philanthropist and long-time supporter of the foundation, recently commissioned a beautiful bronze sculpture to be placed on the grounds of the Ethel S. and Christopher J. Abbott Visitors Center at Chimney Rock. The sculpture will be entitled “We Stayed” in honor of those first non-native Nebraskans who had the courage and resilience to start a life in the state.
“Rhonda Seacrest has again benefited all Nebraskans with her wonderful gift of the sculptures, ‘We Stayed,’ for the addition to the Chimney Rock Visitors’ Center,” said Jim Hewitt, President, Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. “Few residents of the Cornhusker State possess her generosity, her vision, and her awareness of the courage and tenacity our early residents showed in creating a new state on the windswept prairie. She is an inspiration to us all. We are very grateful.”
This commission coincides with the $1.8 million expansion and improvement of the Ethel S. and Christopher J. Abbott Visitors Center announced in March of 2019. Currently, $1.6 million has been raised for the expansion project which is scheduled to be completed in May of 2020. Chimney Rock and the visitors center attract 30,000 people a year and the bronze sculpture, along with the improvements, will further enhance the overall visitor experience.
“Traveling west the pioneers would see Chimney Rock and be inspired to keep going,” said Rhonda Seacrest. “That got me thinking about the pioneers who stayed here and made us who we are today. Chimney Rock seemed like the ideal place to memorialize those who stayed in Nebraska and didn’t move on.”
Dr. David L. Biehl was chosen as the artist to produce this wonderful tribute. As a native Nebraskan, growing up on a farm outside Lexington, he was a natural choice for the project.
“One of the fundamental reasons for doing a sculpture like this is to help us remember our ancestors,” said David Biehl. “I think this is something that is very important and bronze sculpture, which will hopefully be around hundreds of years, will help preserve our history.”
The artwork installation will include six life-sized pieces depicting the hard work of Nebraska farm families in the 1860’s. Work has already begun and the sculptures are expected to be completed in 15 to 18 months. The artist also produced the life-sized sculpture “A Narrow Escape” capturing the escape of the Martin brothers in 1864.
For more information on the visitor center expansion, visit www.nshsf.org/projects/chimney-rock/