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Omaha, NE 68108

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Meet the Board Members

Marty Skomal

Describe your background and career?
    
   As a child, I was that kid in the neighborhood perpetually wrangling my friends to put on a "show" or take part in my basement plays! As a pre-teen, my folks enrolled me in drama classes at Joslyn Art Museum which led to my full-blown drama jock status in high school, participating in every play, speech tournament and musical. I went onto college as a theater major and graduated from the Conservatory of Theater Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo with a double major in English and Theater Arts. After graduation, I worked as an actor (and sometimes waiter) in various dinner theaters in Omaha, New Orleans, Atlanta and Sarasota. Eventually I found my way back to Omaha and into the company of the Nebraska Theatre Caravan where I toured for three seasons. I also did a bit of directing for the Chanticleer Theatre in Council Bluffs and served as their first paid production manager. I joined the artists-in-residence program of the Nebraska Arts Council and as a teaching artist, I traveled the state and discovered the power of educational theater. After a 4-year stint as the director of theatre at the Omaha Jewish Community Center, I joined the staff of the Nebraska Arts Council as the arts education coordinator. A few years after joining the staff at the NAC, I enrolled in UNO's Department of Public Administration and eventually received my MPA (Masters in Public Administration). Thirty years later, I retired from the NAC as Director of Programs.     

 

Do you have any particular arts advocacy moment that you are the most proud of being involved in or something that you did that provided meaningful change?


    While at the NAC, I was lucky enough to be involved in a number of statewide arts education initiatives such as the Getty-funded Prairie Visions. I also helped secure funding from the NAC and in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska’s first statewide arts education curriculum standards were written and implemented. In the mid 1990s, I was awarded a Arts Administration Fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This  allowed me to live and work in Washington DC for a period of time and witness firsthand how arts policy and funding is influenced at the federal level. Also, while at the NAC, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment (NCE) was created providing yet another source of funding for arts and education in Nebraska. At the time, the NCE was the first state arts agency in the nation to combine public and private sources in an endowment specifically for arts and arts education.  

   The arts, particularly theatre, have always been a motivator for me. I have seen over and over how powerful the arts can be in TRANSFORMING the lives of people of all ages. The arts also are a bridge allowing people of all backgrounds to come together and experience the thrill of creativity.  

 

What type of arts do you like to be involved in or arts events you continue to support?


    Of course, I am an avid theater goer, and try to participate in as much of the Omaha cultural scene as possible. I am currently on the board of African Cultural Connection and I’m active with the Alliance Française of Omaha which promotes French language and culture. While I will never be fluent, I continue to study the French language and love everything about French culture. We travel there whenever we can.

   

Why is the arts important to you and to Nebraskans in general?


    To me the arts are inherently a spiritual endeavor. I don’t mean religious, even though all great religions value the arts in some form. The arts take us out of ourselves, transcend our individual egos and speak to a universality of the human condition. There is nothing more important than investing in the best of what we can create, experience and celebrate together via the arts!

 

     During my years at the NAC, I had the opportunity to travel the state and meet so many talented artists, educators and arts supporters. Advocacy is more important now than ever in fostering strong support and to secure the resources necessary to keep the arts thriving in Nebraska.

 

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