‘Every life is a work of art’: Jackson Dinsdale Art Center opens at Hastings College

Photo of the eagle Challenger taking off.
Challenger, a free flying bald eagle, takes off to fly over the crowd during the dedication.

For a moment, time stood still when Challenger, a free flying bald eagle, flew low over the more than 1,000 people gathered for the August 20, 2016, dedication of the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center on the campus of Hastings College. Circling gracefully behind the crowd, Challenger landed as the Star Spangled Banner, played by the Hastings Symphony Orchestra, came to an end.

While Jackson Dinsdale’s first love was art, not far behind was his love of eagles. It was a fitting beginning to the dedication and celebration, which took place on what would have been Jackson’s 24th birthday.

Scroll down for information on the art center, plus a video of the full ceremony.

A photo of President Don Jackson greeting Kim and Tom Dinsdale.
President Don Jackson greets Kim and Tom Dinsdale after he announced Jackson Dinsdale received an honorary degree from Hastings College.

Gathered in the crowd were Jackson’s parents Kim and Tom Dinsdale and members of their family and friends; Hastings College President Don Jackson and other college officials and trustees; Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and former Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman; many artists, including Jun Keneko, who has a piece installed outside the new facility, and George Lundeen ‘71; Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser; Pamela Hilton Snow, former executive director of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment; art collectors such as Karen and Robert Duncan; and many other individuals from across community and region.

President Don Jackson ‘70 welcomed and recognized individuals in attendance. Reflecting on the life of Jackson Dinsdale, who passed away in 2014 while a student at Hastings College, Don Jackson noted, “There is no doubt in my mind that Jackson’s spirit is here with us today.” He then announced that Hastings College was conferring an honorary bachelor of arts degree to Jackson Dinsdale, and a diploma was presented to his parents.

During a dedication prayer, Rev. Dr. Bill Nottage-Tacey ‘72 said, “Jackson Dinsdale, I summon you today to come forth to this place named for you, as the muse who has inspired the project and guided it to be completed by your wonderful parents family and friends.”

Photo of Tom Kreager, professor and chair of the Hastings College Art Department.
Tom Kreager, professor and chair of the Hastings College Art Department.

Pamela Hilton Snow, former executive director for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, said Jackson Dinsdale’s parents taught him that giving back was not only an obligation but a privilege. “If Jackson were standing next to me right now, I know his feet would be stirring, his hands would be giving shape to his thoughts and his words would come quickly,” she said, “because nothing would give him greater joy than to be here today to give this gift, this art center, to his fellow students, future artists and to the faculty here at Hastings College who so thoughtfully and ably guided him on his journey.”

During his address, Tom Kreager, professor of art and chair of the department, read a letter from Vice President Joe Biden. “I am confident that all who enter this building in the years to come will be inspired by the man for which it is named. They will be inspired by his spirit, they will try to live a life worthy of the one he led and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Jackson and the world he envisioned for all of us,” the letter read.

After wishing Jackson Dinsdale a happy birthday, he said “you are with us in spirit and in our hearts. You have given us the opportunity to look forward to the future and build dreams that are only now possible.”

Kreager outlined many new areas of growth available to students, highlighting the plan to build a community that goes beyond the arts. “We are all part of this great adventure,” he said.

Photo of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
“Every life is a work of art, and while Jackson’s life and time as an artist was far too short, this facility is a beautiful reminder of what he stood for,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.

Two-term US Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser read his original poem, “A Welcome.” The poem (see below), which is installed permanently in the entryway to the JDAC, was dedicated to the memory of Jackson Dinsdale.

Kooser said like many artists, he always hoped his work would “last a little bit beyond my time,” and that it was a particular honor for him to have a poem that will be in a place like this that will last long after he’s gone.

At the beginning of his speech, Governor Ricketts said, “Every life is a work of art, and while Jackson’s life and time as an artist was far too short, this facility is a beautiful reminder of what he stood for.”

He said the new facility is important, to not only celebrate the work Jackson Dinsdale did, but for the future. Ricketts noted that “Steve Jobs said once that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married to the liberal arts, to the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”

He said this facility will be the part of Hastings College that allows students to integrate that, “to bring together the liberal arts with technology, whether that’s sculpture, ceramics, painting—to be able to continue to develop their skills and education that will inspire all of us. This is incredibly valuable to the mission of Hastings College.”

Following the governor, Gary Freeman ‘93, executive vice president of external relations for the Hastings College Foundation, thanked the construction team, the Hastings College physical plant employees, faculty and staff for their efforts in seeing the completion of the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center.

“Jackson had a vision. He had a vision when he was here as a student that began to formulate. He had a spark,” Freeman said. “That vision then was taken through the great work of his mother Kim, his friend and mentor Tom Kreager and many others, to manifest itself into a building like this.”

Freeman then welcomed those in attendance to see the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center and the vision behind it.

Following the symphony’s rendition of The Alma Mater, the 1,000 people in attendance did just that.

    To the memory of Jackson Dinsdale

We who were here before have left
these paintings, richly colored, bright
with affirmation, these sculptures, too,
these pots, this vase of flaming glass,

waiting for you, our work and delight
arranged before the vast cold walls
of the Eternal. We dreamed that you
might one day stand before them,

feeling a kinship with us, feeling alive
to what we’ve offered you, the toes
of your shoes pushed up against
an invisible line on the floor

that marks the edge of what’s to come,
a mystery into which not one of us
is permitted to step, or to reach to touch,
not yet.

    Ted Kooser
U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006

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