The 1516 Gallery is gorgeous. Newly renovated, the building is a lean, elegant structure that would be at home in the hottest districts of Vienna or Paris. The interior is deceptively spacious, but perhaps just as compelling is the luxurious guesthouse: 100 percent furnished with Nebraskan art, history, and sensibilities, suited for guests from the far corners of the world.
It would be difficult to profile Pat Drickey without first introducing the gallery, as the two are inextricably linked. The 1516 stands as the culmination of his lifelong dedication to local art. “I see it as a world-class platform for Nebraska artists, showing the good work coming from Nebraska and hopefully launching them to a bigger stage,” he says. Drickey believes the 1516 will fill a niche between “underground” galleries and “blockbuster” exhibitions at Joslyn. “I want it to become an institution like the Joslyn, or MONA in Kearney,” he explains. He envisions the 1516 bridging the gulf between Nebraska’s urban east and rural west, through partnerships like the MONA2Omaha landscape exhibit that started in late March.
At the same time, the gallery feels like a touchstone between the history of Omaha, Nebraskan art, and the greater world, made possible by Drickey’s dual nature as a deep-rooted native and world traveler. “Though I’d be happy to never set foot on a plane again,” he quips. A tour of the premises yielded a history lesson on the building and its generations of forms and purposes, as well as on the area, the nearby buildings, their owners, and their own genealogies— all effortlessly plucked from Drickey’s memory. If the gallery is a window to the world for Nebraska artists, it is supported by a deep foundation in Omaha soil.
Drickey’s own life is similarly rich. Not just a figure in the Omaha cultural world for decades (and close friends with the late Kent Bellows), he’s also a successful professional photographer. As a major name in golf course panoramas and printmaking, he’s proud of his work and deservedly so: “You know ‘Dogs Playing Poker’? Everyone does. It sold 350,000 prints. I have a print that sold 850,000.”
His work has taken him around the globe, but he has never lost sight of his love of Nebraska and Nebraskan art. “I’d go all over the world and hear about the work places like Bemis and Kaneko were doing. The good reputation they have is also good for Omaha.” With the right amount of attention, he sees little reason Nebraska artists cannot flourish on the world stage: “If you can get artists interested in staying here, there is a community ready to support them. You don’t have to wait for change; you can become the change you want.”
But what keeps pulling Drickey back to Nebraska? “The sky here, the variety of art, and the people. There’s something about people who actually touch the Earth that makes them admirable. With the way the gallery feels, it could be anywhere in the world. But I want it here.”
Visit gallery1516.org for more information.