Larry Peterson

1935, Holdrege, Nebraska –

View artwork

Larry Peterson has always drawn his creative energy from the prairie. Growing up near the Platte River, his family encouraged the young artist to notice the vibrant life and colors along the river. He spent much of his childhood camping, hunting, and fishing, and these experiences helped to stimulate his interest in art and to shape his vision.

Peterson was born in Holdrege, Nebraska on January 1. His interest in the visual arts earned him his first art award at age seven. After graduating from Axtell High School, he attended Kearney State Teachers College (now University of Nebraska at Kearney), graduating in 1958 with a B.A. degree in Art and English. He started his career as a high school art teacher for the North Platte Public Schools and also taught at North Platte College. In 1967 he received his M.A. degree from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, followed in 1975 by an Ed.D. degree with an emphasis in visual arts from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

As an educator, Dr. Peterson was a professor in the Art and Art History Department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) for 34 years starting in 1966. He taught secondary art methods and painting classes and wrote the K-6 Art Curriculum Guide for the State of Nebraska. His life-long interest in public education has been manifested in the countless number of art educators he has encouraged and mentored through the decades. In 1987, he received the prestigious Pratt-Heins Award for outstanding faculty service from UNK, and 30 years later in 2016 was honored with the Faculty Senate Distinguished Service Award.

One of the founders of the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), Larry Peterson has served continuously and actively on the Board since its inception in 1976, and now honored as a Board Member Emeritus. He together with Gary Zaruba, Jack Karraker, and Harry Hoffman were recognized by the Kearney Area Community Foundation in 2010 for the founding of MONA.

Another of his noteworthy achievements was establishing in 1971 Kearney’s annual summer Art in the Park event, which he continued to direct for over 30 years. He was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award in 1981. He has been President of the Association of Nebraska Art Clubs and the Nebraska Art Teachers Association, and Vice-President of the Nebraska Arts Council. He is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in Nebraska, and Nebraska Department of Education Bicentennial Edition as an art consultant. He is a member of Kappa Pi, a national art honorary, and continues to be active with the Kearney Artists Guild. His knowledge and skill are often called on for consulting and judging art shows in the Midwest. In 2012 he along with Gary Zaruba and Jack Karraker received the Roscoe Shields Service Award from the Nebraska Art Teachers Association.

As a collector, Peterson has a special expertise in vintage hunting decoys and folk art, researching and writing on these subjects. Over many years, he and Gary Zaruba acquired a large collection of 19th century wood and steel engravings focused on Plains images, which they generously donated to MONA in 2008.

As an artist, Peterson creates paintings in acrylic or watercolor, and many of his subjects are inspired by the Nebraska landscape. His work is in such public collections as the Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Hastings College, Nebraska; and his alma mater schools. Larry Peterson paintings are also enjoyed by numerous individuals in over 500 private collections.

Updated, 2016

View artwork

Larry Peterson, Emergence, acrylic on canvas, 1961