The city of Rushville was established in 1884 as a settlement two mile north of its present location, called Rush Valley. It lies north of the Sandhills and south of the ridge. The vast diversity of grasses provided good grazing fields to buffalo. Fresh water was available through Rush Creek. Rushville was regarded for its healthy climate, a claim that is supported by the fact that the first man buried in the graveyard died from a bullet, not illness. Two stores, each a mile apart, opened and a post office was established. Rushville succeeded as a supply point for the territory with the advantages of the courthouse, railroad, and the nearby Lakota reservation. The area became home to the infamous Old Jules.

Rushville has weathered population growth and loss. During our time here, neighbors have graciously shared stories of their own family history or reasons that have brought them to the region. In the words of a local resident, “it is a town where roots run deep.” Many people have generously supported town development, preserving the heart of the geographically and culturally rich rural community. The town center boasts a range of recreation venues including the historic Modisett Ball ParkSand Ridge Golf CoursePlains Theater, Pocket ParkCowboy Trail West biking path, and Sheridan County Historical Museum. The Sandhills Institute is opening an arts and cultural center in the empty grocery store on Main Street. Upon completion, visitors and residents alike will be welcome to come together in this space. 




The Sandhills Institute is a catalyst for the creation of civically-engaged integrated art in and around the agricultural community of Rushville, Nebraska.  The Institute forges strong bonds between the community of local ranchers and farmers and leading artists from around the world for the purpose of developing experimental programs grounded in collaborative research and creative expression. The goal of these programs is to strengthen the economic, environmental, and cultural fabric of this unique area.

The Institute magnifies the impact of its work by sharing the results of its work with other peer institutions, both agricultural and artistic, whose mission is to sustain and preserve America’s rural communities.




The Sandhills are an ecoregion in the northwest plains of Nebraska that stretch between 19,000 and 24,000 square miles in circumference .  Covering nearly one third of the state, it is the largest sand dune formation in the United States. 95 percent of the dunes are covered in grassland but they also include 1.3 million acres of wetlands with the Sandhills sitting on top of one billion acre-feet of groundwater.  

The WWF estimates that 85 percent of the Sandhills are intact, largely due to the limited ability to support farming in the sandy terrain.  The ecoregion supports approximately 720 species of plants, 314 species of animals, and at least 24 species of migratory birds.  There is a diverse ecosystem of grasses that have long supported grazing herds of buffalo.  Today the region is home to a strong ranching economy.  Most ranchers are careful to prevent overgrazing in an effort to maintain the health ecosystem of diverse perennials and to minimize the development of blowouts.



"Thank you for letting me be part of this forest, of this family and for sharing the deep sense of friendship that includes the landscape, the community, our hearts and all the dreams we have!"

- Jorge Menna Barreto, Artist

"Thank you so much for the invite to be a part of this amazing Sandhills experience... The week has been inspiring, the people i've met have been fantastic. "

-Elaine Bradford, Artist





"Looking forward to seeing things grow! Wonderful premise, wonderful place, wonderful community, wonderful team!"

-Russell Bauer, Artist


"I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am to have spent 3 weeks with your family at the Sandhills Institute. I actually felt so at home...I miss everything about the ranch.  It's such a magical place where magical things happen.  I learned so much this month from your family, the artists, and all the Rushville community members. It was really a once in a lifetime experience all thanks to the two of you (Mel and Lisa). "

-Ashlin Dolan, Intern




"Thank you so much for a wonderful month in the Sandhills.  This has been a tremendous learning experience and a joy to be a part of.  I am inspired by your care and commitment to shaping the artists experience and bringing their research and projects to life.  I appreciate how much you have done for us, taking us in at your beautiful home and making our time as interns so special.  I will treasure the memories of wonderful meals together, conversations about cinema and art history on the porch, and Nebraska, and Nebraska adventures"

-Marguerite Zabriskie, Intern 










"Seeing how deep roots in the land have impacted the foundation of a robust and resilient Rushville community has opened my eyes to what explorers would have called 'the Spirit of America'....Long live art, long live culture, long live family!"

-Joshua Forges, Intern




"It genuinely inspired me to create more socially-engaged art, and will definitely inform future decisions regarding the arts collective I am a part of. "

-Ted Maertens, Intern

"I am beyond thankful to have found a home in the Sandhills and with the Ziegler family.  At the same time, my time spent with the artists in residence has had a profound impact on me as a  young artist...I love this place and all of the extraordinary and brilliant people in it.  I hope to come back again and again and help out in any way I can. "

-Lauren Ballejos, Program Coordinator

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