The University of Nebraska at Omaha

Wanda Ewing's Presence at UNO

Wanda Ewing, a locally beloved and world-renowned visual artist whose work “explores race, beauty standards, sexuality, and identity,” brought her talent, energy, and vision to the UNO Fine Arts department when she joined the faculty in 2004.

During her nine-year tenure at UNO, Ewing taught studio foundation courses, printmaking, and graphic design, while steadily generating her ever-evolving works of art and volunteering at the Kent Bellows Studio, the Joslyn Art Museum’s interdisciplinary arts Mentoring Program that matches professional artists with close to 70 high school teens “who are provided an opportunity to find personal inspiration, gain technical skills, and build a portfolio.” In the wake of Ewing’s passing, the UNO art department established the Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation in her honor. The scholarship supports undergraduate students who are pursuing a degree in Art and Art History, though it’s important to note that those in charge of Ewing’s estate have expressed some concerns about the criteria for the scholarship. Ewing’s presence at UNO continues through a short video created by the UNO Women’s Archive Project, “a student-produced, multimedia archive that combines traditional library archives and lived history with the interactivity and public access of the internet” edited by Dr. Tammie Kennedy, an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. There is a wall on the second floor of UNO’s Fine Arts Department dedicated as a space that both honors Wanda’s legacy and features student art. Adjacent to the Wanda Wall you'll find an acrylic portrait of Wanda titled, "Thank You Wanda," created by Ronal Boon.

Ewing’s Work Echoes across the United States and Beyond

Though based in Omaha, Ewing’s artistic talent and vision garnered her recognition both nationally and internationally, as her work has been exhibited everywhere from Buenos Aires to Norman, Oklahoma, from Bristol to Delaware, from New Delhi to Lincoln and Iowa City. In addition, Ewing was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, recognized as Artist of the Year from the National Council of Negro Women, and became the first ever Omahan to be featured in The Paris Review, in 2012.

Echoes Made Visible in Omaha

Wanda's work, memory, and legacy live on in Omaha’s public art works and spaces. As recently as March of 2019, Ewing’s work was featured as part of Gallery 1516’s Nebraska Eight Invitational, where Wanda’s sister, Mona Ewing Yaeger, spoke of Ewing’s inspiration for her art, stating, “Her inspiration came to and from the things that were happening in this world and how she was responding to it as a person and as a woman of color.” In addition, Wanda is one of the faces featured on a mural at Benson High School created by artist, Reggie LeFlore, and Ewing’s “Girl #4” from the series “Black as Pitch, Hot as Hell,” was gifted to the Joslyn Art Museum in 2014 by the Ewing family. Wanda was the model for "Caged Bird," a bronze statue created by Yanna Ramaeker that is located at the Charles B. Washington Branch of the Omaha Public Library, while her persona and her artwork became the inspiration for the character of Vivienne Dailey in Nebraska writer, Timothy Schaffert’s 2006 novel, Devils in the Sugar Shop.

Wanda’s personal website still hosts guest blog posts written by people who knew and loved her; with posts titled things like, “The World is NOT Wandaless,” and "A Shared Langauge of Laughter," it’s clear that Wanda Ewing is ever-present, the echoes of her legacy and her art made visible in every corner of Omaha and beyond.

“I’m Wanda Ewing—printmaker, painter, collage and multimedia artist and latch hook maven. I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” - Wanda Ewing, from her Flare Arts Journal interview, "Tenacious as Hell, Vividly: Wanda Ewing".