McCook recognized by national magazine for its arts, culture and food

By: - December 21, 2023 3:26 pm

The 6th Floor Project art gallery in McCook was cited by a national magazine as part of its recognition of “best small towns” in America. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development)

LINCOLN — Efforts to bolster the arts, recreation and food in McCook have garnered national recognition for the southwest Nebraska community.

Food & Leisure magazine, in its annual “best small towns” feature, named McCook runner-up as the best small town for food and culture, right behind Los Olivos, California.

The magazine cited McCook, population 7,356, for its landmark Sehnert’s Bakery, the first James Beard Award-winning eatery in the state, the “striking” 6th Floor Project art gallery atop the town’s tallest building, and its 26-year-old Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival.

Nebraskans moved back

The art gallery is the work of Chad Graff and Joanne Falkenburg, who moved back to Nebraska in 2021 after successful careers in California.

They opened the 6th Floor Project, a contemporary art gallery, on the top level of the century-old Keystone building. In October, they opened another gallery, the ArtBank, in a former Wells Fargo Bank.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development, in a press release, cited several other developments underway in the community.

Charlie McPherson of the McCook Economic Development Corporation told the DED that the community has focused on “quality of life” projects that help convince people to stay or move to McCook.

“We have a safe community, good school systems and projects underway in education, housing, arts, and music. There’s a lot to be excited about, a lot of momentum,” McPherson said.

Other developments

A 100-foot-long mural, recently completed in McCook, depicts the town’s history. More than 100 artists took part in the 2,000 square-foot project. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development)

Among recent developments in McCook:

  • The opening of Norris Alley, an open-air plaza that hosts plays and concerts.
  • Completion of a 100-foot-long mural, depicting the community’s history and culture.
  • The designation of a “McCook Creative District” by the Nebraska Arts Council.
  • Construction of a brand-new outdoor aquatics facility,  replacing a community pool built in 1937.
  • A $16 million capital campaign to upgrade the local YMCA.
  • Expansion of a local business park by 35 acres and arrival of Performance Plus Liquids, a new business in the park.
  • Construction of additional, affordable housing.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.

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