Jerry Nerman, the namesake of the college’s Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, passed away on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 28 at age 97 after a battle with pneumonia.
Nerman’s interest in collecting art pieces began while he was in the military in World War II, when he purchased a painting while in France. It became a hobby, and the Nerman’s collected many art pieces over the next several decades, including pieces from Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
The Nerman family started a 27 year friendship with Bruce Hartman, who is currently the executive director of the Nerman. The Nerman’s and Hartman put together the idea to create an art gallery here at the college.
In 2003, Nerman made the lead gift of 1.5 million dollars to fund the NMOCA. The building was designed by architect Kyu Sung Woo and was finished in October 2007. The museum is getting ready to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.
Nerman didn’t just support art at the college, he was also on the board of selection for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Nerman also worked with the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts to bring art to the Kansas City area.
Besides having an eye for contemporary art, Nerman was also well known in the trucking industry. He founded the Truck Center of America, which sells pre-owned vehicles to customers. The Leawood based company still remains family-owned.
Throughout the last 10 years, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art has kept a constant exhibition of certain pieces while also allowing students and members of the community to hold art gallery shows.
“Jerry Nerman was a really nice guy,” said Breanna Johnson, a guard at the Nerman Museum. “I didn’t really even know it was him when he came in … [He] just had a big smile on his face while he walked around looking at all the art. It was this current show that he was looking at – the Domestic Seen. He just really seemed to enjoy what it gave to the community. And art is great to look at. It’s pleasing. He’s definitely going to be missed as an important supporter of the art community of Kansas City.”
– Campus Ledger staff reporter Alicia Allison contributed to this report.